Innovation can make humanitarian assistance more efficient

Arrangements for burden- & responsibility-sharing

Innovation can make humanitarian assistance more efficient

Contact details

Submitted by: Therese M U Pankratov, senior adviser

Email: [email protected]



Introduction to the project





It is expected to be renewed after 2021.


The Humanitarian Innovation Program grants funding and support to develop, test and scale ways of contributing to better and more efficient humanitarian assistance. The programme supports innovation projects led by humanitarian organisations where the expertise and technical know-how from the private sector is applied to meet humanitarian challenges. The programme supports both early stage innovation and scaling and diffusion of solutions that have proved to be successful at the pilot stage.

Resources used

The Humanitarian Innovation Program is a grant and support mechanism, fully financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and administered by Innovation Norway.


  • Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
  • Humanitarian organizations including: NRC, Save the Children Norway, Norwegian Red Cross, Care, Norwegian Peoples’ Aid, UNHCR.
  • Private enterprises.

Main activities of the Good Practice

This good practice provides a much-needed framework to tackle humanitarian challenges through humanitarian-private innovation partnerships.

The Humanitarian Innovation Program was based on a thorough assessment of what is needed to support humanitarian innovation processes. The Program looks for innovations that are close to the beneficiaries. It looks for bold ideas in tackling issues such as:

  • Protection: Humanitarian organisations’ efforts that contribute to protecting people from violence, abuse and violation of international law due to humanitarian crises.
  • Green humanitarian response: Humanitarian organisations’ efforts that contribute to more sustainable and more environmentally friendly solutions within humanitarian aid, including renewable energy.
  • Cash transfer programming: Humanitarian organisations’ efforts to provide direct distribution of money rather than traditional relief items to people affected by crises.


The following seven projects were funded in 2018:




Outcomes of these programmes will contribute to two of the four key objectives of the GCR: to ease pressure on host communities and enhance refugees’ self-reliance.

How challenges were overcome 

  • Lack of competence in dialogue and innovative procurement in the organizations
  • Security issues in some countries that slows down implementation

How the challenges are being addressed:

  • Tools and guidance developed
  • Flexible funding, allowing projects to adapt to changing circumstances

Results of the good practice

  • The programme takes humanitarian challenges close to the beneficiary as a point of departure and funds humanitarian organizations to find solutions to these in innovation partnerships with the private sector.
  • The programme provides multi-year, flexible funding, responding to what the organizations say they need to engage in innovation processes.
  • All projects take a human centred approach, with involvement of beneficiaries at all stages of the innovation process. 
  • Projects target challenges of protection, green response, including energy and infrastructure,  and/or cash programming.
  • Sustainable business models and innovative financing are key considerations, including job creation and livelihoods for refugees and host communities. 

Next steps

Another six to eight projects will be funded this fall and yet another group of projects in the fall of 2020. The project is undergoing an evaluation and, based on its results, the NMFA will make a decision for its continuation in 2021.