Innovation is often presented as a survival issue and this provides a powerful metaphor to focus attention on the need to manage it effectively. But in the humanitarian context it takes on a very literal meaning. Crises, whether natural or man-made, require rapid problem solving if agencies and aid workers are to avoid the huge negative impacts of such disasters. That makes consideration of how innovation takes place in this sector an urgent challenge. How can the humanitarian sector best organize to enable innovation and what are the roles for key actors – donors, agencies, and most importantly ‘users’? Our paper summarizes the nature of the challenge and reviews experience so far in humanitarian innovation (HI). There is a second issue which we also explore. Arguably crisis conditions provide a ‘laboratory’ for exploring alternative approaches and generating novel innovation trajectories which might diffuse more widely – the concept of ‘reverse innovation’. Are there lessons which could be learned for mainstream innovation management? And if so, what are the mechanisms which might enable such learning and experience exchange to take place?
Bibliographical noteElectronic version of an article published as Int. J. Innov. Mgt. 19, 1540014 (2015) doi: 10.1142/S1363919615400149 © copyright World Scientific Publishing Company http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/S1363919615400149
- Humanitarian innovation
- crisis-driven innovation
- reverse innovation