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RapidPro and U-Report at the World Humanitarian Summit


Kalee McFadden and Stuart Campo of the UNICEF Global Innovation Centre traveled to Istanbul last week for the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit. Here’s a quick recap of their engagements to share the experience and expertise of UNICEF Innovation during this global gathering of humanitarians and influencers.

In manning and womanning a booth in the Innovation Marketplace, Stuart and Kalee got the word out about RapidPro and U-Report for the humanitarian context. You may be wondering how a real-time information platform and youth engagement platform can be used in an emergency… the idea is to use U-Report as an ongoing development project focused on engaging young people and communities that is also pre-positioned for an emergency. For example, when Bundibugyo district in Uganda experienced mudslides this month, Red Cross quickly designed a series of questions to ask U-Reporters from that district. With this on-the-ground intelligence, Red Cross was able to plan the logistics for their response to specific villages. For other examples, check out thebooklet our fantastic design team created for this event. While stationed in the Innovation Marketplace, we got to talk to delegates, private sector representatives, and people from civil society and NGOs about what we are offering.

In addition to the booth, GIC was represented in several of the Summit’s side events. Stuart spoke at an event hosted by Minu Limbu, the Innovation Focal Point for UNICEF’s Kenya country office. Representatives from the CDAC Network, UNHCR Innovation, American Red Cross, and Kenya Red Cross also served as panelists. The event focused on human-centred design and how it works in practice, and gave participants the opportunity to speak with panelists in small groups.

Photo Attribution:

Minu Limbu/UNICEF Kenya/@minulimbu

Stuart also gave a lightning talk at an Innovation Side Event organised by UNDP: How Real-Time Information Systems & New Data Can Improve Decision-Making. Lightning talks from UNDP, UNICEF, UN OCHA, and WFP sparked discussions for panelists from Denmark, Finland, Flowminder, Harvard University, Vodafone Turkey, and Microsoft Innovation Centre.

Finally, for the last side event of the Summit hosted by the Red Cross Red Crescent, GIC was asked to find an innovation in the Marketplace that addressed core responsibility #3, the issue of equity. We scoured the hall for groups who were designing for the last mile, reaching the most vulnerable or most disadvantaged populations, leaving no one behind. We found lots of good examples, but one group stuck out: Field Ready. This NGO is disrupting the supply chain, bringing made-in-the-field 3D-printed humanitarian supplies to places like Haiti and Nepal.

Partners from frog design, Cisco Foundation, and Red Cross Red Crescent found innovations that addressed the other core responsibilities:

The Google / UNHCR / Mercy Corps / ThoughtWorks consortium created Translation Cards, an Android app (available in the Google Play store) that allows you to create and use simple audio flashcards. Made for field workers who need to communicate in foreign languages, you tap a card and hear the text spoken aloud in a different language.

what3words has cut the globe into 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares that can each be addressed by a unique combination of three words so that anyone can accurately find any location anywhere in the world.

The Humanitarian Leadership Academy is addressing the future of humanitarian work by training the next generation of humanitarian leaders and responders, especially those located in vulnerable crisis-affected countries and communities.

Finally, the Humanitarian Hands-On Tool is providing step-by-step practical guidance on inclusive humanitarian field work. When launched, the downloadable app will allow access to all content without an Internet connection.

Photo collage courtesy of Abiah Weaver

We were inspired by these people and innovations working to improve our collective response to humanity. We hope that this work and the work from the broader humanitarian community will drive results for each of the five core responsibilities to deliver better for people across the globe. The commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit are a starting point, and we were honoured to be part of it.

Stuart + Kalee

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