Interagency Feedback Referral Response Mechanism Uganda.

By Alice Schaus, Associate Regional Innovation Officer, and Damjan Nikolovski, Community Connectivity Coordinator.

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This post is the second in the Innovation Service’s series on call centers and provides guidance to humanitarian organizations considering whether a call center might be part of their broader community engagement strategy. If you missed the first article, you can find it here.

Initially, a team of twelve agents who spoke a total of sixteen languages was set-up for the pilot period. Due to the popularity of the call center, the call center has expanded to a team of thirty agents, eighteen for inbound calls and twelve for outbound calls, and today receives between 2000 and 3000 calls per month. …


The highly structured world of schools and universities meets the needs of innovation-thinking in the humanitarian sector.

By Eva Hangartner, UNHCR Innovation Service Intern

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Illustration by Hans Park

Running the steeple chase

Until the summer of 2020, my academic journey was a steeple chase race. I competed in this 2000-meter track and field event for my high school: like my peers, I jostled to get into the fastest lane and overcame a standard 23 hurdles every race in my attempt to cross the finish line first. With the same focus and determination, I pursued coveted spots on honors tracks in high school, strived for perfect scores on standardized tests, and mastered the steps — including participation in sports — needed to attend a top university. Of course, this journey required hard work and sacrifice, but the targets were sequenced, defined, and logical, and consistently hitting them was predictable and programmatic. Both in school and on the track, there were guard rails on either side of the “winning” lane. …


By Jessica Olson, Senior Climate Lead, Gender Equity & Environment @ Sierra Club, and the UNHCR’s Innovation Service.

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Illustration by Hans Park

Building on shared challenges and values, the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Innovation Service and the Sierra Club, the United States’ oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, collaborated to explore the role of innovation and gender in responding to the needs of people displaced in the context of climate change.

This article is the fruit of conversations that sought to begin to understand how an intersectional appreciation of the consequences of climate breakdown can help us to better shape innovative solutions to displacement challenges. …


By Alice Schaus, Associate Regional Innovation Officer

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Illustration by Hans Park

The right to access information held by public and international organizations is a fundamental human right. However, it has only been in the last ten years that humanitarian organizations have really focused on providing accessible communication channels to communities. In light of increasing needs, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations have turned to call centres as a popular tool to engage communities despite the limited evidence available on their impact.

While it’s relatively easy to set up a one-person hotline to answer queries from refugees, scaling a call centre is much more challenging. …


This is one in a series of profiles sharing the projects, processes, and learnings of participants in UNHCR’s Innovation Fellowship Program.

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Illustration by Hans Park

By Amy Lynn Smith — Independent Writer + Strategist

Before you read any further, take a moment to try an experiment: Imagine a challenge you currently face in your work. Think about how many possible solutions or new approaches there might be. It doesn’t matter how large or small they are, or whether it’s something your management would approve. Don’t put any limits on your thinking. Just close your eyes for one minute and imagine.

Okay, in that one minute did you think of something you might try? Chances are, you had at least the seed of a new approach. What you just practiced is one of the many elements of the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Innovation Fellowship Program, such as coming up with 100 ideas to address a challenge participants are facing in their work. …


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Illustration by Hans Park

By John Warnes, Innovation Officer

Engaging with communities through their preferred channels is something frequent readers will have read countless times on the pages of UNHCR Innovation Service’s web portal. But how can this work in practice when such channels are increasingly digital, and when utilising these platforms is complicated and fraught with different types of risk? In this post, we unpack parts of the journey we have gone through in understanding this challenge. We focus on a new pilot that UNHCR is undertaking to engage with communities through WhatsApp, an increasingly preferred channel of communication for refugees. …


By Cox’s Bazar public health and information management teams, UN Global Pulse, UNHCR Innovation, OCHA, Durham University, and the IBM/MIT Watson AI Lab

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The original article was posted by UN Global Pulse.

To support data-driven decision making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a team made up of Cox’s Bazar public health and information management professionals, scientists and domain experts from UN Global Pulse, UNHCR Innovation, OCHA, and academics from Durham University and IBM/MIT are working to model the impact of possible public health operational interventions in the Cox’s Bazar settlement. In this blog they describe the what, the how and the impact of their work. …


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UNHCR brand colours inverted, decreasing brightness and glare, in order to improve accessibility for users with visual impairments.

This article is structured as two intersecting and embedded pieces of writing, authored collaboratively by Babusi Nyoni, the UX consultant who designed the Innovation Service’s website, and Eva Hangartner, an intern with the Service. The main body contains the core argument and actions taken; the italicized and indented text is a personal narrative. They read as two separate pieces, sharing only the general theme denoted by the section headings. By the end, we hope you will see the connection to the main argument — that, in our imperfect world, accessibility is innovation.

Background

Last year, when we redesigned the UNHCR Innovation Service website, we documented how one of the key considerations was how the website would be experienced by people with different levels of Internet connectivity. Users with limited access to the Internet struggled to view the website due to the loading times induced by necessary data visualisations. Ultimately, we were successful in solving this challenge by initially segmenting the web experience based on perceived connectivity and then gradually progressing into the full experience. …


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Illustration by Hans Park

The Risk Advisor would not necessarily tell you to shy away from taking risks. In fact, the process of identifying, evaluating, prioritizing and addressing risks presents an architecture for innovation. Informed risk-taking can lead to bold and new ideas that will make a difference in the life of refugees.

This article considers the risk management approach in the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and how dynamically managing uncertainty can take the organization’s work to new heights.

Mafraq, Jordan

On the outskirts of the city of Mafraq is Zaatari Refugee camp, home to approximately 76,000 Syrian refugees. Irene Omondi is UNHCR’s Head of Sub-Office there. For her, risk intersects with some of UNHCR’s most important and habitual activities: “Risk is not only about fraud, it is about the continuity and sustainability of our work.” …


Developing characters that speak to us and others

By Giulia Balestra, Associate Innovation Officer (Research), and Hans Park, Strategic Design and Research Manager

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Illustration by Ailadi

Over the years, at UNHCR’s Innovation Service, we have collaborated with a variety of illustrators, artists, and designers, documenting the process of innovation, portraying innovators, and expressing values that guide its work. Perhaps for some of us in the humanitarian context these were, and to some extent still are, unchartered waters: what’s the relation between visual art and humanitarian work? …

About

UNHCR Innovation Service

UNHCR’s Innovation Service embeds new approaches and methodologies to address the growing humanitarian needs of today and more critically — the future.

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