The myth of the lone innovator was cast to the margins in a recent exploratory study.

Illustration by Ailadi

The first post in this two-part series on the Collaboration between UNHCR’s Innovation Service and Loughborough University London’s Institute for Design Innovation is available here.

An innovator who ‘gets it’ won’t get far if others don’t get it too. An innovator who is motivated and curious won’t scale further than their desk if they can’t influence their colleagues. …


UNHCR’s Innovation Service and Loughborough University London examine the Innovation Fellowship Programme.

Characters by Ailadi

The vision of UNHCR’s Innovation Service is an organization where colleagues have the skills and opportunities to question the way they operate, to imagine new and better ways of working, and to draw on novel tools and approaches to fulfil the mandate to protect displaced communities. The Service’s Fellowship Programme is a natural byproduct of this vision. Almost as old as the Service itself, the Fellowship has stewarded scores of UNHCR staff members and colleagues from partner organizations through the learning and unlearning of innovation.

Over the course…


Case studies from UNHCR’s Ecuador and Mexico operations on the use of music to communicate for social change.

By Cían McAlone, Innovation Officer — Strategic Communications.

Illustrations by Hans Park

The need for social change is borne out of social disharmony. It is fitting, therefore, that the harmonies of music are such a powerful tool for the beckoning of new worlds. In an era of digital and sensory bombardment, music has the capacity to anchor the search for better ways of being in the depths of our ties of kinship, history, and identity.

The range of this capacity is here explored through two examples…


Forecasting the future leads to smarter, more participatory decision-making.

By Amy Lynn Smith — Writer + Strategist

Illustration by Hans Park.

Monica Sandri saw a glimpse of the future. It began when Sandri, the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) North Macedonia Representative, was tasked with realizing the ambitious vision of supporting the gradual shift in the Western Balkans from a region of irregular transit to one that offers meaningful protection and viable solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers.

“It’s such a big, beautiful vision, and the right vision, but I remember thinking, ‘This is such a big endeavor, we are tasked with making lasting change on…


The business and humanitarian case for creating inclusive digital tools.

A conversation with Ricardo Pla Cordero, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Protection Officer, Disability Inclusion — Division of International Protection, and Hans Park, UNHCR’s Innovation Service, Strategic Design and Research Manager.

Illustration by Hans Park

Hans: Why is creating inclusive digital tools so important?

Ricardo: Making digital tools work for people with disabilities is not just the right thing to do: People with disabilities have the right to participate in society as others do. …


A look at the realities of climate change the UN Refugee Agency’s operations in Africa face today.

By Amy Lynn Smith — Independent Writer + Strategist

Illustration by Shanice da Costa.

You can hear it in their voices. They talk about the impact of climate change on the people in Chad and Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, with a sense of urgency, sometimes sharp and edgy.

At times, they’re somber and troubled. At others, they’re on the verge of outrage, holding back frustration about the inevitability of what they see.

They’re worried, and with good reason. Climate change is making life increasingly hard for everyone in…


The culture at UNHCR’s Innovation Service provided the ideal environment for developing a fully accessible website.

By Amy Lynn Smith — Writer + Strategist

If you think the Internet and digital technology have opened up the world to everyone who can connect to it, you’d only be partly right. Of course, connectivity remains an issue in many parts of the world, but a universal challenge is how to make an online experience fully accessible for people with disabilities, who are often marginalized when it comes to digital access. …


In UNHCR’s Innovation Fellowship Programme, diversity and equality are highly valued and contribute to productive collaboration among participants.

By Amy Lynn Smith — Writer + Strategist

Innovation is for everyone. It’s not something reserved for a particular type of person, people of particular races or cultures, or people who work in specific areas such as technology. Anyone can imagine and develop a better way of doing things, and the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Innovation Service’s Innovation Fellowship Programme provides an inclusive environment where everyone can learn and brainstorm together. …


The UN Refugee Agency embarks on a new results based management journey.

By Ritu Shroff, Director of the Division of Strategic Planning and Results (DSPR)

Tiana Anyano gives out prizes at an event for adolescents that brought together Venezuelan refugees, displaced Colombians and the host community in Cúcuta, Colombia. Photo: Laura Lozano.

For Tiana Anyano, my colleague working on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, no two days are the same. When I visited the border town of Cucuta a couple of years back, she and her colleagues were working tirelessly to offer protection to the steady stream of Venezuelans that cross into Colombia. As I stood on the Colombian side of the Simon Bolivar bridge watching thousands cross over, I learned about the “caminantes”, those who…


A U.S.-based team used unique research approaches to learn what Americans really think about refugees — and how to leverage communications to rally greater support.

By Amy Lynn Smith — Independent Writer + Strategist

Communication is a powerful tool, when used effectively. But simply putting ideas out there and hoping they’ll reach an audience won’t get you very far — if anywhere at all. There has to be strategic thinking and data behind it: Who are you trying to reach? Do you know what they care about, so you can tailor a message that reaches and resonates with them? …

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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