A case study from Jordan on how best to run a call center

By Alice Schaus, Associate Regional Innovation Officer, with contributions from Rasha Batarseh (Associated Cash-Based Intervention Officer)

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“Working with the Helpline reminds me to be aware of every word I say all the time because I’m talking with the most vulnerable people. Sometimes it seems like the hardest job in the world, but it is not like that all the time. It can be really rewarding especially when you manage to guide the person who needs help, or when you are the one delivering the good news to…


How can we best support displaced people to share their own stories?

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This article was originally published by Keeya-Lee Ayre, Senior Marketing and Communications Manager, from the GSMA — a close collaborator and partner organization of UNHCR’s Innovation Service.

In March 2020, the GSMA and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) asked Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Barranquilla, Colombia, to tell us about the importance of mobile connectivity in their lives. They shared their own stories using the medium of their choice, with control over creative direction and narrative.

When developing this project, we started with a simple question: how can…


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Eighteen-year-old Rohingya refugee and Burmese language instructor Nur Ayna teaches a young student at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: UNHCR

This article was originally published by UN Global Pulse — a close collaborator and partner of UNHCR’s Innovation Service.

By UN Global Pulse — Joseph Bullock, Data Scientist and researcher, Felicia Vacarelu, Communications Lead and Shivani Ishwar, Communicatons Intern.

The spread of COVID-19 has presented many challenges to healthcare systems worldwide, often affecting the world’s most vulnerable populations the most. In settlements for refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs), which often suffer from overcrowding, insufficient sanitation, and particularly rapid disease spread, the pandemic presents a significant threat — as will any future epidemics or other health crises.

In a recent paper…


A comparison between two call center models implemented in Kenya and Lebanon.

By Alice Schaus, Associate Regional Innovation Officer, with contributions from Glenn Ong’uti Mangare, Associate Protection Officer, and Joe Sargi, Senior Communication Associate.

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Illustration by Hans Park.

This blogpost is the third in our four-part series on the history of call centres in the humanitarian space and how they have been tested creatively across the sector. You can find part one here and the second article in the series here.

Our last blog post covered what to consider when deciding whether to invest in a call centre. …


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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


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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. …

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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