How Sustainable Development Goals Change Humanitarian Innovation

In closing remarks at the Global Humanitarian Policy Forum in New York, Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, Chief of the Policy Development and Studies Branch of the Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), challenged the current humanitarian model where extended displacements can run for 10 years using the same mode of operation.

How the SDGs change the role of humanitarian innovation

He sees the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an opportunity to change this thinking. Simply meeting ongoing needs for the delivery of aid should no longer be enough. Humanitarians need to accept responsibility for scaling up local actors instead of just funding the sector’s own operations. Reducing systemic vulnerability and improving system resilience needs to be seen as an essential component of humanitarian action.

In this article for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Innovation blog, I explore how this view of systemic change aligns with more sophisticated views of innovation. Instead of seeing innovation as the focused invention of products or features augmenting existing approaches to humanitarian action, innovation takes on messier and more complex challenges required to shape the systems that support aid and the communities they serve. It is not a coincidence that this broader view of innovation aligns with OCHA’s analysis of the actions needed to achieve the SDGs. There is a natural convergence on the roadmap for doing system-focused change.

Read the article at the UNHCR website here.