Tag Archives: Humanitarian Innovation

IIHA and Centre for Innovation Partner to Strengthen Innovation for Humanity

August 3, 2017, New York – The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) at Fordham University is proud to announce a formal partnership with the Centre for Innovation (CFI) at Leiden University. This partnership will allow both organizations to broaden their exploration of technology and innovation from the humanitarian perspective.  Dedicated to advancing the methods and framework by which humanitarian workers operate, Fordham University’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs in New York City continually strives to find practical and efficient responses to global crises. In this effort, the IIHA stimulates new strategies for the development of technology and inclusion of tech and private sectors in humanitarian action.

The Centre for Innovation at Leiden University located in The Hague, the Netherlands is a university do-tank that explores and creates projects at the intersection of education, technology, and society. Aiming to leverage the Data Revolution for the benefit of humanity, one of the Centre’s flagship projects is HumanityX. HumanityX is a multidisciplinary support team for pioneers in the peace, justice and humanitarian sector who want to spearhead digital innovations to tackle global challenges from a people’s perspective.

The partnership between the two organizations is strengthened by their shared commitment to education and technology that promotes social good and ethical humanitarian response through research, training, prototype development and events. Both institutions will further incorporate lessons and trainings in data, technology and innovation to their humanitarian curricula and projects with partners.

“The partnership with Leiden is a clear example of how by working together – by combining our intellectual resources and our wide range of contacts both within and outside the humanitarian sector – Fordham and Leiden will be able to do great things. Ultimately, what we both want is simple – to make humanitarian assistance as simple and as effective as possible,” said Brendan Cahill, IIHA Executive Director.

“Structural collaboration between organizations like ours is critical so that we may align our efforts better, and make sure we can strengthen the humanitarian and educational ecosystem we are part of,” said Jorn Poldermans, Innovation Manager at Leiden University’s CFI.

The first initiative brought forth by the partnership was the first course in Data and Innovation Management in Humanitarian Action hosted at Fordham University in New York City where humanitarian workers learned from leading data, technology and innovation experts from all over the world.

Upcoming collaborations include the annual summer school entitled Big Data for Peace and Justice hosted at Leiden University in August and a blockchain summit in conjunction with the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise & Governance in New York City on November 10, 2017.

Furthermore, IIHA Innovation Fellow, Giulio Coppi, and CFI Innovation Manager, Jorn Poldermans, will collaborate to produce joint research on technological trends within the humanitarian space and design prototypes for humanitarian practitioners.

Ultimately, both organizations hope to contribute to humanitarian interventions that build on the most impactful technological advances of the century for the benefit of crisis-affected populations they aim to serve.

Join the 4th Annual Summer School Big Data for Peace & Justice in The Hague and expand knowledge and skills in data-driven innovations in the peace, justice, and humanitarian sector.

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Press contact
Angela Wells
Communications Officer
Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs
+718-817-5303

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Blockchain for Humanity: Announcing Fordham IIHA and CCEG Partnership

                           

Fordham University’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs and the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise & Governance Partner to Design Technological Solutions for Humanitarian Challenges

July 10, 2017, New York – The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) at Fordham University and the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise & Governance  are pleased to announce a formal partnership. The academic partnership will allow for the continuation and further development of both institutions’ growing focus on innovation and technology for humanitarian action and social good.

Grounded in social justice and humanitarian ethics, the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs endeavors to make the global response to humanitarian crises sustainable, effective, and dignified. In pursuit of this mission, the IIHA Innovation Lab facilitates the development of new solutions to complex humanitarian challenges surrounding data and technological advancement.

The Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise & Governance (CCEG), has been working since 2011, growing a research hub “concerned with the development and use of impact metrics  as a measure to promote a just, prosperous and sustainably secure global society.” Since early 2016, CCEG has moved from capturing non-financial and intangible value to transacting it through the Seratio distributed ledger technology.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by both organizations will further strengthen the cooperation which began two months ago on the role and potential of blockchain technology in humanitarian action.

The agreement starts a series of exchanges in research and education and anticipates the launch of joint events and projects that will aim to facilitate the development of blockchain-based humanitarian solutions.

Together we will investigate the potential and challenges of ‘smart’ humanitarian services, particularly surrounding the circular economy and humanitarian financing. CCEG will bring its expertise in intangible impact measurement, and collaborate in developing policies, metrics and indicators to be used on blockchain platforms to bring to the light the effective value of  classic but hard to measure humanitarian interventions, such as protection or prevention,” said Giulio Coppi, IIHA Innovation Fellow.

Visioning the partnership outcomes, Professor Olinga Ta’eed said “This is one of the most exciting collaborations we have ever secured, leveraging the internationally recognised expertise and authority of Fordham’s IIHA to bring sustainable and scalable solutions to the world’s most difficult intractable problems through blended HumTech and SocialTech instruments.”

The two organizations previously held a joint-event in May 2017, entitled Measuring and Delivering Intangible Impact through Blockchain. Professor Coppi joined CCEG Director Olinga Ta’eed and Barbara Mellish, President of Blockchain Alliance for Good, for the roundtable discussion on multi-sector approaches of blockchain for social good.

The partnership between the two institutions will facilitate further opportunities to co-host events, co-develop concrete technological tools for humanitarian action, and launch joint initiatives on blockchain and emerging technologies.  

The next initiative will be a Blockchain for Humanity Summit hosted in New York City at Fordham University in October of 2017.

##ENDS##

Press contact

Angela Wells

Communications Officer

Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs

+718-817-5303

awells14@fordham.edu

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Looking forward to 2017

Dear IIHA Community,

As we wrap up the first month of 2017, allow me to extend my warmest wishes to you for the year ahead. 2017 promises to be a year of great growth for the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs and I wanted to reach out to you, to review where we are going, and how we intend to deepen our engagement with our community.

After 16 years of continued growth and nomadic movement through four different offices at Fordham’s Lincoln Center Campus in New York City, the IIHA will move to the Rose Hill campus. By being closer to Fordham’s academic community, we hope we will be able to provide new opportunities for our students. We will be located in Canisius Hall where additional space will allow us to bring in more dedicated research fellows and host exhibitions, lectures, and other extra-curricular events. This is the first of many changes that 2017 will bring.

After five years, we are saying goodbye to Dr. Alexander van Tulleken who is moving on from the Senior Fellow position to concentrate on his medical, media and humanitarian work throughout the world. This is no small change. Under his academic guidance, the undergraduate program flourished, and his insight and multidisciplinary and praxis-based approach informed our transformative approach to education. I know the decision to leave his undergraduate teaching and advising role with the Institute was not an easy one, but we are confident he will continue to be an active contributor to the Institute.

We are actively seeking his replacement and are fortunate to have welcomed two new members to the team. Ms. Angela Wells will serve as our the new IIHA Communications Officer. Ms. Wells, who had been working with Jesuit Refugee Service in East Africa, will direct our social media, websites, and communications initiatives. She looks forward to working with and being a resource for all of you. Giulio Coppi has become the first Humanitarian Innovation Fellow at the Institute. Mr. Coppi is the founder of High Tech Humanitarians, a project for humanitarian innovators supported by the Institute.

He is one of four core team of contingent faculty and research fellows teaching our undergraduate courses this semester, including:

  • Pat Foley, an applied anthropologist with 20 years of experience in emergencies, recovery and development;
  • Giulio Coppi, an expert on the use of Open Source technology and community-based approaches to humanitarian response;
  • Laura Perez, an internationally recognized expert on the protection of children in situations of armed conflict; and
  • Rene Desiderio, a technical expert in emergency and humanitarian response operations as well as topics ranging from population and development to international migration and gender.

We are additionally endeavoring to launch a new Master’s in Humanitarian Studies program, based on our New York campus. Paperwork for this initiative has been submitted to the New York State Department of Education and we are awaiting their approval. This program will allow us to extend our training to recent undergraduates and young professionals seeking to make their next step in their humanitarian careers.

Our Master’s in International Humanitarian Action (MIHA) program and short courses for humanitarian workers will also continue to thrive with courses around the world. This year we will host three diploma (IDHA) courses in Nepal, New York and Vienna, as well as specialized short courses in Barcelona, Amman and Vienna. We are particularly excited for the summer IDHA in New York, as this will be the 50th diploma course to date. We are proud to have reached this milestone and will commemorate it with memorable activities.

As the year progresses forward, we hope to be an intellectual catalyst of discussion, collaboration and action toward a more socially just world. Our door and ears are open and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can better serve this community.

Warmest regards,

Brendan Cahill
Executive Director
Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs
Program Chair, Humanitarian Studies

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Featured Humanitarian Open Tool: Bamboo House

Bamboo HouseThe research conducted in advance and throughout the development of the CSEB / Bamboo House Prototype seeks to develop improvements to earthen architecture practices with a focus on shelter disaster risk reduction in areas that are subject to an array of water related concerns. The work aims to investigate the efficiency of earthen solutions exploring the opportunity to use earth appropriately within low-income housing and offering construction improvements. The intention is not to provide new alternatives but offer low-cost improvements based on successful existing practices that can be adopted by individuals and families with limited assets. Learn more about the CSEB / Bamboo Prototype and view the Report!

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Humanitarian Innovation Corner – October 2016

Autumn is ripe with opportunities and news for the humanitarian innovation world! This October, IIHA Innovation and High Tech Humanitarians (HTH) attended the European Maker Faire event in Rome, where makers, innovators and social changers from all over the Old Continent met to show their best projects. It was an excellent opportunity to meet with current and future partners, and explore the potential for more collaboration with sectors such as fabrication, eHealth, and Biomedical tech. While we can’t announce all the projects planned for 2017 just yet, we can start mentioning our support to the start up phase of Prosper, a broad initiative aimed at centralizing refugee crisis initiatives. Stay tuned to learn more!

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Featured Humanitarian Open Tool: Light from Stoves

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One of the most promising methods for generating light from stoves is through thermoelectric power generation. A prototype generator has been developed that produces approximately five watts of power, and is projected to cost around $30 in large quantity. An in-depth analysis was performed on each component to maximize the system efficiency and reduce cost. The selection process for the thermoelectric module, the heating and cooling fins, and the fan is outlined in detail. Computational and analytical models have been developed to predict the performance of the components individually, and as a system. Initial testing and calculations show that the thermoelectric generator is a feasible and relatively cheap solution to a large problem. Some portable models have also proven to be effective when installed on improved home cookstoves, or rocket stoves.

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Humanitarian Innovation Corner – June 2016

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IIHA Innovation was present at the Innovation Marketplace of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to participate as founding members in the launch of the Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation (GAHI) and to witness the opening of the Global Humanitarian Lab (GHL).

After several delays, the humanitarian community is finally going big on innovation: GAHI is more focused on developing consistent and more effective policies and standards for improving humanitarian action, innovating humanitarian technologies in a systematic way; the Global Humanitarian Lab (GHL) is more concentrated on unleashing innovation worldwide, creating a global network of makers and innovators that could produce local humanitarian tools and solutions that could be used to facilitate responses by humanitarian actors. IIHA, through its own Innovation initiatives, will be an active member of the GAHI, while exploring potential cooperation with the GHL for the future.

In the aftermath of the WHS, IIHA was invited by the IPI to take part in a Q&A on the takeaways form the summit, and featured a contribution by the Institute’s very own Humanitarian Innovation Fellow, Giulio Coppi, on the IIHA blog, which includes more in-depth analysis on some measures proposed in Istanbul, and their complicated application to conflict-related situations. More recently, IIHA Innovation was also selected to present its activities and projects including the High Tech Humanitarians (HTH) initiative during the Humanitarian Technology Conference in Boston, where, alongside representatives from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, OCHA and Microsoft, Giulio took part as a plenary speaker in a session dedicated to the post-WHS humanitarian innovation landscape.

The next events for IIHA Innovation include the plenary session of the 2016 Academic Council of the United Nations System (ACUNS) Annual Meeting in New York, and a special session at the International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) dedicated to the importance of humanitarian technology, that will take place on the 27th of June in cooperation with the American Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

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Giulio Coppi Reflects on WHS: “A good Humanitarian Summit, but for peacetime”

The High-Level Leaders’ Roundtable on “Changing People’s Lives: From Delivering Aid to Ending Need” at the World Humanitarian summit in Istanbul

The High-Level Leaders’ Roundtable on “Changing People’s Lives: From Delivering Aid to Ending Need” at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul (CC BY-ND, WHS)

Those of you at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) who were brave (or lucky) enough to make your way from the plenary building to the side events area, and through a maze of tunnels to the Exhibition Fair to then defy four flights of stairs up to the Innovation Marketplace, may probably have already met me. As Humanitarian Innovation Fellow at the IIHA and Manager of the High Tech Humanitarians project, I had the pleasure and privilege to participate in the WHS in Istanbul last week to present our activities and take part in the launch of the Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation (GAHI), of which IIHA is a founding member.

Many well-qualified and well-credentialed attendees have already produced a broad spectrum of opinions on the takeaways from the WHS. Their conclusions range from the downright critical, to the relieved, to the mildly enthusiastic, but there are still a few conclusions worth noting.

War, more so than the G7, was the biggest absence at the WHS. 

Apart from a few blessed events dedicated to specific categories of vulnerable populations, the theme ‘protection of civilians in times of armed conflict’ was barely visible in the overall agenda. Discussions in this sense remained vague, and were mostly limited to recalling what is already well rooted in international law. Considering that around 80 percent of the humanitarian crises are due to conflicts, this basically means that for two days the humanitarian community discussed how to improve about 20 percent of its work.

Some could object that I’m being provocative – that, even without explicit mention of “times of armed conflict,” assistance as discussed also applies to situations of armed conflict – and they would be right. However, the reality is that some of the key measures finalized at the WHS as final global commitments to reform humanitarian assistance often do not apply in times of violence.

This is the case, for example, for cash programming and localisation. In times of conflict, the localisation of humanitarian assistance would be far from easy. Even those local NGOs who are not impeded from receiving international funds and grants for having ties with an armed or political faction very rarely have the capacity to absorb, manage, use and report on funds that, in order to be effective, easily reach the five to six digit range.

This is of course not the fault of local actors. As noted in a recent report, funding strategies are often the main threat to humanitarian neutrality, impartiality and independence, as donors discourage programming in opposition-held territories, or in areas out of government control, leading to a de facto politicization of humanitarian response.

Refusing to fund overheads to local NGOs, donors can potentially curtail the sustainability of programs and undermine future development. This is especially true considering that in situations of armed conflict, local capacity is put under considerable strain as organizations and their staff try to face a dangerous crisis while having to balance their altruism with the need to ensure their own safety and that of their families.

While the WHS closed with a commitment for less paperwork and bureaucracy and more direct access to funding, these issues were not addressed in any concrete way, and the feeling is that donors will continue deciding on a case-by-case basis, mostly according to their own existing regulations and agendas.

Finally, it is broadly agreed that the attention-grabbing figure of only 0.2 to 1.6 percent of humanitarian aid going directly to local groups is misleading, to say the least. There is a reason why we constantly praise the role of local actors, and lament the shrinking access of international humanitarian agencies and INGOs: National NGOs deliver most of the assistance and thus manage a relevant part of the resources.

Humanitarian aid is much more than its monetary value. If it were just about the monetary value, then the humanitarian assistance decision-making process would be limited to fundraising, procurement and warehouse logistic phases. However, the networking, access, distribution and M&E processes are just as valuable as the rest: covering the last mile doesn’t necessarily mean being in a subsidiary position compared to those applying for grants.

Focusing on promoting partnership models that ensure increased participation of local partners in strategic humanitarian planning – and limiting the abused practice of sub-contracting – rather than enforcing arbitrary quotas in direct funding, could probably better ensure that INGOs and humanitarian agencies, with all their well-known bureaucracy and malfunctioning, will guarantee, monitor and protect their operations without bossing around local partners.

As for the massive switch to cash programming, humanitarians know better than anyone else that giving money to local actors and civilians who are on the front lines of widespread violence often means exposing them to increased risks, with little to zero hope for them to be able to use that money at all. According to some figures, offering people affected by crises cash instead of goods or services would be feasible in as many as 70 to 80 percent of all humanitarian contexts. The studies that I know of surely prove the need to increase the amount of cash transfers and assess their theoretical feasibility, but don’t perform a conflict-specific analysis to scientifically prove that the cash system is the best option in such an overwhelming amount of cases.

Very often where violence reigns, money has a much higher value for armed actors, who still have access to surviving markets, than it does for local populations. It is true that in some cases direct cash to households has shown a positive trend in decreasing involvement of civilians in hostilities, but further studies also prove an increase in the number of conflict-related casualties in the receiving community. Also, this system risks encroaching on the neutrality of humanitarian assistance, as it mainly relies on institutional channels which make it difficult or dangerous for communities in areas not under government control to receive the money. Another reason for concern is the fact that conflict crises are more and more protracted in time, with refugee camps existing for decades and violence erupting regularly for many years. There is a risk, which in some cases has already occurred, of humanitarians adopting a “shadow government” role delivering guaranteed minimum income-style aid – and eventually supporting non-cash assistance and related services – for unpredictable stretches of time.

These were among the reasons why, many years ago, cash programming in conflict areas was progressively abandoned in favor of other forms of assistance. This is also the reason why, now, figures for cash-based assistance are so low in humanitarian action: with 80 percent of current humanitarian crises being conflict situations, the use of cash is still extremely sensitive.

The move towards an increased use of cash-based solutions would be a wise one, especially considering that most of the emerging or low-resource economies are already pioneering forms of remote, digital or mobile payments for daily use, leapfrogging from traditional paper money to cryptocurrencies and paperless distributed systems. However, approaching this issue from the dogmatic perspective of imposing quotas to be fulfilled, means not only denying that the shortages of food and basic items as well as the collapse of market services and retail infrastructures are part of the common paradigm to most conflict contexts, but also that most of the current architecture of the humanitarian system is not yet prepared to deliver cash in the face of armed actors.

Rather than setting unattainable quotas to be reached in an arbitrary time-frame, it would be more feasible and realistic for the humanitarian community to commit to dedicating an appropriate amount of internal funds and resources to create global, measurable and standardized procedures to effectively use cash-based methods in war contexts, without increasing vulnerabilities or affecting local markets. A collective push to incorporate cash as a regular tool of response would also have the positive effect of shifting the language of cash transfers from “innovation” – a reference which almost allows cash interventions to remain in pilot phase or at a very small scale – to “standardization”, which would allow humanitarian actors, academic institutions and donors to evaluate the real impact of these measures in a transparent, comparative and evidence-based manner.

So, did the WHS get it all wrong? Was it a smokescreen with red herrings for outcomes?

Absolutely not, at least in my opinion. As I said recently in an interview with the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory, the WHS did what had to be done, in the given conditions: the humanitarian system may not be broke nor broken, but it surely needs a thorough revision. At the Summit, the humanitarian actors completed a long-overdue first step moving from soul-searching to re-shaping.

Some new actors emerged (new to the international conference scene, not to the field), especially from regions not traditionally known for exporting INGOs, while established actors agreed on the re-definition of operational boundaries among national and international NGOs, and on the need to update and improve humanitarian strategies.

The Grand Bargain addresses most of these issues, and promises to clear the table from some of the absurd earmarking and funding restrictions faced by potential implementing actors. All this had to be done, and as a result, the humanitarian system emerges stronger from this display of (almost) unity.

Many chastised the absence of the most important states, fearing the lack of engagement and commitment could anticipate a gap in political positioning. This fear seems superfluous: Indeed, states’ lack of engagement is by itself a political move. Refusing to engage in discussions about a stronger commitment to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), first at the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and then at the WHS, the international political structure is detaching itself from the humanitarian consequences of its actions.

The message is clear: a stronger and modern humanitarian system is welcome, as long as it doesn’t interfere with military and tactical priorities. As long as it keeps out of the war business, and keeps focusing only on doing its best to solace the victims, all is in order. But this system is not sustainable, nor just. As it has been said, one of the few conclusions that attracted broad consensus is that humanitarian problems can’t be solved only by assisting people and throwing money at problems.

Whatever will come after the WHS (implementing and follow-up mechanisms were not announced, which raised even more skepticism), the humanitarian system must prove itself able to reach real unity and demand to bring conflicts (and their victims) back to the center of the discussion.

Providing direct support to local actors is impossible if they are either identified as partial, or barred from receiving funds for political reasons under the blanket pretext of very loose anti-corruption, anti-terrorism and anti-violent extremism blacklists. National organizations cannot effectively implement relief operations if their staff is forced to flee with the civilian population because of the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and aid workers. Delivering cash is counterproductive and harmful if armed actors don’t respect the obligation to spare civilians and their belongings. The international NGOs and humanitarian agencies can and must reform their procedures to leave more space to local actors, but they all need an environment conducive to delivering and providing humanitarian assistance in order to operate together in harmony.

It has been said that for states, the alternative to respecting the rules of war is to pay the price. The humanitarian system still has the chance to rally and demand that the real final price isn’t paid by their staff and the civilian population. It is a good opportunity for the freshly motivated humanitarian world to cluster around the points proposed before and after the WHS, and lobby for a more positive discussions in the next international conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in 2017. Everyone will gain from a stronger IHL, be they national or international actors.

PS: If you just discovered reading this post that what you thought was the Innovation Marketplace was actually the Exhibition Fair and that there was a whole world just above your head and you missed it, you’re not alone. Realizing the limbo we were stuck in, with the innovation crowd decided to turn to Twitter to voice our cry for attention and visibility.

 

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Giulio Coppi has more than 8 years of humanitarian professional experience managing operations in South America, West and Central Africa, South and Central Asia. He earned his BA, MA and MAS in International Law with a specialization on Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in conflict. In his career, Giulio has cooperated with NGOs, Universities, the UN, the OECD and the ICRC. At the IIHA, Giulio oversees the Humanitarian Innovation program of the Institute, with a special focus on Open Source technology and community-based approaches, manages the joint initiative High Tech Humanitarians (HTH), and is IIHA’s focal point to the Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation launched during the WHS in Istanbul. To get in touch with him and contribute to the discussion, feel free to comment on this post or to email him at gcoppi@fordham.edu. A big thanks goes to Kasia Laskowski for invaluable brain-picking, feedback and editing support.

 

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Humanitarian Innovation Fellow Giulio Coppi interviewed by IPI Global Observatory

Fordham University IIHA Humanitarian Innovation Fellow and High Tech Humanitarians Founder Giulio Coppi provides some insight on innovation discussions and outcomes at the World Humanitarian Summit in a recent interview with the International Peace Institute Global Observatory.

 

How Can Humanitarians Embrace Innovation?: Q&A with Giulio Coppi

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Humanitarian Newsletter: May 12, 2016

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Read the IIHA Humanitarian Newsletter featuring a Humanitarian Spotlight on “Ecuador Earthquake Response: IDHA Alumni Working Together in the Field;” news about the recent work of IIHA Helen Hamlyn Senior Fellow Alexander van Tulleken, M.D.; and a wide array of alumni updates, humanitarian events and job opportunities! This edition also features news of CIHC Board Member Lady Helen Hamlyn’s recent visit to Fordham University, World Humanitarian Summit Updates, and the always interesting Humanitarian Innovation Corner of High Tech Humanitarians!

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