2020: The Year That Changed Everything

Look back at how the WFP Innovation Accelerator faced a year of multiple changes 🚀

WFP Innovation Accelerator
5 min readDec 21, 2020


Dear friends and supporters,

As we started 2020, nobody could have predicted the year we would experience. The impacts of COVID-19 were felt universally, creating deep and lasting implications for global food security.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator team has stepped up through this challenging year to meet the growing needs of our global community, motivated daily by our mission to reach Zero Hunger by identifying, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations.

We have so much to be proud of. As we celebrated our fifth anniversary, the WFP Innovation Accelerator was 1 of 10 organisations recognized by FastCompany with dual awards: Best Workplaces for Innovators, and Innovative Team of the Year 2020. WFP’s fundraising app, ShareTheMeal, was named by both Google and Apple as one of the “Best Apps of 2020”, and got a special shout out from Apple CEO Tim Cook. The World Food Programme global family was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its work, drawing the connection between conflict and hunger, and consequently the relationship between achieving food security and building peace.

Here is more of what we accomplished together in 2020

This year, the WFP Innovation Accelerator identified and supported 19 new cutting-edge innovations to disrupt hunger, growing our portfolio to more than 80 projects, spanning 46 countries. Through our efforts, we were able to positively impact the lives of 3.5+ million people.

We kick-started innovative projects like Retail in a Box in Cox’s Bazar and Mozambique which brings WFP pop-up shops to communities in need, enabling a swift transition from in-kind support to cash-based assistance.

From left to right: Retail in a Box retailers from Mozambique and Cox’s Bazar.

We also pushed forward the scaling of the PRISM disaster preparedness platform, now active in Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka, which helps communities respond to floods. Farm to Market Alliance secured $17 million in multi-year funding to continue helping African smallholder farmers transition to commercial agriculture.

When a global pandemic was declared in March 2020, the WFP Innovation Accelerator had to quickly find a way to continue its core mission of supporting innovations and the humanitarian community. We responded to the challenge by embracing the virtual world. In 2020, the Accelerator hosted 9 innovation bootcamps, of which 8 were fully virtual.

A virtual bootcamp
Health Campaign Effectiveness Bootcamp July 2020.

We also launched the COVID-19 Fast Track call for innovative solutions to help overcome challenges caused by the pandemic in South Sudan.

We wanted to share the hard-earned lessons learned along the way. To do this, we formed a knowledge management team, who developed a roadmap, and documented lessons, how-tos, and best practices — from hosting virtual bootcamps to managing projects remotely.

Recognizing that global problems can only be solved when we come together, we’ve continued to expand our network, both near and far. In our home base of Munich, we partnered with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to transform WFP’s amphibious SHERP all-terrain vehicle for remote-operation, capable of delivering assistance to even the most dangerous last mile.

The sherp vehicle in action
An amphibious SHERP vehicle in action (Photo: WFP/Hugh Rutherford).

We brought together innovators through our Innovation Hub in Tanzania for WFP-X, WFP’s first-ever exploration of moonshot innovations for urban food security in megacities of the future — starting with Dar es Salaam.

In Kenya, we launched our first Regional Innovation Hub for East Africa hosted in WFP’s Regional Bureau in Nairobi. The hub worked with the WFP Innovation Accelerator to deliver our 32nd bootcamp for 10 teams across the globe to close out this year. This new hub helps build a global innovation network within WFP, along with the South Sudan, Jordan, and Tanzania Innovation Hubs launched in the last two years.

Thank you to our core donors, the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German Federal Foreign Office, and the Bavarian State Ministry of Agriculture, Land, and Forestry for their continued support as we enter the next five years of partnership. Thank you to our partners from USAID — going above and beyond to enable our COVID-19 response and Knowledge Management activities — and to the Netherlands and Luxembourg, for their ongoing commitment to innovation.

In 2020, we expanded our relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and worked with a number of other organizations that have helped the Innovation Accelerator grow and thrive, including Google, DLR, and Salesforce.

None of this is possible without the dedication of the incredible Innovation Accelerator team, our colleagues within WFP, our supporters, and our network of 142 Innovation Champions.

We look forward to ringing in the new year together in spirit, though physically apart. We’ll face 2021 with a renewed sense of purpose to achieve Zero Hunger, together.

Best regards,

Bernhard Kowatsch
Head of the Innovation Accelerator
United Nations World Food Programme

Web: innovation.wfp.org
Twitter: @WFPInnovation

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.

Find out more about us: innovation.wfp.org. Subscribe to our e-newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and watch our videos on YouTube.



WFP Innovation Accelerator

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.