Building a community of innovators: Words from our WFP Innovation Champions

WFP Innovation Accelerator
7 min readApr 21, 2024


What does it take to build a community of practice enabling innovation across WFP’s global footprint? On World Innovation and Creativity Day, learn how WFP Innovation Champions — who hold diverse positions all around the world — foster innovative approaches to humanitarian work.

By Jackie Negro and Zoë Harman Conlon, with contributions from Ryoya Tasai, Rose Tania Charles, Siroros Roongdonsai, Charlotte Alves and Bedan Mukoma

Innovation has played an indispensable role at WFP since its establishment 61 years ago. Throughout the organization, this impressive legacy of innovation has led to more efficient and effective responses to humanitarian crises of all types. Today, WFP colleagues from all over the world engage with, implement and push forward innovative solutions to the modern challenges we face.

The WFP Innovation Network enables and drives innovation by activating WFP innovators, mainstreaming an organizational culture of innovation and collaboration, providing tailored innovation services and building systems to scale and maximize impact. The WFP Innovation Network comprises 17 WFP country offices with innovation teams or focal points, two regional innovation hubs and a diverse community of 417 WFP Innovation Champions based in 156 duty stations. From WFP offices around the world, our colleagues develop and support a variety of solutions, introduce innovative approaches to our work — in the field and the office — and foster a culture of innovation within WFP.

The WFP Innovation Champions community is a critical element of this work. Champions represent an impressive range of expertise, diverse skills, years of experience and innovation knowledge. Although each community member is exceptionally unique, they all share the same passion for driving innovation within WFP.

These shared principles are what bring WFP Innovation Champions together into a community of practice, a dedicated group committed to a shared vision and with a passion for innovation at WFP and beyond.

For World Innovation and Creativity Day, we asked some of our WFP Innovation Champions to reflect on the meaning and impact of this community on both themselves and WFP. Their responses highlight the diverse impact of intentional communities that share and build knowledge together.

Featured Innovation Champions:

  • Bedan Mukoma, Innovation Programme Manager, WFP Regional Bureau for Eastern Africa, Kenya
  • Charlotte Alves, Communication Officer, WFP Guinea-Bissau
  • Rose Tania Charles, Home-Grown School Feeding Assistant, WFP Haiti
  • Ryoya Tasai, Programme Policy Officer, WFP Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Siroros Roongdonsai, HR Consultant, WFP Headquarters, Italy

What does innovation mean to you?

Rose: To me, innovation is about pushing boundaries and finding creative solutions to complex problems. It involves thinking outside the box, embracing experimentation and continuously striving for improvement. Ultimately, it’s about making a tangible impact and driving positive change in the world.

Siroros: Innovation means creating or making something better. It does not need to be the newest technologies — it might just be only simple changing of a process that helps our communities change for the better.

Charlotte: Innovation is a constructive and creative process of exploring new solutions to everyday problems to make our lives easier.

Bedan: I would break innovation into three parts: research to dig deeper and understand programming gaps and insights into these gaps; ideation and design by bringing stakeholders together to find possible solutions; and lastly, building a strategy on how to implement the designed solution to bridge the identified gap.

Ryoya: In short, innovation helps us accelerate our goal of ending hunger and malnutrition.

What have you learned about the community by being a WFP Innovation Champion?

Charlotte: Innovation may seem complicated, but it can be simplified by collaborating as a community, sharing problems and proposing solutions.

Rose: As a WFP Innovation Champion, I’ve learned that community is pivotal for innovating, fostering collaboration and collectively problem-solving. Engaging with diverse perspectives within the community has underscored the importance of inclusivity and the value of leveraging varied expertise to address complex challenges effectively.

Siroros: The WFP Innovation Champions community really helped me to learn innovation use cases from other people around the world. With all of us coming from different backgrounds, something that might work for us at HQ might not work for others. Through this community, we can learn and grow together.

Ryoya: With Innovation Champions in so many different roles and countries, I’m constantly inspired and receiving tips from other Champions in diverse contexts that can be used for our projects in Lao PDR.

Bedan: There is no right way to innovate, being part of a group of people bound by the same mandate means we work around the same gaps and are able to get inspiration from each other. Being part of a community means having people I can brainstorm with and get feedback on ideas and problems.

What sorts of innovative approaches and/or ideas have arisen from or have been inspired by the WFP Innovation Champions community of practice?

Ryoya: In Laos, we have many projects working with smallholder farmers. Learning from the innovative farming techniques, marketing support and monitoring methods that Innovation Champions from other countries implement has been very useful to us and helped us recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Bedan: WFP Tanzania inspired us at the Regional Bureau in Nairobi to roll out an internal innovation challenge, which arose from the need to amplify innovation in the local country offices.

Rose: The Innovation Champions community has inspired innovative approaches such as blockchain technology for transparent food distribution, drones for efficient delivery in remote areas and mobile applications for enhanced programme management. These initiatives reflect a commitment to leveraging technology and creative solutions to effectively address food insecurity and humanitarian challenges.

Siroros: I’ve been inspired to take a more empathetic approach to my work. Since our community is diverse, every time I have a new idea, I should seek to put myself in someone else’s shoes to validate its use.

Charlotte: Currently, I am focused on introducing innovative approaches and issues into our work in Guinea-Bissau. My objective is to utilize the WFP Innovation Champions community’s potential to identify common projects and tried and tested solutions that can be replicated according to our context.

How has an innovative approach, mindset, tool or idea helped you solve a challenge or change the way you approached a task, topic, etc.?

Charlotte: By acknowledging that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we can work towards finding solutions to common problems. It’s important to realize that a problem faced by one community member in Guinea-Bissau may be the same as another community member in a different country. By sharing ideas and solutions, we can collectively work towards creating positive change.

Siroros: The empathetic approach I mentioned earlier is a really helpful skill for me, both professionally and personally. In both, I have become more and more user-centric, not self-centric.

Rose: In the scope of my master’s thesis exploring community resilience amidst natural disasters in Odisha, India, my plan involves collaborating closely with the local community to develop an innovative technology-based tool aimed at bolstering resilience. This tool would entail community-driven early warning systems, facilitating swift and effective disaster response. I firmly believe that once implemented, this approach holds the potential to transform disaster management not only within the context of my research country but also on a global scale. Natural disasters represent a pervasive issue impacting diverse regions worldwide. My inspiration stems from the pioneering work of the WFP Innovation Team, whose initiatives include the utilization of drones for efficient deliveries in remote areas and the development of mobile applications for enhanced program management.

Ryoya: While we tend to keep conventional or successful approaches from past projects, new, innovative approaches can help us adapt to unexpected changes, such as climate issues, and reduce operating costs. It’s important to keep this in mind when exploring new projects or operations.

Bedan: Coming from a human-centered design background, I approach challenges with curiosity, investigating the problem at hand, the variables, who owns the problem and what is the impact cost of inaction. With that approach, challenges are opportunities to innovate and the cost of inaction provides a justification for whether to solve the challenge or not.

Learning from WFP Innovation Champions

The WFP Innovation Champions provide endless knowledge and inspiration to WFP operations every day. The community we have built together on the principles of innovation and sharing knowledge has grown substantially over the past year thanks to the passion of these champions and many others across the entire organization.

Their learnings show the value of fostering communities of practice across diverse groups and bringing people together to collaborate and exchange ideas. From innovative ideas to shifting mindsets, we look forward to growing together in the WFP Innovation Champions community now and in the future.

Learn more about the WFP Innovation Network.

Many thanks to Bedan, Charlotte, Rose, Ryoya and Siroros for their contributions.

Jackie Negro is a communications consultant at the WFP Innovation Accelerator.

Zoë Harman Conlon is an innovation community manager at the WFP Innovation Accelerator.

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

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

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