Celebrating two years of the Innovation Champions Community

WFP Innovation Accelerator
5 min readNov 9, 2022

WFP Executive Director David Beasley thanks Champions who have committed their time and expertise to help innovation thrive at WFP

By Paul Ngosa Mboshya and Sandra Raad

The Innovation Champions Global Event, which took place from 19 to 20 October 2022, celebrated two years of the Innovation Champions Community, a cadre of 461 WFP staff from 104 nationalities of different expertise and passion for innovation from 125 duty stations across 76 countries.

The start of the two-day event was filled with a beautiful ambient Afro-beats track called iChampion, by Enenche Aba, a Champion from the Nigeria Country Office and was co-produced and performed by Nigerian artists Soklems and Sleenga, showing that the Global Event was made for Champions by Champions.

Thirty-four speakers took part in the event, including 19 community members. The Innovation Champions co-hosted the event, engaging the audience and peppering the interaction with enthusiasm and energy. The event also featured project showcases from Nilus, Science for Society Technologies and R4.

Photo from the WFP Innovation Champions 2022 Global Event during a group photo.

Business as usual will not get us to zero hunger 2030

Welcoming the Champions to the event, WFP Executive Director David Beasley said: “I am excited that you have given your time and expertise to help innovation thrive at WFP.”

David Beasley added: “Business as usual will not get us to zero hunger by 2030. We need a place where smart ideas can be tried and tested, refined, and scaled up so that they become the game-changing solutions to help get to our destination faster.”

“Everyone here brings unique experience, knowledge, talents, and ideas to this community, so please use this chance to connect with other Innovation Champions to think outside the box and explore how you can work together to drive innovation forward at WFP,” said David Beasley.

David Beasley Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme welcoming the Champions during the event.

Two exciting panels

The event featured two panels moderated by members of the Champions Community.

The first panel was on Innovating for Climate change with Richard Choularton, Vice President of Operations at Tetra Tech and Safia Verjee, the Regional Innovation Advisor for CARE — Denmark based in Nairobi. The panellists, guided by the moderator Eriny Hany, explained the connection between innovating for climate change and reaching zero hunger. They further discussed where innovation is creating the needed change to tackle WFP’s climate-related objectives and gave examples of disruptive innovations closing that gap.

Watch: WFP Innovation Champions Global Event Panel Innovating for Climate Change

The second panel, titled ‘On the frontlines of Emergencies, where is the space for innovation?’ featured Rohini Swaminathan, Head of the Geospatial Support Unit, Gerd Buta, Head of In-Kind Operations at the Ukraine Country Office and Gonzalo Jimenez, Head of CBT-Programme in Afghanistan. Moderated by Simon Tarr, the panel explored the challenges of WFP Emergencies and how WFP continues to be agile in those circumstances. Innovating in an Emergency is not only possible but necessary, was shared by all panelists, with each giving an example of how they are innovatively responding to their emergency contexts.

Watch: WFP Innovation Champions Global Event Panel On the frontlines of Emergencies, where is the space for innovation

Actionable advice for Innovating at WFP

Bernhard Kowatsch, Head of WFP Innovation Accelerator, addressed the champions community in the event’s first keynote and provided his first-hand account of innovating at WFP. Before the Accelerator, Bernhard founded Share the Meal, WFP’s award-winning fundraising app. He shared with the community how that experience inspired him to propose the idea of an innovation accelerator at WFP and the steps taken to get it established. He also shared with the community his key advice for navigating the organisation, appealing to senior stakeholders, and what he looks for in innovators within the organisation.

Watch: WFP Innovation Champions Global Event Keynote: Bernhard Kowatsch, Head of the WFP Innovation Accelerator

Innovation is an enabling priority for WFP’s 2022–2025 Strategic Plan

Speaking as one of the key-note speakers at the event, WFP Deputy Executive Director Valarie Guarnieri said: “Innovation is an enabling priority in WFP’s new Strategic Plan 2022–2025 and we know that with new solutions and new methodologies we can unlock amazing potential and solve some of the deeply rooted problems we are trying to address.”

She explained that WFP has many needed structures to support anyone in identifying and accelerating solutions to reach zero hunger and WFP’s other SDG commitments.

“We have an entire Innovation and Knowledge Management Division conceived to make available that support structure and continue to grow it however useful. And WFP’s Innovation footprint is delivering: This year alone, the Innovation Accelerator — through the innovations it supports, many of which you are working on — is set to reach 15 million people, just over 10 percent of WFP’s total forecast. So, you are already pushing the envelope for what and how much WFP can deliver.”

Valarie Guarnieri Assistant Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme during her keynote speech.

Watch: WFP Innovation Champions Global Event Keynote: Valerie Guarnieri, Deputy Executive Director of WFP

Diversity is a strength in the Innovation Community

Director of Innovation and Knowledge Management Division Dominik Heinrich said the Innovation Champions are a snapshot of people in WFP who are agents of positive change and are passionate about making innovation thrive.

“One of the things I find inspiring is how you are all coming together to share successes and examples of fully scalable projects and half-baked ideas and find allyship and a space to gather feedback and develop your thoughts into working concepts.”

“Your role as champions of innovation at WFP is critical in accelerating that path, sharing the knowledge in your duty stations, making connections with the other champions and continuing to engage and participate in moving WFP forward,” said Dominik.

Dominik Heinrich Director of Innovation and Knowledge Management Division.

Snapshot of Champions showcase

The Global event displayed some innovations by Champions around the globe:

  • Rose Tania Charles, Programme Assistant in the Haiti WFP Country Office, showcased a project to transform the agri-food system with graduate students to create one million jobs.
  • Waya John, Programme Associate in the South Sudan WFP Country Office, talked about a project to utilise wetlands for sustainable use to benefit 70,000 households in Northern Bahr El Ghazal State-Aweil, South Sudan.
  • Thanh Nguyen and Siroros Roongdonsai, both from the Human Resource Technology and Analytics branch in HQ, Rome, showcased a project called Mericulum that focuses on plastic recycling and blockchain protocol.
  • N’zue Meh, Programme Officer in the Central African Republic WFP Country Office, talked about a Food System App (FSA) aiming to increase smallholder farmers’ access to markets and strengthen food systems.
  • Emmanuel Baya, IT Operational Assistant in the South Sudan WFP Country Office, showcased an Alternative and Sustainable School Feeding Project involving local nutritious foods supplied to schools in Juba, South Sudan.

To find out more about the WFP Innovation Champions Community, please reach out to global.community@wfp.org



WFP Innovation Accelerator

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