Cutting the edge of hunger: 6 ways that WFP drives humanitarian innovation

WFP Innovation Bootcamp participants in Munich, Germany, February 2020. Photo: WFP/Paul-Guenther.
WFP has a long-standing culture of innovation, from its first airlift in 1962, to pioneering the use of email in humanitarian emergencies in the 1990s, and distributing aid through e-vouchers in the early 2000s. Today, we are tapping into blockchain, digital cash, and artificial intelligence to enhance humanitarian assistance. Photo: WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua.

1. Innovation sourcing

We actively invite proposals for high-potential solutions that can enhance humanitarian work. Whether it is a WFP staff member who has a great idea, or a social entrepreneur who strives to contribute to a better world, we want to hear about it. The same goes for a company with a product that could be exactly what we need.

2. Ideas turned into workable solutions

Having a good project proposal is only one side of the equation — knowing the right problem to solve is the other. This is why most successful proposals from innovation challenges start at WFP’s Innovation Bootcamps.

Since its foundation in 2015, the WFP Innovation Accelerator has hosted 40 innovation bootcamps with 387 participating teams. Photo: WFP/Paul-Guenther.

3. The power of iteration

At WFP, we evaluate the viability of innovations early on and iterate based on input from end-users.

Hani Mohamed uses her mobile phone to redeem WFP’s cash assistance and order food from WFP’s online e-Shop at a food distribution Centre Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo: WFP/Ismail Taxta.

4. Taking proven solutions to scale

We look at each innovation to see how it can support more people facing hunger. Sprint projects and other initiatives that have demonstrated value with potential to reach 1 million people can broaden their impact through our Scale-Up Enablement Programme.

5. Creating impact across all SDGs

WFP is a key player in efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2: Zero Hunger. While our initial focus was on integrating innovation to end global hunger, we came to realize that progress cannot be achieved in isolation, since all the 17 SDGs are linked together.

Daniel is a student in Kitwe, Zambia, where WFP has set up a hydroponics garden to support the local school meals programme. “I’ve been looking for ways to replicate the greenhouse made by WFP…finally I made it and built my own greenhouse.’’ Photo: WFP/Andy Higgins.

6. Breaking path into the future: Innovative Finance and Frontier Innovations

The Accelerator has built proven strategies for incorporating innovation into humanitarian operations in its first six years. Nonetheless, with 811 million people still going hungry every day worldwide, we are undertaking our own path to scale up.

Project AHEAD is WFP’s collaboration with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), to test all-terrain trucks for remote operation, so that we can safely deliver assistance to areas affected by natural disasters, conflict, or outbreaks of disease. Photo: WFP/Hugh Rutherford.

Find out more and explore our portfolio of innovations in the WFP Innovation Accelerator Year In Review 2021.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

WFP Innovation Accelerator

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