Five Highlights from the WFP Innovation Pitch Event

WFP Innovation Accelerator
5 min readMar 22, 2024


WFP continues to foster a culture of innovation and hosts its Global Innovation Pitch Event spotlighting innovations from across the globe.

By Sanjna Sudan and Miranda Stobbs

Tania Osejo, CBT Senior Cash Advisor, WFP Regional Bureau Panama presenting Rescue Card. Photo: WFP/Benjamin Härer

“Innovation is, and always has been, part of the very DNA of the World Food Programme. It is the engine that drives us forward, allowing us to reach the most vulnerable, even in the most challenging and remote areas,” said Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, during her visit to the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s new office space on 16 February, followed by a WFP Pitch Event; an official side event of the Munich Security Conference. At the Executive Board on 26 February, she further highlighted this focus on innovation and technology:

“I am determined that WFP will lead the way in harnessing the immense power of science, technology, and innovation to transform the lives of the most vulnerable communities.”

For the past 60 years, the WFP has transformed and enhanced humanitarian support during emergencies. Building on this decades-long experience with innovation, the WFP Innovation Accelerator was launched in 2015 to identify, support and scale high-impact innovations through its network of innovation hubs and units worldwide.

The need for innovation couldn’t be higher than it is today. The world is facing a global crisis, with 309 million people currently facing acute hunger. To overcome these challenges, the need to continue investing in innovations and sustainable solutions that address hunger and the climate crisis, build resilience, and find new ways to lower humanitarian needs is crucial. Therefore, in February, the WFP Innovation Accelerator hosted its flagship Pitch Event under the theme ‘Relief and Resilience’.

Here are five highlights from this inspiring humanitarian event:

Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the World Food Programme sharing opening remarks at the WFP Innovation Pitch Event. Photo: WFP/Benjamin Härer

#1 Eight Innovators Enabling ‘Relief and Resilience’

The event featured eight innovations from across the world, many of which are from WFP country offices or are external entities working closely with WFP country offices, leveraging innovation and technology to tackle food insecurity worldwide, especially in emergencies.

For example, Rescue Card/Zinli, a solution implemented by the WFP Regional Bureau of Panama, simplifies access to help and financial services during crises for vulnerable populations such as undocumented migrants, within 72 hours. HesabPay’s cashless payments solution implemented in collaboration with WFP Afghanistan, simplifies financial interactions for communities with limited access to traditional banking in the region, by providing a reliable digital platform for managing funds.

#2 Global partners to strengthen local solutions

In the past eight years, support for the WFP Innovation Accelerator and its expanding network of WFP innovation hubs and units has increased, as has the diversity and nature of the funding partners it works with including governments, foundations, private sector organisations or UN agencies, underscoring the value of innovation and partnerships across the humanitarian and international development system. At the WFP Innovation Pitch Event, many of the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s partners emphasized the value of collaboration and innovation to address the global food crisis. For instance, Deike Potzel, Director General for Crisis Prevention, Stabilization, Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Assistance for the German Federal Foreign Office — a founding partner of the WFP Innovation Accelerator — stated at the event,

“I firmly believe that we will be able to overcome some of the most urgent humanitarian challenges through innovation. WFP and others have proven the successful application of new technologies and the scaling of successful solutions to make them available in the field. This is an important contribution to make the humanitarian system more efficient and deliver to the people in need.”

#3 Moving AHEAD

A highlight of the WFP Innovation Pitch Event in February was the unveiling of the AHEAD (Autonomous Humanitarian Emergency Aid Devices) vehicle, a collaboration between WFP and the German Aerospace Centre to design the world’s first unmanned vehicle to deliver humanitarian aid to the last mile. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, Chair of the German Aerospace Agency (DLR) Executive Board, shared that it ‘remotely controlled and uses spaceborne and airborne Earth observation technologies to deliver humanitarian aid to areas in need’.

WFP Innovation Accelerator colleagues pose for a photograph with AHEAD vehicle, which is a joint project with Germany’s Space Agency DLR. Photo: WFP/Nadine Stegemann

#4 Embrace failing forward

“Make sure you’re transparent about failure and that you communicate about it: what did you learn? How did you pivot? How did you move forward? What have you done since with the learnings from that failure?” shared Maggie Schmitz, Division Chief, Private Sector Engagement, Diaspora and Innovation at USAID — Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance — a supporter of the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s work since 2018, during the Pitch Event’s Fireside Chat. Fireside chats are a unique opportunity to bring together thought leaders from public, private as well as humanitarian sectors on stage to share insights from their experiences.

Maggie Schmitz was joined by Kyung-nan Park, Director of Emergencies for WFP and the conversation was moderated by Hila Cohen, Deputy Head of WFP Innovation Accelerator. Kyung-nan Park stressed the importance of prioritizing people in innovation, ensuring solutions are necessary, accessible, affordable, and positively impact those you serve.

“Make sure that you put the people first in your innovation and design the end use, which shouldn’t be boutique, it should be needed, it should be accessible, and it should be affordable,” she said.

The event was streamed online and watched by more than 550 viewers, and more than 200 external guests in the room from public, private and humanitarian sectors.

#5 You can join the WFP Innovation Accelerator in this journey!

As WFP moves forward its innovation journey (keep watching this space to learn more) to save and change lives. Let’s #disrupthunger together:

  • Explore our innovation Knowledge collection to find case studies, videos, toolkits, and insights that can find a role in your work.
  • Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on X (Twitter) and LinkedIn to stay tuned for announcements about upcoming innovation challenges. Who knows? You could soon be in Munich or one of our Innovation Hubs or Units, taking the stage as our next innovator!
  • If you are our colleague at WFP, join the Innovation Champions Community — a community that empowers WFP colleagues to become agents of change and drive innovation by allowing members to participate in knowledge-sharing sessions, training and networking opportunities.
  • Are you or your organization looking to support innovations that contribute to SDGs? Explore our SDGx Acceleration programme.



WFP Innovation Accelerator

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