Four steps to building an innovative organization

WFP Innovation Accelerator
8 min readMay 2, 2024


WFP Innovation Day welcomed innovators from around the world to celebrate WFP’s long legacy of innovation and build momentum for the future. Discover what we learned from our global colleagues and partners below.

By Jackie Negro

Watch the full recording of “Partnering for Innovation: WFP Innovation Day 2024”. | Video: WFP Innovation Accelerator

Innovation is central to ending hunger. Conflicts, climate, and rising costs continue to push more and more people to the edge of famine. Through this, we are forced to make impossible choices — who we can reach, and how much we can reach them with.

Under these circumstances, we must find ways to use our resources more effectively and work more effectively across systems and organizations. But how can we foster innovative work across WFP and the broader UN?

WFP has a long history of innovation that spans the whole organization, ranging from predictive analytics, supply chain, food systems, support of smallholder farmers, cash-based transfers and innovative financing. For the second annual WFP Innovation Day, we showcased this impressive legacy and the indispensable role that innovation plays across the organization alongside WFP field teams and leaders and our global partners.

In her opening remarks, WFP Assistant Executive Director of Partnerships and Innovation Rania Dagash-Kamara emphasized the importance of partnering as a global community to spark new ideas and create new ways of thinking.

“Together, we are leveraging innovation to make sure that we leave no one behind.” -Rania Dagash-Kamara

Throughout the event, we saw time and time again how innovative teams are rising to the occasion to transform humanitarian response and improve the lives of the people we serve. Read below for some of the things we learned from WFP innovators and our global partners.

Lean on your partners

Innovation goes hand in hand with partnerships — coming together as a global community to spur smart ideas and create new ways of thinking. Partnership-powered innovations allow us to utilize our collective strengths and catalyse further progress.

Representatives from WFP Iraq, the WFP Innovation Accelerator, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and Innovation Norway joined together to discuss how to supercharge partnerships to go further in their innovative work. As the discussion continued, the speakers recognized their existing connections to each other and identified several programmatic and funding opportunities to delve deeper and achieve more together.

For example, Nilus, which was highlighted by WFP Colombia and the WFP Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean earlier in the event, is currently engaged with Innovation Norway through their Humanitarian Innovation Programme. While discussing this development, WFP Iraq Country Director Ally Raza Qureshi noted the opportunity to leverage these connections and programmes like those of the WFP Innovation Accelerator in their field operations.

Nilus connects producers and retailers with consumers to lower the cost of food for low=income people. | Photo: WFP/Heath Morrell

As a key actor in the humanitarian space, WFP is able to connect the dots between diverse partners, innovators and the humanitarian community. By joining forces, we can continue strengthening these links and grow our potential to end hunger and achieve the SDGs.

Cross-sector partnerships grant new opportunities for leveraging expertise and unlocks new potential for impact. The deep knowledge of WFP’s field operations, for example, can be propelled even further with the resources and skills from the private sector or government partners.

Foster innovative communities

We cannot achieve zero hunger alone. In order to amplify our collective impact, we must collaborate to innovate and create communities where innovation can flourish.

The WFP Innovation Network comprises 17 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.

The WFP Innovation Network builds a community of innovators across WFP. | Photo: WFP

The WFP Innovation Champions community is a community of practice and purpose which enables WFP colleagues across all divisions and regions to become agents of change, by participating in various innovation initiatives where they can build on their innovation confidence and vocabulary, collaborate with like-minded allies across the organization and become better equipped to assess and support innovation regardless of where they operate.

At WFP, we also embrace our UN identity to foster a vision of a forward-thinking UN system that is aligned with the UN 2.0 quintet of change. By taking collective action and embracing agility, learning and curiosity, we can transform organizational culture across the UN.

The UN Advisory Alliance, hosted by WFP, exemplifies this work in their service as a management consulting and advisory unit that helps UN agencies envision their future and transform strategy into action through business innovation and organizational change. Through its work, the UNAA builds a knowledge-sharing community across the UN and enables innovative transformations to better deliver our mandates.

At the WFP Innovation Accelerator, our SDGx programme provides a platform for innovation to achieve the SDGs. Together with government, UN, humanitarian and private partners, they co-create acceleration programmes and innovative projects to improve the lives of vulnerable people. Guided by the principles of human-centered design, SDGx strives to develop an ecosystem of innovators collaborating on the SDGs. Their community-first mentality has led them to support 300 ventures since its inception in 2019.

While they take unique forms and serve diverse purposes, each of these communities emphasizes the value of working together under a shared purpose to develop game-changing solutions and approaches to the challenges we face.

Enable innovation through strong tools

With the community and collective energy in place to innovate, providing innovators with powerful tools will enable them to learn from each other and adapt innovative approaches to their local contexts and challenges.

At WFP Innovation Day, the WFP Innovation Network launched two exciting tools to support WFP colleagues in embracing innovation in their day-to-day work.

The WFP Innovation Database is an internal search engine for all WFP innovation projects, people, and knowledge. With it, WFP colleagues can explore innovations implemented across WFP, connect directly with the innovators who developed them and learn from their hard-won lessons.

The WFP Innovators’ Playbook provides WFP colleagues with field-tested tools, templates and strategies based on the practical field experience of WFP’s innovation teams. Jointly developed by WFP Kenya, the WFP Regional Bureau for Eastern Africa, and the WFP Innovation Accelerator, the playbook aims to demystify innovation, showing it as a problem-solving process accessible to all in WFP.

The WFP Innovation Database and WFP Innovators’ Playbook are two key examples of the tools organizations can provide their staff to support their efforts to be innovative and forward-thinking in all of their work, no matter their position or circumstance. These tools are critical to building capacity in cutting-edge skills and a rejuvenated organizational culture.

Embrace diverse solutions

Joined by colleagues and partners from all around the world, WFP Innovation Day featured diverse innovations that are turbocharcing the SDGs. With the multidimensional challenges we face and progress lagging on the SDGs, it is imperative to embrace a wide array of solutions and work to compound their impact.

Innovations featured at this event spanned several SDGs, are at unique stages of start up development and operate in various regions around the world. Their solutions represent the diversity of ideas we can and should champion to improve the lives of vulnerable communities.

Cashless Payments by HesabPay, a collaboration between WFP Afghanistan and local fintech company HesabPay, provides a digital alternative to traditional humanitarian cash distribution. It simplifies the process and enhances safety for recipients, especially women, who face outsize risks when receiving assistance.

Another cash-based transfers innovation, Rescue Card/Zinli, is being piloted by the WFP Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean and WFP. Rescue Card uses a digital wallet system to provide swift assistance and digital financial inclusion, especially for those without proper identification, within 72 hours.

Kitchen in a Box, an innovation led by WFP El Salvador and supported by WFP Engineering, transforms shipping containers into smart, sustainable school kitchens to provide students with fresh, nutritious school meals. In the fireside chat, members of the project team expressed the value of cross-collaborating with WFP units, government partners, private sector and the local community in bringing the solution to life.

See the development of the Kitchen in a Box pilot kitchen in El Salvador. | Video: WFP El Salvador

Nilus, an external start-up collaborating with WFP Peru and now launching with WFP Colombia, WFP Ecuador and the WFP Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, aims to connect producers and retailers with end consumers to lower the cost of food for low-income people, leveraging the power of disintermediation, food rescue and community group buying.

INITIATE, a collaborative project between the WFP Innovation Accelerator, WFP’s UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) and the World Health Organization (WHO), aims to bring together global partners to promote knowledge sharing and skill transfers for improved emergency response during health crises. INITIATE’s first innovation, an infectious disease treatment module, allows stakeholders to rapidly deploy and run treatment centers that enable a higher quality of care in the field when an outbreak emerges.

In 2023, INITIATE delivered and tested the prototype of its first solution, an infectious disease treatment module. | Video: UNHRD

WFP Innovation BRIDGE, which was featured during the partnership panel, was created in collaboration with UNCDF to offer innovative impact businesses disrupting hunger access to loans and guarantees with flexible, risk-tolerant and affordable terms. WFP Innovation BRIDGE transforms how WFP can engage with business and funders for more sustainable food systems.

The way ahead: partnering for innovation

WFP Innovation Day made it clear that progress cannot be made in siloes. Instead, we must join together to envision the future we desire — one without hunger or suffering — and build solutions to get us there.

With inspiring work being done across our organization and beyond, this year’s event energized our community. The innovative work occurring at WFP — in all regions and at all levels — is enabling new potentials for progress, ultimately saving and changing the lives of the communities we serve.

As WFP Assistant Executive Director Rania Dagash-Kamara said, “the innovations that we make today will shape the future.”

Missed the event? Watch Partnering for Innovation: WFP Innovation Day

Jackie Negro is a communications consultant 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.