Smart, Creative Ideas part of WFP DNA — Cindy McCain

Innovation is vital in finding creative solutions to feed more people with less.

WFP Innovation Accelerator
5 min readJun 5, 2023

By Paul Ngosa Mboshya and Zoe Harman Conlon

Innovation to help solve global challenges

WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain says as the world faces a severe global crisis that will potentially see millions of people losing vital food rations, innovation is needed to find creative solutions to feed more people with less.

In a hybrid event held at the WFP Headquarters in Rome to commemorate WFP World Innovation Day on 27 April 2023, ED McCain said: “Resources are running low, and millions will lose vital food rations if we don’t have the money to feed those in greatest need. We cannot overcome these challenges without innovation.”

WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud

Innovation — Part of WFP DNA

During the commemorations, ED McCain said Smart ideas and creative thinking are part of WFP’s DNA: “In recent years, we have led the humanitarian sector in adopting new technologies, everything from blockchain to robotics to help reduce global hunger”

A WFP SHERP vehicle driven through floodwaters in Twic East, Jonglei State, in South Sudan. Photo: WFP/Alessandro Abbonizio.

WFP Innovation Day 2023 hybrid event

The United Nations commemorates its World Creativity and Innovations Day annually on 21 April to raise awareness of the role of creativity and innovation in all aspects of human development and to provide momentum towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). WFP has been the United Nation’s largest and longest-standing innovation platform since initiating humanitarian airlifts 60 years ago. The WFP Innovation Accelerator is one of the UN’s pioneering innovation structures and taps into unprecedented advances in innovation such as amphibious vehicles and drones, artificial intelligence, cash-based transfers, climate and agricultural technology, food fortification, hydroponics, and innovative financing

Before the WFP Innovation Day 2023 hybrid event went into full swing, a moment of silence was observed for the three WFP staff members who were fatally wounded during the conflict in Kabkabiya in North Darfur, Sudan.

The hybrid event organized by the WFP Innovation Accelerator, was attended by 1215 online participants and hosted by Sandra Raad, Head of the Innovation Network. An all-female panel of WFP leaders was moderated by Caroline Legros, Deputy Director of the Innovation and Knowledge Management Division. The panellists, Edith Heines, Director of Cash Based Transfer, Maria Jose Roja, Deputy Director of School Based Programmes and Alexandra Lajeunesse-Page, Business Transformation Chief drove an animated discussion on how WFP can use innovation to meet its 2030 agenda.

Innovation Day commemoration at WFP HQ. Photo: WFP/Radostina Karageorgieva

WFP voices from around the world

The event gave a moment to reflect on what WFP staff members globally think about innovation.

WFP Representative and Kenya Country Director Lauren Landis said: “We do not need innovations that just affect a small population, but we need innovations that we can take to scale. In Kenya, we have observed that working with the Government, private sector and taking innovation to the most remote communities can nudge development of home grown innovative solutions that will build resilience and offer diversified livelihood opportunities.”

WFP Representative and Colombia Country Director Carlo Scaramella mentioned that “For us innovation means empowering individuals and communities and engaging new social actors in the support and development of solutions that are relevant, context specific, sustainable and ultimately effective in improving the lives of vulnerable populations.”

Emmalee Knape, Head of Innovation at the WFP Regional Innovation Hub for Eastern Africa said: “Innovation to us is enabling locally led problem solving by our WFP teams with and for the communities we serve.”

Other innovators from the field that dialled in as speakers during the event are:

  • Pradnya Paithankar, Head of Programme Operations, New Delhi, India,
  • Nidhi Pant Co-Founder of Science For Society — S4S Technologies — Solar 4 Resilience
  • Ammar Kawash, Head Smallholder Agricultural Market Support (SAMS) Unit, Rwanda Country Office
WFP Representative and Kenya Country Director Lauren Landis. Phot: WFP/Felix Boyd.
WFP Representative and Colombia Country Director Carlo Scaramella. Photo: WFP/EFE/Carlos Ortega

Some of the highlighted innovations during the event:

WFP staff members reflected and appreciated some of the innovations that are helping to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.


Shecan is a blended finance initiative that brings together donors, philanthropists, private lenders, and impact investors with the idea of driving inclusive economic opportunities for smallholder farmers and micro entrepreneurs.

Solar 4 Resilience

S4S is a social enterprise that enables female smallholder farmers to become micro — entrepreneurs, producing food ingredients through solar-conductor-drying technology.

Rapid Response Connectivity Carrier (R2C2)

The Rapid Response Connectivity Carrier (R2C2) is a 90 metre communications tower packed into two suitcases that enables communications in emergency response.

In closing the event, WFP’s Deputy Executive Director for Programme and Policy Development Valerie Guarineri noted that the WFP Innovation Day had connected staff together in a shared agenda. “Today’s event connects all of us together in our shared mission to end hunger as sustainably and efficiently as possible. We need more innovation days to share all innovations in WFP. Thanks to the organizers of the webinar and all for this truly inspirational session as we gather innovative ideas,” she said.

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

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

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