WFP named Best Workplaces for Innovators 2021
Leveraging innovation for food security following disruptions to global food systems
By Kenneth Tong
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is proud to announce that the WFP Innovation Accelerator has been named in FastCompany’s Best Workplaces for Innovators 2021! Innovation is a crucial component of today’s humanitarian response, as we leverage new technologies and approaches to address the enduring challenge of food security.
In fact, WFP has been innovating since it first used commercial airlines to airlift food aid to famine stricken Chad nearly 60 years ago in 1962. Since then, we have set up internet in remote locations and crisis zones using weather balloons (Emergency Telecommunications Cluster); embraced blockchain technology to deliver cash-based assistance reliably (Building Blocks); are using artificial intelligence to monitor food security so that we may predict crises before they happen (HungerMapLive); and integrating robotics engineering into all terrain vehicles so that we can deliver resources to even the most remote and dangerous last mile (Project AHEAD).
Our hydroponic cultivation project (H2Grow) has been an effective climate smart growing technique in deserts and remote conditions across nine countries and three continents; and our digital skills training program (EMPACT) has helped young people facing poverty in refugee camps and urban slums to earn income and build resilience for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Innovation doesn’t often happen by accident; WFP puts intent into it. Our Innovation Accelerator, based in Munich, Germany, employs the agile, human centred, and lean start-up strategies of social entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley innovators. This could not be possible without the support of key partnerships and enabling stakeholders. Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and USAID have helped us expand our work in sourcing new innovative ideas, pushing their boundaries in our Innovation Bootcamps, field testing the most promising ideas in our Sprint Programme, and increasing the impact of our proven innovations in our Scale-up Enablement Programme.
Throughout this process, professional mentors from private sector partnerships, such as Google, DLR (the German aerospace centre), and Salesforce bring in necessary expertise and tools that support WFP innovation projects to provide more impact and reach more people in their pilot and growth phases.
We’re honored with this recognition, because it signals that we are doing something right. Applying the best practices from private and public sectors to advance WFP’s work towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 of Zero Hunger, has brought opportunities for us to share our knowledge and way of doing things with agencies working towards other SDGs.
Our SDG/UN Innovation Accelerator Services team has been helping to accelerate innovation with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on healthcare access and vaccine uptake; the Humanitarian Grand Challenge on innovation in conflict contexts; the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) on gender and family planning; and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on program delivery, among others.
WFPs team crosses all aspects of humanitarian response, and innovation can be applied from frontline delivery of assistance, to the back office processes that make us more efficient and reliable. We’re always looking for new ways to increase the social impact of WFP’s global operations. Our Frontier Innovations team looks to the future and recently launched WFP-X to address urban food insecurity in megacities; which was named in Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas 2019. WFP has previously been named in Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of the Year 2021, and Innovation Team of the Year 2020.
We are currently focused on reinforcing food systems that have been rendered vulnerable from the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts, and climate shocks. Together with WFP regional bureaux and country offices, we’re working to develop Regional Innovation Hubs to stimulate innovation ecosystems, find local solutions to keep food supply moving, even when crises hit. Watch for our upcoming WFP Innovation Bootcamp and Pitch Event coinciding with the UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021.
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.