World Food Programme @ The Humanitarian Action Challenge

The Humanitarian Action Challenge kicked off in early October. It is a joint effort by HumanityX, The Hague Humanity Hub and ImpactCity to encourage multi-disciplinary collaboration towards innovative technological solutions for peace, justice, and humanitarian action. Lena Hohfeld is involved on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP) that set one of the program’s challenges. We checked in with her to hear about her experience so far. Lena is excited about the Humanitarian Action Challenge. She says, “The challenge is all about creating productive partnerships and delivering innovative technology-driven solutions to some of the most pressing problems faced by the humanitarian community in their operations”.

However, she urges, innovation in the humanitarian space can only be successful if it is explicitly adapted to the challenges that humanitarian actors are actually facing on the ground and on a day-to-day basis. “Bringing together the expertise and experience of for-profit and not-for-profit actors, and partnering them with humanitarian actors from the very beginning, is a great and distinctive element of the Humanitarian Action Challenge,” she says. “The program promises to enhance cooperation between businesses and NGOs in the humanitarian space while providing actionable technological solutions.”

Fresh ideas

“WFP sees the Humanitarian Action Challenge as a great way to address some of the problems we face by developing solutions which can actually be scaled and used to improve our operations. Our mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) team is constantly looking for new ways of innovating in order to understand the needs of the 821 million hungry people worldwide,” she illustrates WFP’s sense of urgency.

She adds, “Specifically, we are interested in fresh ideas for how WFP can make use of the vast amount of unstructured data to improve our work. At the workshop session early October, it was great to see the innovation teams with all their diverse expertise working on data-related solutions”.

Different perspectives

Lena shares, “My main takeaway point from the October workshop was how many different perspectives you can apply to a single problem. I realized that the two teams that will be working on our challenge have chosen two completely different approaches to the problem – but which, in the end, might even be complementary. The diversity within the teams also led to a wide range of ideas.”

“I found it exciting to add WFP’s perspective to this variety and to be able to directly work with the teams to adjust their ideas so as to ensure that they really meet WFP’s needs,” she emphasizes. “I’m curious to see how the projects can be further developed and what new ideas will come up. And then, of course, I am very much looking forward to seeing the final products and how they can be deployed in WFP.”