About the Response Innovation Lab

Humanitarian emergencies are reaching unprecedented levels, and the capacity of the sector has been stretched. At the same time innovation is creating new opportunities for people and communities globally.  These opportunities are hardly felt by the most vulnerable people in the world, those affected by crisis. New approaches are needed to meet increasing needs, with fewer resources, in a changing world

The Response Innovation Lab’s role is innovation on the ground in humanitarian contexts – real time solving of problems in large-scale humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises such as earthquakes, typhoons, civil war and unrest. Similar to business, there are problems, both simple and complex, that are often only visible on the ground.

Our aim is to complement the traditional humanitarian system by adapting interventions and methods of humanitarian operations to more effectively meet the needs of populations affected by crisis. The RIL develops, tests and rolls out proven concepts that overcome context-specific problems or barriers to aid delivery and community recovery.  On the ground amongst humanitarian agencies, innovations will work toward reducing the suffering of those affected by crisis and help communities to recover faster and build back better.

We believe that by collaborating at a project, country and international level, together we can meet humanitarian needs more efficiently and effectively. The Response Innovation Lab supports generates context-appropriate solutions, helping innovations achieve appropriate widespread use and sustainability.

Credit: Impact Hub

The RIL is a global collaboration which supports organisations working on humanitarian innovation in a humanitarian context.  Its founding members include World Vision, Save the Children, Oxfam, George Washington University and Civic.  RIL members partner with international NGOs, academic institutions, governments, private sector, local and international innovators, and affected populations to improve humanitarian innovation knowledge, skills and practice, ensuring approaches that are effective, resilient, safe and empowering. We develop a culture that supports innovation when and where it’s needed while being open to change, embracing experimentation and learning from failure. We mitigate risk by being grounded in evidence, informed by operational excellence, and led by humanitarian principles and ethics.

In this way the RIL brings meaningful and equitable access to the benefits of innovation for the most vulnerable people in the world.


Why Are We Different To Other Labs?

While innovation can be described as “creating value from solutions,” our approach is fundamentally driven by problem-solving for those affected by crisis. Since the work we do is in incredibly complex and volatile places and our bottom line is people, not profit, the RIL needs to work differently.

The RIL is trying to disrupt Lab models to create better outcomes for the most vulnerable people in the world. Here are six reasons we are a new kind of Lab that can create real change.

  • The RIL is not just one organisations lab, serving one organisation. It’s for a whole country, and networked across humanitarian contexts and globally, serving the humanitarian sector on the ground.
  • The RIL is not just a physical space. It’s a set of support focussed on humanitarian outcomes, weaving together global and local partners, funding, problem analysis and much more.
  • The RIL is not just about an innovator. It’s about a collaboration of people and organisations to support innovation for positive change, with the problem owners and innovators working together to support scale.
  • The RIL does not rely only on the Silicon Valley innovation and investment models. It provides support and services made for the humanitarian sector to provide humanitarian outcomes that aren’t always linked with products, technology, or profit.
  • The RIL is not dependant on serving people who have money to pay for innovation. The RIL recognises the humanitarian sector often doesn’t have a paying customer at the end so we need our own models to innovate with, the RIL is building and improving these, ensuring our sector is focussed on real change for the most vulnerable people in the world.
  • The RIL is often not about a brand new innovation. RIL focuses on the best innovative outcome for a problem which could mean adaptation, customisation, using something that already works elsewhere and significantly improving what already works.


Fewer walls and more options means bigger impact.