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Qatar RC’s 3D innovation model for the Syrian refugee response in Lebanon
Omar Katerji

There has been a lot of talk of innovation within humanitarian organizations lately. But while innovation is indeed needed in the humanitarian sector, particular attention has to be given to innovation solutions that pay (particularly regarding beneficiaries). In this article we argue that in order to change the culture of non-profit organizations (rather than merely their programs), and subsequently improve service provision to beneficiaries, it is essential to create a complementary, upgradeable and agile innovation infrastructure as opposed to innovating for innovation’s sake. We also show the benefits of using three-dimensional strategies to achieve three-dimensional objectives and harvest triple-win scenarios. We provide examples from Qatar Red Crescent Society’s experience in Lebanon regarding winterization operations for Syrian refugees (mainly how the 4-in-1 sleeping bags, and Internal Thermal Insulation projects were created and implemented).

 Innovation discourse

Recently, there has been growing interest in innovation amongst humanitarian organizations. However, there is still a great deal of ground to be covered by humanitarians in order to harness its full potential. Though investing in information communication technologies, renewable energies, smart-shelters and micro-funding projects is indeed a step in the right direction (provided that these meet real needs and are implemented appropriately), in the broader context, these innovations are merely the tip of the iceberg if they are not integrated within a systematic organization-wide approach. In fact, to harness the full potential of innovation, humanitarians must re-wire and tune-up various cross-functional departments within their organizations to create sustainable value chains that can either (i) reach a broader range of beneficiaries [horizontal reach], or (ii) achieve a more vertical impact on a select-set of vulnerable beneficiaries [1].

Thus, to optimize the outputs of innovation, humanitarian organizations need to strategize (1) partnerships, (2) outreach and (3) impact. This article provides evidence of successes achieved when utilizing the innovation 3D model that draws on experiences in assisting Syrian Refugees in Lebanon.

 The innovation model

It cannot be overemphasized how myopic it would be to judge and measure innovation solely in terms of achieving project objectives. Projects in fact may achieve their objectives but still fall short on efficiency. By the same token, projects can fall short of achieving their objectives yet offer invaluable lessons on how to do things better next time around. Innovation therefore ought to be infused as a manuscript tailored to the specific causes (of interest) of every humanitarian organization. Furthermore, humanitarian organizations need to integrate their specific mandates and their regional and sectoral priorities into their innovative models.

[1] As in applying a community-based, multi-sectoral approach.