Open innovation inspiring collaboration and new ideas within the UN

Independent review of an online platform pilot used for collaborative innovation within and beyond The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)


Since 2012 UNHCR Innovation and the Humanitarian Innovation Project (HIP) have been actively collaborating in several areas of thinking around innovation for the humanitarian world, and in this context HIP were invited to carry out an independent evaluation of the UNHCR Ideas pilot.

‘UNHCR Ideas’ is a tool for creating new ideas amongst an online community. Powered by SpigitEngage, the online platform is specifically designed to enable collaborative problem solving and idea generation. The platforms’ online community contribute ideas, solutions and discussion to a common problem statement posted on the site. The UNHCR Innovation team launched a pilot ‘challenge’ on the platform in August 2013 – intended to empower the participants to innovate for the organisation. The pilot involved 318 participants from over 50 counties – including employees from UNHCRs offices, partner organisations, and refugees. The platform aims to start building a culture of innovation within and around the organisation, and to help find new solutions for longstanding challenges in their global work with refugee communities. This pilot was used by UNHCR Innovation to learn whether, and how, the platform can be used more widely within the organisation, and beyond. This report summarises the set-up, output and inside workings of the pilot “launch challenge”.

This report specifically looks at the relationship between UNHCR and Spigit, and provides an overview of how UNHCR Ideas supports the wider process of innovation for the organisation. Future opportunities and recommendations for use of the platform, and collaborative innovation, within UNHCR and more widely for the humanitarian sector are discussed.