Paul Currion over at humanitarian.info has undertaken the difficult task of trying to understand why innovation in the humanitarian sector is as evasive as it is essential. We have an evil relationship with innovation and more often than not we fail to innovate at exactly those times when we should be doing so. Classically, this is because 1) we don’t have the cash to innovate 2) we’re distracted with the latest emergency or 3) management is dumber than a box of rocks and sits on the best and the brightest ideas while force feeding their own. And at those times when we do have a clear shot at getting something done the pickings are so slim we usually end up batting around a few ideas and then give up and going home.
Paul is trying to figure out what works and could use a hand in doing so. He’s looking for ideas and feedback. For my part I don’t think staff turnover is a crucial issue. Innovation is a process, a religion. It is something that happens over time and if you don’t start and then don’t stop you are never going to truly innovate. You’ll simply have a smattering of bright ideas that, as Paul says, wither on the vine. True innovation will resist any counter flow, weather any storm and evolve as a result of these challenges. The main impediment to innovation is us. As long as we take the easy way out and continue to make grand, sweeping and ineffective gestures rather than small, sensible ones we will continue to find ourselves stuck in the doldrums and wondering what happened. The world will never be saved by massive systems. What is needed is one small but very good start.
(This was written after midnight so please pardon the fuzzy logic.)