The Humanitarian Innovation Jam 2016 organized by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in partnership with Makerere University School of Public Health-ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) D-Lab was a three-day summit held March 21 to 23, 2016 at Makerere University St. Francis Students’ Center. The 4th series of the annual Humanitarian Jams explored the impact of current innovations for refugees and forcibly displaced persons. This years edition, guided the theme: Bottom-Up Innovation had special focus on convening refugee and host community innovators who want to develop the best possible solutions to some of their community’s most pressing challenges. This engagement facilitated a dialogue among the academic, humanitarian, development, public, and private sectors on the challenges facing refugee and humanitarian assistance communities, and the role of innovation in addressing these challenges.
Dr. Roy William Mayega, Deputy Chief of Party at Makerere University School of Public Health-ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) in his opening remarks captivated the audience with a short story of an evolutionary innovation, the Humane Emergency Use Canopies and Accessories (HEUCA) re-imagined tent in order to enlighten participants of the diverse opportunities humanitarian organizations have with innovations. He encouraged participants to transform into ‘white hackers’ who look at the problems around or within the society and come up with real time solutions or fixes that will solve pressing issues in the communities in which they live or with which they interact. He strongly noted the role of Universities in solving complex social problems given that knowledge can be leveraged from the students, faculty and community to develop solutions. He also emphasized the human centered design where initiatives should be created and worked on by multidisciplinary teams.
The working session on day 1was kick started with a panel discussion on;
- Identifying barriers to local innovation
- Identifying the kind of supports and ways in which to support the innovation process
Amy Smith, Founder and Co-Director of the MIT D-Lab moderated the panel alongside several facilitators including;
- Dr. Roy William Mayega, Deputy Chief of Party Makerere University School of Public Health- ResilientAfrica Network (RAN)
- Bahati Kanyamanza, the Co-Founder Coburwas International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA)
- Martha Thompson a Humanitarian worker with major focus on gender, MIT D-Lab
- Robert Hakiza, Founder of Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID)
- Evan Wheeler, Chief Technology Officer at UNICEF and
- Moses Musaazi, Lecturer at Makerere University
Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu, Vice Chancellor at Makerere University officially opened the Humanitarian Innovation Jam 2016 welcoming all participants to the high institution of learning. In his remarks, Prof. Ddumba-Ssentamu recognized the University’s central role in assisting government and development partners in an endeavor to achieve the national vision 2040; towards a transformed Uganda from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years. He urged participants to remain creative and adopt new strategies to positively transform the communities. He also re-echoed Makerere University’s commitment to supporting Innovation. He added, “Let us all walk the talk and join efforts to develop lasting solutions through Innovation”.
Later, participants broke away into groups for a rapid prototyping session moderated by Robert Hakiza (YARID) and guided by the question: How might we support refugee children to help them integrate into the Uganda formal education?
It was an interactive, knowledge generation and sharing session as the different groups of participants presented moving ideas.
Daniel Bukenya Yiga, the head of Investments and Acceleration at Yunus Social Business Foundation, introduced the Accelerator Program to the participants and urged them to submit applications from any sector especially Agribusiness -Commercialization of agricultural products and promotion of value addition to agricultural products, Renewable energy and clean environment: Mini power generation plants, biogas, biomass, energy-saving devices for lighting, cooking or preservation, waste recycling, tertiary businesses associated with oil and gas, Education, human resource development and community libraries: Skills development and technology transfer institutes targeting the youth and other marginalized groups, and Health and nutrition.
Applicants are expected to demonstrate a strong social impact and financial self-sustainability. More information is shared herewww.yunussb.com
Innovators were also given the opportunity to present their innovations and attain feedback from the Jam participants. One of the projects under incubation at RAN, the Matibabu-non-invasive malaria diagnosis kit was presented by Joshua Businge, Co-Founder Matibabu. Such opportunities greatly contribute to further development of these innovations since they are critiqued and broken into simpler chewable pieces for ease of consumption by all. It is also a rich publicity opportunity for the innovators and projects being worked on.
To conclude Day 1, participants including; students, entrepreneurs, business experts among others were engaged in yet another rich knowledge generation, sharing and networking session in a side event; the PechaKucha Night. This session was hands-on to enable all participants exercise their ability to innovate real time while making use of affordable and locally available resources. Emphasis was on the fact that any materials can be used to prototype.
Day 2 at the Humanitarian Innovation Jam 2016 opened with a session on capacity building for innovators coordinated by Amy Smith from MIT D-Lab. This session too turned into an exciting and involving one as participants engaged in hands-on activities including a task to create a bridge with different financial elements and structures in space, in order to create a flexible pathway for a toy car carrying a mobile telephone. The afternoon session engaged participants in a panel discussion guided by the question: How limited resources (environment, energy, funding) will fuel innovation and this was moderated by Corinne Gray from the UNHCR Innovation Team.
To conclude the Humanitarian Innovation Jam 2016 activities, participants visited the UNHCR Pulse Lab Kampala to appreciate the lab space and role of the Pulse Lab in supporting innovation. There are different actors/players in the Innovation arena, the power of partnership cannot be underestimated in further supporting innovation for the benefit of the communities. This was yet another opportunity for the RAN team to enhance learning and knowledge sharing to inform the Innovation pipeline. We all need to join efforts for transformation using solutions through innovation.