You may not have heard much about them yet, but you will see a lot of them this year. National Societies are investing more in bringing together staff, volunteers, and external experts in the innovation to explore new approaches to humanitarian work. From emerging technologies to social entrepreneurship, these events provide the space for converging ideas with practical exercises. The events also enable a space to explore new partnerships and learn from topics that have been further developed across other sectors.

Last February, Australian Red Cross hosted ‘Humanitech’ space where technology specialists, Red Cross staff, and various humanitarian agencies came together to examine what new technological trends mean for the sector. The main aim was to understand better the application of recently-hyped tech such as blockchain, cryptocurrency, Artificial Intelligence (AI), etc. Through a two-day forum, they looked into the opportunities and challenges these technologies may represent for vulnerability. Speakers and participants dug in-depth in the adaptation of emerging tech for current programming. Some ideas included tracing aid delivery during conflict through a blockchain, using voice recognition AI (such as Siri or Cortana) to help design a family preparedness plan based on daily questions, the impacts of machine learning for automated data capture and analysis. One of the attendants summed-up the summit saying that “We need to worry less about the potential harms of technology and think about how it can make humans better.”

In late June, French Red Cross will host the first Global Conference on Social Innovation. They have invited international Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff to join external speakers from the private and public sector. The Parisian suburb will be the venue of the conference, with plenty of space for roundtables, interactive workshops, and concerts. Some leading topics of discussion include the role of citizens as first responders, peer-to-peer and the future of solidarity, new forms of healthcare, and what the future holds for the organization by 2030. The two-day event will have practical activities such as the unmanned aircraft unit of French Red Cross, featuring the drones for aid delivery. Moreover, there will be a studio on sustainability, focusing on redesigning old clothes and encouraging a culture of recycling. As one of the main events, French Red Cross youth will facilitate a collective design thinking activity seeking for solutions to youth challenges, diversity, and inclusion. This is the first time French Red Cross is piloting such initiative engaging a broad range of stakeholders both within and outside the humanitarian network. Register before the 15th of June.

There is an increasing interest from National Societies to get new partners involved in the design of programs and operating models. Wheather is inviting specialists to understand emerging technologies better, or through participatory activities that engage different levels of the organization to solve complex problems collectively, innovation events are embracing a new culture within the Red Cross and Red Crescent network. Everyone can host an event, contact innovation.team@ifrc.org  to explore how to set up yours.

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