CARE's approach to innovation? Proximity to the problem is key

Dar Vanderbeck (in blue top), CARE’s chief innovation officer. Photo by: CARE

SAN FRANCISCO — When Dar Vanderbeck joined CARE as chief innovation officer two years ago, she spent the first six months trying to understand where innovation was already happening, and what stood in the way. A survey revealed that 86 percent of staff felt they had transformational ideas, but only 16 percent felt CARE was a place that could support them in this. Taking stock of this, the Innovation Team at CARE USA launched with two main objectives: To experiment with changes to its core operating model, and to make innovation easier for everyone at the organization.

Meet the Innovation Leads

Chief innovation officers at aid agencies and NGOs are tasked with changing the way development is done. How can these organizations make their work more efficient and effective, and can they keep up with the rapid pace of change in this technological revolution? Throughout 2018, Devex will be meeting the people doing this work to explore what they’ve learned along the way, and where we go from here. Follow the series, or keep an eye out for more of our innovation coverage.

“The international NGO mindset tends to focus on scarcity, and when there is scarcity, we tend to double down on what we know,” Vanderbeck told Devex. “We’re at this really interesting inflection point at CARE where people realize the world is changing at a terrifying pace, and we need to ride this wave in a different way, and it’s important to have people who can understand the challenge and can develop a process of turning ideas into experiments and breakthroughs.”

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About the author

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    Catherine Cheney

    Catherine Cheney is a Senior Reporter for Devex. She covers the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And she frequently represents Devex as a speaker and moderator. Prior to joining Devex, Catherine earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, worked as a web producer for POLITICO and reporter for World Politics Review, and helped to launch NationSwell. Catherine has reported from all over the world, and freelanced for outlets including the Atlantic and the Washington Post. She is also the West Coast ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit that trains and connects journalists to cover responses to problems.