First steps toward embracing innovation: Tips for NGOs

By Lisa Cornish 21 November 2016

Fidele Sarassoro, MONUSCO deputy special representative of the United Nations secretary-general visits a water fountain, one of two Pooled Fund Project implemented by Oxfam GB and Hope in Action in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by: Sylvain Liechti / MONUSCO / CC BY-SA

Innovation is a word we hear a lot these days. Across the globe, businesses are utilizing new technology, ideas and approaches to deliver services faster, wider and better. The development sector is constantly being urged to embrace innovation.

For NGOs, the risks of not innovating are high. Development organizations risk being left behind by new approaches and becoming obsolete, directly impacting their ability to deliver services and change.

In practice, what are the first steps an NGO should take to transform from an old guard mentality to embracing the new? Devex asked the global innovation adviser for Oxfam GB, James Whitehead, for his advice.

Investigate your culture

CEOs play an important role in determining whether their organizational culture fosters — or stifles — innovation. A hierarchical structure, for example, may favor the views and ideas of senior staff rather than enabling new ideas and approaches from across the organization to be shared, tested and implemented.

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About the author

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Lisa Cornishlisa_cornish

Lisa Cornish is a Devex reporter based in Canberra, Australia. Lisa formerly worked with News Corp Australia as a data journalist for the national network and was published throughout Australia in major metropolitan and regional newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph in Melbourne, Herald Sun in Melbourne, Courier-Mail in Brisbane and online through Lisa additionally consults with Australian government providing data analytics, reporting and visualization services. Lisa was awarded the 2014 Journalist of the Year by the New South Wales Institute of Surveyors.

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