I have spent the day here at AidEx - the event where humanitarian and development agencies come together to meet suppliers and buyers. Exhibits of new products and business ventures alongside discussions about the future of Humanitarianism have been in full swing between the many attendees from NGOs, donors and private sector companies.

Activities of the day included the AidEx innovation challenge - four shortlisted candidates displayed their innovations to a panel of judges. The innovations were all product innovations, just past prototyping stage, showing potential for scalability in the humanitarian context. None of them have got to the point of local market development, and they are focusing on sales to NGOs. The winning entry, the India Impex solar lantern, showed a well thought out design, with features such as: carry handle, weatherproof in-built solar panel on top of the lantern, a port for mobile phone chargers, space to attach a chain (for security), and ability to detect light so it will only switch on if surrounding light is low enough (therefore saving battery power when not really needed). When asked about accessing the 'bottom of the pyramid' markets with this product, the exhibitor explains that pilots are underway with a co-operative women's group to loan or retail the lantern in their local markets in India.

Amongst the discussions on the future of Humanitarian Aid and new models of aid delivery, speakers from UN agencies, donors, international NGOs and a global private company chimed similar bells for moving forward in an ever changing environment - calling for the need for more 'collaboration and partnerships' across sectors - looking beyond the usual humanitarian actors to share knowledge and seek new solutions. In line with our own project aims, 'Innovation' has been a key topic all day as a method for adapting to change and improving ways of working when facing the challenges that lie ahead in future. Key challenges being around the increasing complexity of disasters, conflict and a limited economic environment.

Information management and social media were other hot topics discussed as opportunities for humanitarian actors in their work - such as in the collection of information from communities during needs assessments, to creating new funding mechanisms and communications with the public globally.

To give you a more of a taste of the first day, a video summary is already available online.
Louise Bloom



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