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Delivering decades of innovative humanitarian response has shaped the World Food Programme (WFP) and its collective mindset, cultivating the persistence, ingenuity and problem solving that are now driving its digital transformation.  

With innovation and technology, WFP speeds up emergency response, scales up assistance and brings empowerment and choice to the lives of people in need.  

Nowhere is this imperative stronger than in the humanitarian sphere, where money saved can so often mean lives saved.  To WFP, this is what innovation and digital transformation looks like:

•    the power to monitor the food security of vulnerable hard-to-reach communities in real time, even from thousands of miles away;  

•    giving choice and agency to the people WFP serves by supporting them through secure digital finance tools;  

•    Providing a record amount of assistance to people in need, regardless of obstacles in our supply chain, through the power of data;

•    Growing food anywhere through locally adaptable and affordable hydroponic solutions, using 75% less space  and up to 90% less water; 

•    forecasting humanitarian needs more accurately than ever before to ensure faster, more targeted assistance;

•    providing digital training to young refugees and other youth at risk, bridging their way out of hunger and poverty towards a future with employment; 

•    deploying drones to carry out aerial remote sensing to assess post-disaster damage; 

•    outfitting amphibious all-terrain vehicles with self-driving robotic engineering, so that WFP can deliver assistance to even the most dangerous last mile. 

There are many more ways that technology helps in WFP’s fight against hunger, including optimizing supplies for school meals programmes and training for smallholder farmers through easy-to-use apps or improving emergency response by using chatbots for two-way communication with people affected by crisis.  

To leverage technology, innovation and data to its fullest potential, WFP fosters strategic partnerships with companies and organizations who supply pro bono access to industry standard software, products and professional skills. 

Deploying new technology must be done responsibly and digital solutions must be grounded in humanitarian principles to do no harm, which means avoiding exposing people to additional risks through our action. WFP works to meet the challenges of data privacy and security with due diligence and accountability in our processes, and through collaboration with partners across the UN system to share best practices and guidelines.  

Innovation and the design and use of digital tools at WFP are guided by the five core values that steer our operations worldwide:  

•    With integrity, WFP prioritizes the safety and privacy of the people it serves and exercises due diligence with prospective donors;

•    By collaborating among divisions, between disciplines and through partnerships, WFP pushes to achieve more with data and digital technology; 

•    A strong commitment to duty keeps WFP from ever settling for “business as usual” as it innovates to disrupt hunger;

•    WFP’s sense of humanity pushes it to develop solutions with a sustainable impact on people’s lives; and

•    With an inclusive mindset, WFP welcomes the people it serves as equal participants in the digital landscape that is helping pave the way to zero hunger. 

Driven by these values, innovation and technology have served as great enablers of humanitarianism, without which the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to WFP for using food as a pathway to peace, would not have been possible. 

WFP brings start-up approaches to stimulate innovative thinking via its WFP Innovation Accelerator in Munich, Germany.  

With the success of WFP’s first fundraising app, ShareTheMeal, the WFP Innovation Accelerator was established in 2015 to proactively source, support and scale high-potential solutions to disrupt global hunger and work towards the Sustainable Development Goals. It leverages the expertise and strategies of private sector tech leaders and start-up entrepreneurs to improve humanitarian intervention projects, by connecting them with WFP’s 20,000 people worldwide and global operations in over 80 countries. 

The Accelerator also shares its learnings with different actors in the UN innovation ecosystem, as co-lead of the UN Innovation Network, and with various NGOs and private sector innovation entities through its SDG Acceleration  programme. 

 The WFP Innovation Accelerator has supported more than 100 projects to date, with 16 innovations scaling up globally to achieve significant impact. These projects reached 8.6 million people across 69 countries in 2021 alone, through WFP’s humanitarian field operations. Innovations supported by the Accelerator raised more than US $180 million in co-funding. 

WFP is a four-time winner in the inaugural Anthem Awards in 2022, earning recognition in the Humanitarian Action & Services: Community Engagement Category for the WFP Innovation Accelerator (Gold award for Community Space and a Silver award for Most Impactful Corporate Initiative), and in the Product, Innovation, or Service Category (Gold award in Innovation for The Great Enablers microsite, and a Silver award in the Best Brand Campaign for the #SheInnovates campaign). The WFP Innovation Accelerator and was named in Fast Company’s lists of Best Workplaces for Innovators and Most Innovative Companies (Non-Profit) in 2021. 

Find out more about innovation at WFP and follow the Accelerator on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or subscribe to its newsletter