Reinventing how the International Committee of the Red Cross Innovates

The Challenge

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sought to reinvent the way it developed ongoing innovation; both in furthering the protection of victims of conflict, and in generating ongoing positive change in the provision of humanitarian aid.

Our Answer

Working with the ICRC’s innovation initiative and with partner agency 100% Open, we developed a purpose-built platform to enable ongoing innovation through a new, open, community named Red Innovation. Red Innovation counters fragmenting thinking, and allows ICRC, experts, beneficiaries, ICRC private partners – and even other NGO organisations – to innovate together. A democratised crowd in action, Red Innovation addresses real-world humanitarian issues beginning with the gathering of stories. As stories and anecdotes highlight needs, they are progressed through consecutive ‘idea’, ‘strategic challenge’ and ‘prototype’ phases. With the community in full flow, these needs progress through the phases developed and discussed by participants. Finally, at the concept phase, votes determine the prototypes designed to meet each specific need. Creating light in dark areas, and the development of a toolkit for rapid emergency hotline deployment, are just two examples of the crucial needs that the innovation of the community is directed towards. But this is far more than an online workshop. Red Innovation was developed to enable powerful ideas to arrive and to be developed democratically. Yet it also makes ICRC’s innovation initiative curators of the organisation’s ideas, and its stakeholders the validators. Offering a radical shift in innovative thinking, the development of Red Innovation signifies a departure from an internal, hierarchical culture of innovation. The move is towards a culture of democratic ideation; one addressing key humanitarian issues, where decisions of strategic viability can still be made.


Red Innovation's power is tremendous. Not only has it reinvented ICRC's innovation process, it has transformed 80 needs into over 150 detailed ideas, focused on seven strategic challenges, leading to seven prototypes. 30 completely serendipitous collaborations have occurred, leading to further - new - collaborations with ICRC. One such involves CERN, the Physics Lab, whose collaboration enabled the development of a brand new material to dramatically increase the efficiency and efficacy of humanitarian air drops. Doing so at a cheaper cost than previous options.

'Technology has fundamentally changed people’s attitudes and expectations, and the way they work. At the ICRC, we had a need to get closer to people who are affected most by our work – and to help as many of them as possible. RED Innovation has let us do just that - giving us better insight and leading us towards better solutions that ultimately can help thousands of those affected by violence and armed conflicts'