On Monday, the World Food Programme (WFP) launched the 2016 edition of its internal Innovation Challenge to find the best, brightest and boldest ideas for ending hunger.

Since starting in 2014, the internal Challenge has helped WFP harness the entrepreneurial spirit of more than 14,000 staff, spread across over 80 countries. Modelled on successful initiates in the private sector, staff all over the world brainstorm new, ambitious solutions to hunger and submit their ideas with the aim of securing the funds needed to bring the idea to life. 

This year, the Challenge was launched with an event showcasing entrepreneurial work from across the organisation. Representatives from seven divisions presented projects including rice fortification, a ‘Green Box’ allowing WFP staff to measure their own carbon emissions, and forecast-based emergency preparedness, and explained how they are exploring new technologies and testing new approaches for WFP.  The launch event proved that some of the best ideas for ending hunger exist in the minds of the organisation’s staff.   

A Safe Space for Bold Ideas

WFP’s commitment towards achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 in line with Sustainable Development Goal 2 has emphasised the need for the organisation to work differently, to seek new ideas, and to further embrace innovation. The goal of a world with Zero Hunger can only be achieved if the pace of efforts is increased and every new tool, technology or approach is explored. In 2015 WFP launched the Innovation Accelerator in Munich to foster this thinking, to provide an environment that supports and nurtures the development of new approaches to ending hunger. To date, the Accelerator is supporting more than 15 innovation projects globally.

Speaking upon the launch of the Challenge, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said that the Innovation Accelerator is a safe space: “This is a place where staff can identify and implement high impact ideas, scale up tested solutions and explore new partnerships with external networks around the globe,” she emphasised. “The Innovation Accelerator is a place where we can be bold, and allow ourselves to fail as well as succeed.” 

Everyone has a Role to Play

The winners of the 2016 Innovation Challenge will be fast-tracked to participate in an Innovation Boot Camp – a one-week intensive workshop in Munich focused on human-centred design and user centric, quick and bold innovations – and will be eligible to receive additional financial and project management support from the Innovation Accelerator to develop their idea.

Last year’s Innovation Challenge saw the submission of 150 ideas from staff members, and more than 15 Challenge submissions received financial and strategic support from the Innovation Accelerator to bring their ideas to life.  The Uganda project targeting post-harvest losses – one of the 2015 winners – will have supported some 100,000 smallholder farmers by the end of this year’s harvest.

Bernhard Kowatsch, Head of the Innovation Accelerator, stressed that working towards Zero Hunger will require the engagement of all WFP staff members: “Everyone in the organisation has a role to play - big or small - in developing new, exciting ideas to solve hunger.”