Based in Munich, Germany, the Innovation Accelerator provides WFP operations, entrepreneurs and start-ups with funding, hands-on support and access to WFP’s global operations. WFP is leveraging unprecedented advances in digital innovation — such as mobile technology, artificial intelligence, blockchain and new business models — to transform the way it serves vulnerable communities across the world, with the Innovation Accelerator supporting every step of the way.
Innovation has been part of the WFP DNA since it organized the first humanitarian airlifts in 1962. These days, WFP’s use of innovation to deliver its mandate ranges from the application of artificial intelligence in satellite imagery to predict emerging crises and plan humanitarian responses, to setting up digital cash-based transfers that help families buy foods and support the local economy.
When the Innovation Accelerator was established in 2015, scaling innovations was the ultimate goal: to achieve impact for the most vulnerable populations worldwide. To get there, the Accelerator also had to undertake its own path to scale. From an initial team of five people hosting a bootcamp in a single room, the Accelerator quickly grew to encompass a team of over 50 people hosting at least four regular bootcamps annually.
Here are some of the ways the Innovation Accelerator has grown and further developed the foundation for its work over the past five years:
COVID-19 has shattered lives and livelihoods across the planet, making it harder to reach the Zero Hunger target by 2030. In low- and middle-income countries where WFP operates, 272 million people face acute hunger. That is a staggering 82 percent increase from the pre-COVID period. Sustained lockdowns are disrupting agricultural activities, food supply chains, jobs, and remittances. All of this is a recipe for disaster for countries whose food security is already undermined by conflict, displacement and climate change — primary drivers of hunger. The pandemic’s fallout is expected to continue through 2021, aggravating vulnerabilities in food systems worldwide and pushing more people to rely on food assistance.
Now, more than ever, innovation is imperative.
The first five years of the WFP Innovation Accelerator were focused mainly on establishing our core programmes and building solid relationships with our partners. The next five years will cast an eye towards adopting lessons learned to improve the way we work and share our knowledge so that we can further expand our reach. By the end of 2025, we aim to positively impact the lives of 15 million people. To do this, we intend to continue our overarching goals for the next five years , including:
We intend to empower local innovation systems in areas where the need is greatest and where there is emerging innovation capacity. We will continue our close collaboration with other WFP divisions and WFP Country Offices, aiming to establish three more innovation hubs on a regional level in order to sustainably foster local innovation ecosystems.