DCHI Annual Event 2018 – Opening Up for Innovation

DCHI Annual Event 2018 – Opening Up for Innovation

Coalition – October 3rd, 2018

Opening-Up: growing by working together. That was the theme of the DCHI Annual Event 2018. The 2nd of October saw over 150 people from different companies, humanitarian organizations, knowledge institutes and governmental agencies doing just that as they came together in The Hague at the DCHI Annual Event 2018 to discuss opportunities for innovation in the humanitarian sector.

The power of joining forces

“Collaboration between NGO’s, the private sector and knowledge institutes presents a huge opportunity to bring humanitarian aid to a new level,” explained Suzanne Laszlo, director of UNICEF Netherlands and chair of the DCHI board, during her opening speech. Opening up between sectors and organisations is key to unlocking that potential. “You are working a innovations within each of your fields,” she addressed the participants. “Imagine the combined power we hold if we join forces. If we apply our ideas, projects, solutions, we may solve many of the humanitarian problems our world is facing today.”

From an NGO model to an enterprise model

“This world requires sustainable innovative projects that build for the future,” Suzanne continued. Anna Chojnacka, director of GoodUp, also took this theme as the starting point of her key-note and challenged the audience by stating that doing good and doing business can perfectly well go together. Anna explained why and how she moved from an NGO model with the 1% club, to an enterprise model with GoodUp, and how having a for-profit model has led to an increase in her impact.

Crossovers and roundabouts

The DCHI Annual Event was organized in collaboration with Impact Startup Fest at the Fokker Terminal in The Hague. This led to a lot of cross-over between the different networks, in particular during the roundabouts directly after the plenary. At the roundabouts, participants could network and follow mini workshops in a small and informal setting at the roundabouts. More than 15 of DCHI’s partners hosted a round-about table, including DCHI founding members such as The Netherlands Red Cross 510 team, those organisations that were aiming for the DCHI Best Humanitarian Innovation Public Award, partners from abroad including the Humanitarian Innovation Fund and the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, and unlikely allies such as The Netherlands Ministry of Defense CD&E.

Delving deep into the tricky questions

In parallel, four different break-out sessions were organised as well, allowing the participants to go more in-depth into some of the topics relevant to humanitarian innovation. In each session, several experts from partner organisations within the Coalition, shared their experience regarding the topic and hand, and discussed these witch each other together with the audience. Topics that were dealt with were: moving from pilot to scale in a humanitarian setting, public-private collaboration for innovation, new business models for the humanitarian sector, and finance for innovation.

Opening-up and closing down

A festive plenary closing session ended the day. It included pitches by the winners of the Dutch Relief Alliance innovation fund (DIF), a speech by the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag and the announcement of the winner of the DCHI Public Award for Best Humanitarian Innovation.

After the chair or the day, Farid Tabarki, had gathered feedback from the participants coming back from the roundabouts and break-out sessions, Martine Bergwerff spoke on behalf the Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA). Before giving the stage to the grantees of the first DRA Innovation Fund Call, the chair of the Innovation Working Group of the DRA shared how they “see innovation as a means to improve humanitarian work.”

Building broader alliances

The alliance of 16 Dutch humanitarian organisations recognized that to fully reap the potential of innovation, they need to not only work together closely, but reach out to new partners as well. “The theme of today’s event, ‘Opening Up’, actively looking for collaborating, is music to our ears,” Martine explained. “When it comes to innovation, we now need to look outside the alliance. We need to invest, reach out and strengthen our ties with new parties such as you, the private companies, academic institutions and government agencies. We are opening up and we invite you to join us.”

Flexible on approach, firm on principles

Innovation has a key place on the political agenda of the Dutch Minister of Foreign trade and Development Corporation, who delivered the final address at the end of the day. “Innovation in the humanitarian sector is imperative if we are to increase the impact of humanitarian action and reduce costs,” Minister Kaag stressed. She encouraged the participants to be agile and flexible on their approach, while staying firm on principles.

The Minister urged the participants to take a holistic view that also takes prevention and restoration in account when it comes to humanitarian work. This is not something any one organisation can do by itself but requires a joint effort. “All of us – governments, the private sector, aid organisations and knowledge institutions – have a shared responsibility to modernise emergency aid,” she concluded.

Best Humanitarian Innovation

The closing ceremony ended with the announcement of the winner of the DCHI Public Award for best Humanitarian Innovation. Throughout the day, all participants had been able to cast their vote for one of the eight nominees of the award. It was the Can’t Wait to Learn programme by War Child Holland that got most support from the audience and was awarded the prize. The team expressed their delight that the importance of this innovation project and the need for education in emergencies itself, was recognized by an audience of “fellow humanitarians”.

As this year’s DCHI annual event was organized in collaboration with Impact Startup Fest, this ensured a nice mingling guests not just during the sessions during the day, but also during the drinks that followed after, where the networking continued. If you attended the DCHI Annual event we hope you had a great time. If you have any feedback do fill in the survey online, and of course feel free to contact us via  We hope to see you next time!