Project: Humanitarian Fab Kit

“Leaving no one behind” by supporting collaboration in innovation – new solutions for rapid prototyping in challenging situations with traditional and digital technologies



“We want to bring together affected populations, humanitarians, and the public and private sectors with the shared goal of empowering local actors to innovate and launch their own solutions.” (GHL)

The growing humanitarian challenges and their implications for sustainable development are a cross cutting theme of the SDGs, as almost all goals deal in one way or another with the deep structural problems that lie behind them. “Leave no one behind”, the pledge at the heart of the SDGs, will require a particular focus on the farthest behind, those in situations of wars, conflict and persecution.

The Global Humanitarian Lab (GHL) is a cross-sector partnership of leading humanitarian organisations working together to support forward-thinking, locally-driven, and globally integrated innovation to tackle humanitarian challenges in a more effective and sustainable way. The partnership includes ICRC, Terre des hommes, Handicap International, WFP, UNHCR and OCHA.

The GHL is developing a “Humanitarian FabKit” to accelerate, simplify and reduce the cost of rapid prototyping and solution development in humanitarian settings. Deployable in difficult situations, the kit allows affected communities and humanitarian field workers to quickly transform an idea into a tangible solution, learning and using traditional and digital fabrication technologies in the process.

The initiative is inspired by MIT’s fabrication laboratory concept– or “fab lab” for short. Fab labs are open platform for innovation – ie. workshops equipped with traditional and digital fabrication where problems can be tackled by motivated individuals contributing their time, knowledge, and skills.

Codesign-it! have unique expertise in fostering innovation in complex organisations and systems, and have also developed kits that support exploratory innovation approaches and pretotyping (rapid design) in playful, engaging, and interactive ways. Codesign-it! have developed a rapid design kit (aka “Out-da-box!”) to support collaborative innovation activities.

Challenges for the students include:

  • Integrate the existing kits (i.e. FabKit and Out-da-box!) in a way that optimizes the creative and collaborative innovation process.
  • Design an open cheaper/lighter/smaller version of the kit, to be self-made and assembled in developing situations.
  • Expand existing functionalities by creating new components (for example allowing quick concept prototyping of sensors, smart objects and Internet connected devices).
  • Develop alternatives for manufacturing the components of the kit with improvised / locally sourceable resources.

These are just some ideas, but we expect you to come up with your own great ideas too!