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Lessons in Driving Large Scale Change: the CALP Network’s reflections from the Humanitarian Innovation Exchange

16 August 2019 — By Karen Peachey

The scaling of cash programming, enabled by mobile money, represents one of the most significant recent innovations in the humanitarian sector. In two guest blogs for Elrha (Enhanced Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance), our Director Karen Peachey explores the CALP Network’s role in driving change.

This blog post is based on the keynote presentation delivered at the Humanitarian Innovation Exchange, which took place on 26 June 2019. The event was jointly organised by Elrha, Leiden University’s Centre for Innovation and the Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation (DCHI).

“The use of cash in humanitarian response is not innovative per se. Cash has been used in relief operations since the Franco-Prussian war of 1870–71, and we even find reference to cash as part of a flood response in the Old Testament of the Bible.

This century, cash has been used in various humanitarian responses but, until recently, those examples were ad hoc, occasional and unconnected. More recently, as its use has grown and greater emphasis has been placed on its transformative potential, its innovative and disruptive nature has become more apparent.

At scale, the use of cash entails changes in the way we plan, implement and work together, it changes power dynamics, and, ultimately, challenges the way we think about our role as humanitarians.

When we look at the change that has happened, it is important to acknowledge that the humanitarian system is, on the whole, change resistant. It is decentralised and there is no single executive authority, so the process of scaling innovation cannot follow a blueprint plan. Rather, the case for doing things differently must be made with the many interconnected actors that make up the ecosystem. Creating change demands flexibility, networked thinking, a huge degree of determination and lots of patience.

Through our work we have learnt many lessons about how to drive large-scale change in the humanitarian system…”

This is an excerpt from the two-part series, hosted on the Elrha blogging platform.

Read Part 1, How the Cash Learning Partnership supports the scaling of cash, here:

Read Part 2, Lessons from the Cash Learning Partnership in driving large-scale change, here:


Main image: Allan Gichigi / Oxfam