Start Beta emerges from recognition within the Start Network that, in order to catalyse change within the humanitarian sector, there needs to be more support for innovation. Start Beta will be a catalyst for innovation within the Start Network – think of it as impact investing, where a small initial investment can generate significant results for the entire sector.
Why do we need this?
Start Beta believes that the funding environment created by existing donor mechanisms acts as a buffer against competition, an obstacle to collaboration, and relieves the pressure to change. The result? Change within the humanitarian community is neither as rapid nor productive as it needs to be in order to respond to external developments. Yet the survival of institutions within that ecosystem depends on their capacity to evolve in response to the changes around them. Innovation is one way of doing this.
What are we planning to do?
Beta believes that by encouraging a variety of small-scale experimentation, a safe environment for these experiments to fail, and mechanisms to learn from those failures (as well as from successes), the Start Network can move towards a more effective humanitarian system.
Beta will establish a centralised R&D fund and distributed incubator for small scale projects within the Start Network to help these staff, and create new ways to spread these solutions throughout the Network in order to catalyse change in the wider humanitarian community.
Start Network staff have innovative solutions to critical problems, with the potential to improve humanitarian operations. Start Beta’s aim is to create a mutually supporting network of staff working within Start Network member organisations and their partners at the country level.
How are we going to build it?
Beta will identify and encourage the external inputs – boundary-spanning ideas, examples, conversations – that create the friction points that generate innovation through challenging existing business models. The primary means by which Beta will achieve this is by brokering partnerships and facilitating dialogues between these actors, and helping network members to improve their capacity to make the most of these partnerships and dialogues.
Beta is also committed to ensuring that this influence goes both ways. External links are also vital for spreading lessons that emerge from the incubator more widely – not just within the Network, but with the humanitarian community, and the much wider group of stakeholders that operate in the same space as humanitarian organisations (e.g. government, private sector, military and emergency service). Read the Beta concept documents below.