Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme

Innovation Labs

The Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) Innovation Labs aims to identify and fund innovative solutions to disaster preparedness through a network of labs based around the world in countries prone to disaster.

Humanitarian surge training Bangkok 2016 © ActionAid

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About the programme

Jointly managed by Start and CDAC Networks, the DEPP Innovation Labs is a two-year £10 million programme, funded by UK Aid, which will set up a network of labs to identify and support the development of innovative solutions to disaster preparedness.


The labs will operate primarily from a ‘bottom up’ perspective, identifying areas of innovation which come directly from disaster affected communities and the organisations working closely with them.


The areas of innovation supported could include, for example;


- new models for organisations to collaborate with each other

- new applications of information and communications and technology

- use of new building materials and designs

- new approaches for disaster affected communities to communicate with each other and to plan collaboratively

- locally led early warning systems; application of new financing and insurance models

- development of improved emergency response materials.


The programme will promote cross-sector partnerships with a range of private sector, research, civil society and/or government organisations and create new opportunities for learning and collaboration and potential avenues to scale emerging areas of innovation.


Up to four such labs will be set up in countries prone to disaster, with Bangladesh, Jordan, Kenya, Mozambique and the Philippines being the countries considered to host them.


Each lab will be based in a vulnerable community to ensure that a user-centred design process creates solutions that work for local communities.


Identification and start-up of the labs is planned to commence in early 2017.


The Labs


Each lab will lead on designing a process to identify promising areas of innovation and the organisations which are working on them. Once identified, the labs will provide support to those organisations to help them to overcome the barriers that slow down or prevent them from implementing and scaling up new approaches to emergency preparedness.


The types of support which are expected to be required by projects include:


- Establishing mentoring relationships

- Leadership development

- Business skills development

- Provision of office space, communications facilities and administrative support

- Administration of a small grants fund to provide initial financial support

- Supporting the process of accessing larger amounts funding where appropriate



The labs will also facilitate the organisations that it supports to link together with each other, to learn from each other and to link up with a broader community of like-minded organisations which could include activities such as:


- Organising opportunities for organisations to present and critique each other’s business plans and strategies

- Organising and hosting networking events

- Facilitating exchange visits with organisations supported by the other DEPP labs or similar relevant organisations

- Linking up with the DEPP global labs partner organisations and network of advisors



Launching at an event today in Dhaka, the Bangladesh Lab aims to examine and improve the direct impact of the built environment on emergencies, so important in communities facing natural disasters. The lab seeks to find and support ideas that build safer communities, and being based out of Korail, Bangladesh’s largest slum, it will ensure ideas are led by the local community. The lab is hosted by Dhaka Community Hospital Trust, a Bangladeshi community hospital and medical college and a consortium of partners.

Consortium partners in Bangladesh include SEEDS Technical Services; University of New South Wales; Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED); and the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network, a civil society network of 56 national NGOs from across the Asian region.



The Philippines TUKLAS Lab will identify innovative ideas and entrepreneurs across the country, to nurture, test and scale promising innovations.  Managed by Plan International, the TUKLAS consortium** will establish four regional labs in the most disaster affected areas, keeping the priorities of the community at their core and encouraging ideas that meet the needs of vulnerable groups. The lab will give small grants to proposals selected in collaboration with community members. Proposals can be submitted now until the 30th November.

Tuklas means “discover” in Tagalog and the acronym TUKLAS Tungo sa Kahandaan ng Pilipinas means “Towards Preparedness in the Philippines”. Consortium partners in this lab include Citizens’ Disaster Response Center, Action Against Hunger and Care. More information is on the TUKLAS Facebook page.



Adeso, iHub and Mastercard Labs are partnering in Kenya to strengthen rural communities’ resilience to recurring drought – to enable them to prepare, respond and recover. The AIM consortium will use a human-centered approach to innovation by working hand in hand with local communities in the counties of Marsabit and Garissa. These labs will improve links between local stakeholders and access to digital financial services.



Mahali Lab, run by International Rescue Committee***, will identify and solve challenges posed by long-term displacement of people, caused primarily by the war in Syria. A series of “design challenges” will be launched to enable communities to propose potential solutions to problems faced by vulnerable communities throughout Jordan.  The theme of each challenge will be determined through consultation with Syrian refugees, leaders within host communities, and community-based organisations.  A community review board will select a small number to receive specialised support to fully develop their solutions. The IRC will invest in and support the most promising projects.

The Mahali Lab is managed by the Airbel Center, the innovation unit at the IRC. More information is on Rescue.org and Medium.

Global partners

The Global Lab Partners are envisaged as a key component of the Start Networks Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Innovation Lab Programme. The contribution of their skills, experiences and resources to a range of locally led, early stage emergency preparedness projects in the four disaster affected countries, will be invaluable in helping them achieve sustainability, impact and where appropriate scale.


The partners will be able to interface with projects via the lab’s web platform and engage with them on a range of problem solving and creative processes as they develop their projects, organisations and businesses. The goal of the process is to enable locally led projects to have greater impact as a result of the connections made and the linkages and business opportunities that arise from collaboration. As a result, communities will be more prepared to face recurrent emergencies which will have lower impact and lead to less disruption and loss of life.


Why Become a Global Lab Partner ?

Be part of a community of likeminded innovators working towards reducing the suffering and loss of life in humanitarian disasters.

- Presented with opportunities to be at the frontline of field-based disaster preparedness innovation.

- Involved, from start to finish, of the latest initiatives for disaster preparedness that are ready to take to scale.

- Recognition as a partner through all DEPP Lab communications - both internally to the CDAC Network and Start Network (69 organisations in total) and externally to the public and to supporters of the networks.


Read more about becoming a global lab partner


Email us at DEPPLabs@startnetwork.org.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Click here to read the DEPP Labs FAQ