The Working Differently Challenge

Local Solutions to Local Humanitarian Problems

We live in challenging times. The usual way of doing things may not work, leaving humanitarian teams on the front line to improvise or find workarounds to support communities more effectively. What if these informal on-ground solutions could be developed, systematised, and shared so that they become the new way of working? 


We’re seeking teams who are creating solutions that address problems or challenges within humanitarian agencies or local communities. 


We would love to hear from you if you or your team are: 


- working on new and better ways to deliver humanitarian assistance within your agency or in the communities you work in.

- would like some support in developing your idea further. 

- interested in helping other teams and agencies to learn from your experience.

- open-minded, curious and excited to hear feedback on your ideas from other perspectives.


We are very interested in teams who are working in new ways to address: 


- ways of working in response to or because of COVID-19. 

- enabling locally or community-led humanitarian assistance.

- enabling greater accountability to crisis-affected communities. 

- developing social accountability mechanisms.

- other critical challenges that are important in your context.


Your solutions might be low or high tech. Previously we have funded ideas which have ranged from virtual reality emergency simulators to online marketplaces for livestock and from improved supply chain management systems through to cooperative women’s dairy projects. No idea is small or too bizarre, provided it can make a real difference.


If you would like to know more, we are hosting two webinars that will cover:


- What the challenge is about

- Who can enter

- What makes a strong entry 

- How to enter

- The prize and how it will work


There will also be an opportunity to ask questions at the end.


Register for one of the following times (the content of both webinars is the same):


Tuesday, 29 September at 13:00 BST

Wednesday, 30 September at 08:00 BST


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.


We offer resources and expert help to implement your idea 

Up to three teams could win two-three months of technical support to implement their solution on a wider scale as a result of which you could then access a project development budget of up to £15,000 (US$20,000 approx.) to progress the idea further.


Technical support is being provided by ThoughtWorks, global leaders in the corporate, public sector and humanitarian innovation. It will be tailored to your needs, and could include:

  • advice on innovation practices such as human-centred design, prototyping, product development, business modelling etc. 
  • challenges to help you think differently and confidently to take your idea further
  • ideas of really easy and quick ways to validate and de-risk your ambitious missions
  • support to avoid/jump/smash barriers as appropriate!
  • guidance on the development of supportive digital technology (not all ideas submitted will necessarily by hi-tech or digital though)
  • brainstorming, feedback and advice  
  • leadership mentoring and internal change management


Initially, the support will be remote, but it may be possible (depending on the pandemic) to have some in-person guidance.


Simply answer the questions below to enter. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, 6 October 2020, midnight (BST). 


The entries will be judged by a panel of experts and three winners will be announced during Start Network’s Assembly week commencing 12 October.  


Please note that this challenge is open to Start Network members and hubs but we particularly encourage members and local organisations who are working together on a solution to jointly apply.

We acknowledge the contribution of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in supporting this opportunity.


Learn more about Collective Innovation.