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Response Innovation Labs: Sourcing Solutions To Tackle Challenges in Displacement Settings

At the occasion of World Refugee Day, we are happy to feature an important ecosystem player in humanitarian innovation and our partner, Response Innovation Lab, a global collaboration between World Vision, Save the Children, Oxfam and Civic that supports innovations in humanitarian settings. It also provides us a great opportunity to feature one of the inspiring Ugandan start-ups RIL is supporting, Akaboxi, that gives access to financial services in refugee camps.

What are the top priorities you are tackling through your work?

Each of the five Response Innovation Labs focuses on humanitarian needs and opportunities that are specific to each location (check out each lab here - Iraq, Uganda, Somalia, Puerto Rico, Jordan). The challenges are identified through collaborations with civil society and government organizations responding to emergencies. They reflect the barriers they face in designing programs addressing the needs of displaced communities. For example, humanitarian organizations in Uganda face the substantial challenge of including marginalized populations, such as refugees, into financial services, which prevents them from accessing saving and related safeguarding channels. Akaboxi, a Ugandan innovation, offers a solution to this challenge by replacing the unsafe practice of keeping money in boxes in homes, by a more secure and reliable program that monitors savings and transactions, and connects to financial services.

What is special/unique about your approach? RIL’s method looks at how innovation can positively impact and bolster humanitarian responses by comprehensively looking at challenges across the emergency spectrum; engaging the ecosystem in the identification of needs and opportunities; sourcing global and local innovations to respond; and supporting these innovations and related good practices towards replication and scale. Each emergency and displacement context is different and faces its own challenges. In Uganda, Akaboxi provides a great example of contextualized solutions to a local problem. It limits the need to physically hold cash, and encourages opening accounts where savings are safer, can earn interest, and eventually in which small-saving associations can turn into cooperatives.

Response Innovation Labs' top messages for World Refugee Day:

  • "As we look at our current humanitarian responses and how they support refugees and IDPs, we look into innovation when challenges are encountered and persistent.' The RIL has a number of online resources to support humanitarian innovations, and are available for consultation to maximise humanitarian innovation.

  • Refugees and internally displaced populations (IDPs) are some of the most vulnerable populations in the world, and some are enduring displacement that stretches for years, if not decades, which dramatically affects their livelihood.

  • As a global community, in our support to refugees and IDPs, we must look at empowering, and building comfort and livelihood for, displaced families and individuals where they currently are and for when they return to their homes.

Akaboxi was co-founded by Businge Joshua Muleesi and Sarah Atuhaire Baryaija, two Ugandan entrepreneurs involved in financial inclusion in local rural communities. It is a cloud-based digital financial technology which enables communities to manage and monitor their monetary savings and transactions within community or village saving groups.

The collaboration between RIL and Akaboxi has accelerated growth for the innovative start-up.

They have been able to start collaborating with 15 new saving groups, with 375 end-users, in the refugee settlement of Kiryandongo, demonstrating the relevance of their solution for refugees and host community members alike.


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