In January 2017, the Humanitarian Leadership Academy (Academy) launched its first innovation workshop in partnership with the ITCILO and Nesta in Nairobi, Kenya. The objective of the learning lab was to bring together various stakeholders, from local NGOs and national governments to the private sector, to explore how emerging technologies can be used for training humanitarian staff more effectively on topics such as emergency preparedness and staff safety. Participants were mainly non-profit and development professionals focusing on humanitarian themes, from various organisations including the Kenya Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children and iHub.

The challenge faced by many humanitarian aid agencies is that real-world security simulations are costly to put in place and frequently high-risk. However, online learning methodologies fail to give participants the immersive feeling needed to train staff on more complex tasks. In this context, creating realistic scenarios is crucial for training participants to respond effectively in real-life situations. Therefore, there is a need to explore how mobile devices and mixed-reality games can have a role in the creation of more immersive and participatory simulations and role-plays.

‘[The workshop] will allow me to experiment and develop games to raise awareness and knowledge to encourage behaviour change’ – a workshop participant

The workshop intended to create the space for hands-on creative activities where participants were provided with opportunities to enhance their design skills and exchange with professionals, with the overall goal of contributing to better humanitarian preparedness. During the workshop participants had the opportunity to explore innovation pathways and outcomes, the application of innovation in learning and the potential of gamification and its impact on engagement. During the activities throughout the workshop, participants could identify main game elements and techniques and build user personas and knowledge around game design; during the last day of the workshop, they were able to ideate game concepts for real challenges, to test and prototype them and to evaluate the quality of their game ideas.

A blend of learning methods was used in the workshop, combining different approaches: participatory activity-oriented learning, game-based learning, design thinking techniques and mobile simulations. The pre and post-assessment surveys conducted during the workshop with the aim to test participants’ knowledge before and after the sessions showed a 19% improvement in participant’s rate of correct answers. In addition, five game prototypes were produced by participants based on five different user personas. These games are now accessible for further development by workshop participants. Further rollout of the workshops was implemented in the Philippines in March 2017 and a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Gamification for Humanitarian Learning was launched on the Kaya platform in June 2017.

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