Cartoons Anonymous


Another level of reflection on innovation and change

During the IFRC Global Innovation Summit 2023 our friends from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, brought along some professional cartoonists with them (the fabulously talented Eugenia Rojo and Hameed “Ham” Khan). These cartoonists then held ‘Cartoons Anonymous’ sessions where innovators and changemakers from all over the IFRC network of National Societies could talk privately about their experiences of trying to drive change in the organisation. While the innovators ‘confessed’, the cartoonists drew. The fascinating and at times very poignant results are below. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

To help them get started the cartoonists asked some of these questions:

  • How is the related situation in your organisation, and why? 
  • What processes and actions have enabled you to innovate, transform, and have an increased and lasting impact?
  • What are the obstacles to implementing initiatives that imply change in the organisation?
  • How can we accelerate change and transformation in our organisation?

Here is what you can do with your Red Cross or Red Crescent team:

  1. Take some time to look at the cartoons and observe your team’s reactions. Pick the one that made the most people react. 
  2. Together, try to guess what happened in the session. What did the cartoonists want to illustrate or provoke? 
  3. Use the guiding questions to enrich the conversation. Don’t forget to let us know about your team’s ideas and findings in the comments below

Digital Strategy Graveyard

We’ve all seen strategies like these, developed with the best intentions and then left to die. We often get excited by the promise of digital transformation but the reality of making transformation happen is, of course, a massive feat.

Some of the reasons suggested by the participants for why digital strategies may fail? Resistance to change, lack of consistent and ongoing support from leadership, challenges getting momentum, insufficient resources, inadequate training, data privacy concerns, or failure to adapt to evolving technological trends. 

  • What is it like in your organisation? Does the National Society Digital Strategy cover all of these aspects?
  • What are some lessons you have learnt throughout the strategy design and engagement process?
  • What are some implementation guidelines or lessons you can share?

Home Office

This person working from home seems to be in over their head! 

Is this a call to build organisations where people can bring to work their own humanness, reminding us that human beings are not just employees, but have a whole life with sometimes unexpected experiences and skills?

Many of us could empathise with this person, while working from home brought many benefits and continues to for many, for some it made for higher workloads and more complications. Research also showed this affected women more.

People, processes and technology are paramount to a balanced and successful transformation. Efforts need to be inclusive and equitable throughout the process including conducting impact assessments to identify potential inequalities that may arise. Organisations adapt best when providing training and skill-building opportunities for staff. In the rush to transform, it is also essential to prioritise the well-being of all involved.

How to ensure that the transformation of humanitarian organisations is not doing more harm than good, including increasing gender inequalities or negatively impacting the mental health of humanitarian workers? 

Building policies, practices, and support mechanisms that help staff adjust to and manage working from home and other new realities of the contemporary work environment.


We could do with some help

“If we are very innovative people doing very brilliant things but not really well connected with the other pieces [of the organisation] then it’s not going to work”.

“How can we achieve our objectives if we don’t know how to stick to priorities and agree to focus on a selected variety of tasks?”

One of the key issues raised at the IFRC Global Innovation Summit was the challenge of ensuring we can work at a systems level rather than just focusing on improving its components, often without a holistic understanding of the system itself. 

Many of the challenges we are facing have underlying structural, leadership or organisational culture-based issues that need confronting if any attempt at change is to be sustainable and transformative. Participants shared the need to be able to identify all these leverage points across the system and to build deeper strategies for achieving change across all of those areas.

Partnerships and collaborations, mentorship programs, knowledge-sharing platforms, cross-cutting programs and cross-functional teams, networking, communities of practice, collaborative horizon scanning and problem identification, the role of leadership and culture, mapping of systems, incentives, value and stakeholders, and executive-level sponsorship can contribute to developing a more systemic learning culture in our network. 

  • What other approaches to systems change do you know that are helping you learn from others, and could be shared with the network? 
  • How can we build a more transversal approach to innovation and change? 

The Essential Toolbox

Why is this question tag in the toolbox?

“No initiative should go ahead without a clear intent on how efforts and energy contribute to serving people better. The most important question should remain why we do what we do and how it improves people’s lives.” 

Is the ability to question, challenge and reflect as important as any other tool we are currently using in our work? 

Some methodologies and behaviours can help us question our work: 

  1. Behaviours: Adaptability, creativity, strategic thinking, collaboration, and organisational culture shifts
  2. Methodologies: data analysis, design sprints, problem identification, inclusive design approaches, research, trends analysis, feedback and learning loops, and the role of leadership

What other innovative tools, skills and solutions have your organisation come up with?

    Looks good to me

    Innovation is indeed about generating new ideas, but it’s not limited to that alone. It encompasses the entire process of turning these ideas into practical solutions or products that address a specific and well-understood need or problem. 

    Groupthink, where members conform to one dominant perspective, can be a threat to a team or an organisation. Inclusive teams that are open to external perspectives, and design alongside communities are more likely to challenge assumptions and explore alternative solutions.

    Having diverse perspectives and knowing how to collaborate and compromise is crucial because it can lead to more robust and creative solutions. To ideate collaboratively, encourage open dialogue and the sharing of ideas through structured ideation techniques. Continuously gather feedback from team members, potential users, external experts, and communities throughout the innovation process. 

    • Is your team composed of members with diverse backgrounds, experiences and profiles?
    • What are some ways that teams can collaborate well?
    • How are you including members of the communities that you are supporting?

    Life for Key Populations

    Key populations supported by Red Cross or Red Crescent National Societies are facing complex and dynamic challenges. Communities from vulnerable contexts are increasingly impacted by multiplying and permanent crises. New, often unexpected threats are emerging all the time and the very nature of vulnerability is changing also. 

    Some tactics and approaches to shape the humanitarian response of tomorrow are: Innovative community engagement and accountability tools, anticipatory action, interoperability of systems, Do No Harm principle, new forms of partnerships and coordination of efforts and resources, and innovative finance mechanisms. 

    • How can we innovate to deal with the increasing complexity and scale of needs? 
    • How to make sure we do no harm when delivering our services? 
    • How do we build more sustainable approaches that have affected communities in the driver seat involved in design and decision-making in a way that enhances agency?

    Everything you need

    For far too long, affected communities and those with vulnerabilities have been viewed as passive recipients of humanitarian aid and development programmes rather than active participants in their own recovery and future.

    Community engagement and accountability (CEA) is a way of working that recognizes and values community members as equal partners. It makes sure their opinions are heard and used to design and guide our work. In recent years, CEA processes have undergone rapid digitalization, embracing new communication methods that offer fresh possibilities. 

    • How does your National Society currently conduct CEA in light of these digital transformations and changing communication landscapes?
    • As we increasingly rely on digital technologies and handle digital data for CEA, what are the key risks and challenges we need to be vigilant about, and how can we mitigate these risks effectively? How can we better design and implement with communities at the centre?

    Amidst digital advancements, how can we ensure that the core focus remains on keeping affected populations at the centre of CEA initiatives?

    Download the Anonymous Cartoons

    By Eugenia Rojo and Hameed “Ham” Khan

    Digital Strategy 


    We could do
    with some help

    The Essential

    Looks good
    to me

    you need

    Life for Key