IFRC Solferino Academy

What on earth is the Solferino Academy?

The IFRC Solferino Academy is a Think and Do Tank specialising in Innovation, Leadership and Strategic Foresight.

We focus primarily on how to support the IFRC network of National Societies to transform for emerging contemporary contexts and to be fit for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

We try to support systems, cultures and leadership that help us be more anticipatory, agile and innovative and a more effective, just and sustainable network.

The Solferino Academy is an integral part of the IFRC and its National Society Development Services working to help achieve the IFRC Strategy 2030 and the Agenda for Renewal.

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Below is a report of the strategies and activities we have been undertaking to help achieve this.

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Justin Park

DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER

 

Network Engagement

Continuous Learning and Peer Support

We know that constant learning, reflection and inspiration are necessary to build an organisation that is more innovative and agile and that it is important that as many people as possible across our network can participate if our organisation is to evolve

So we;

Provide public platforms where National Societies and external experts can share their insights, think pieces and case studies of trying to change and innovate and their peers can engage, learn, participate in dialogue and collaborate.

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Justin Park

DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER

 

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Sara Gullet

INNOVATION SUPPORT OFFICER

Overview

We have over

Followers

and subscribers across our platforms

Views

in one year across our platforms (almost 4,000 views per day)

Including;

Views

Views

on our YouTube® channel @SolferinoVoices of National Society examples of innovation and transformation projects
Over

Downloads

of our products
We design creative communication and diverse engagement initiatives to foster a culture of learning, sharing, innovation and collaboration across the IFRC network to keep the enthusiasm and energy for change.

We provide engagement platforms for decision makers, technical experts and voices that are traditionally underrepresented.

We build creative partnerships and collaboration initiatives with diverse organisations, visionary leaders and disruptors to bring forward innovative approaches and perspectives.

See a complete report here on the digital engagement of the network. We also provide summaries of engagement by our IFRC network with Innovation content in each of the priority areas below.

Climate.red TV (Case Study)

Climate.red TV connected young volunteers to COP27 with a unique video intervention designed with our friends at Monash University. The innovation ​​joined action to words by bringing local changemakers’ own voice into COP27 and promoting dialogue between attendees and our global network of volunteers.

The goal was to showcase the relevancy and innovative qualities of the Red Cross Red Crescent as a network of local entities to face climate and environmental crises, and to help our volunteers discuss key issues with COP attendees. The 200 climate reports from 75 National Societies obtained over 70,000 views in just 2 weeks.

Of this cohort, 8 projects and ideas got international attention and further support for the initiatives.

The Climate.Red TV approach was part of a broader strategy we have been building around using video as a learning tool. Rather than build our own video or learning platform we have tried to build the approach inside of a platform already used by billions of people. Over the last few years we have gained more than 12,000 subscribers to our YouTube channel and nearly 500,000 views. We intend to keep trying to grow this over the coming years. We use video so people can share their ideas with the network and reach out to peers.

Priority

Transformational Leadership

Facing complex challenges requires new systems, approaches, and cultures within our network. We know that navigating these contexts demands transformational leadership.

So we;

Invited the IFRC network to reimagine leadership and test new ways of leading humanitarian organisations. Reflecting on the changing environment, trends and signals, leaders reflected what leadership qualities, mindsets and organisational changes that will be essential for us to remain relevant and become better for the future.

I think an innovative leader, for me, it’s somebody who can learn, borrow ideas from different spectrums and bring them or design them in a way that they suit their own context.

That is why any initiatives that challenge our thinking and bring fresh perspectives are so valuable.

Secretary General

National society

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Gintare Guzeviciute

SENIOR ADVISOR LEADERSHIP AND TRANSFORMATION (DEPUTY HEAD OF SOLFERINO ACADEMY)

The Humanitarian Leadership for the Future report was launched in June 2023

We interviewed Senior Leaders from 30 countries across all regions.

The report was downloaded 2,000 times by the IFRC network.
Inspired global conversations on collective leadership in the IFRC network.
From creating a culture where innovation can thrive to building environments that genuinely care for people – diverse insights and recommendations highlighted the essential qualities leaders need to foster future-fit organisations. The skills and capacities identified through this report now form the basis of leadership support programs being facilitated by the IFRC Solferino Academy and beyond.
We engaged with current leadership and next-generation change-makers from across the IFRC Network and facilitated global and regional conversations about the changes in the humanitarian leadership @14th Mediterranean conference, @IAC Preparatory sessions, @training for Heads of Emergency Operations,  @Global Innovation Summit and other forums.
The report was also presented to the IFRC Governing Board Advisory Group on National Society Development. The advisory group reiterated the need for broader dialogue on leadership to include staff and volunteer opinions around the world. This led to a global survey launched in late 2023 that received more than 2,000 responses from 106 countries.
Read the fascinating survey results here that detail the major trends people in the network are concerned about as well as how our organisation and leadership should be changing to help us navigate the future.

Feature — Top 5 Trends people in the network are concerned about

5  — Polarisation, social, geopolitical and economic 

4 — Escalation of conflict and new geopolitical tensions

3 — Low levels of trust and misinformation, in part fueled by AI and tech

2 — Extreme weather events and other climate related challenges

1 — The convergence of these and other trends and the complex environments they create

Leadership Study Tours

We wanted to directly support a small cohort of leaders of National Societies having the mindset and capacities to drive transformation, build a culture of innovation and anticipation and experiment with new approaches to leadership.
The team convened Leadership Study tours of Secretaries General and Presidents from 6 National Societies to visit and discover how they manage the transformations of their humanitarian work locally. This initiative unpacked contextual conditions for change, generating inspiration, ideas, and fostering potential collaboration.
The first iteration saw senior leaders from Lesotho Red Cross, Red Cross Society of China, Costa Rica Red Cross, Iraq Red Crescent and Russian Red Cross visiting the Kenya Red Cross in conjunction with the IFRC Global Innovation Summit 2023 and then the Spanish Red Cross. In Kenya we learned about the critical importance of aligning the change agenda throughout the organisation fostering collective commitment across various teams necessary to achieve shared objectives.

Senior leadership stood out as systemically pushing for new approaches, rethinking business models and testing new ways of working. Trusting teams and sharing power with them, autonomy and responsibility to take decisions emerged as a catalyst for progress.

We need to dare. We need to be daring. Daring to think out of the box, daring to have a vision

Find out more

Think Tank

Over 200 senior leaders from 85 National Societies participated in our Think Tanks
We invited leaders to reimagine how we lead. They have identified a need to improve at building trust and sharing power, creating an environment that celebrates learning and innovation, constantly reflecting upon the possibilities and risks of the future, questioning linearity and ensuring that the communities truly lead humanitarian actions.

We facilitated think tanks, workshops and 6-month learning journeys for cohorts of Secretaries General, Presidents and Board Members. We worked through key common issues such as digital transformation, reimagining volunteering, crisis management (with Deloitte) and financial sustainability. 

Do we want to be transformative today, disruptive today, revolutionary today, or do we want to be innovative through an evolutionary process of small steps at a time?
Ahmed Idris

The current scale and complexity of needs and the trajectory of the humanitarian system is simply unsustainable. This necessitates an urgent and critical analysis of the manner in which response is designed; the way it is coordinated, the way it is implemented, and the way it is funded. Quite simply we need to think and act differently
Caroline Holt

I have three calls for action, number one, embrace collaboration, number two, invest in understanding the changing world, and number three, and probably the most important one, let’s empower local innovators
Jagan Chapagain

Future Fellows

There were 49 fellows from 33 National Societies

Fellows

National societies

We support the transformation of the IFRC network by equipping high-potential leaders with the skills and resources to drive change and innovation in their National Societies. In this 9 months development program participants explore a range of themes, skills and capabilities together including new models of leadership, strategic foresight skills, innovation approaches, ensuring trust and accountability and strategies for driving organisational change. 
Priority

Strategic Foresight

Helping Navigate Uncertain Contexts

We know the future holds unprecedented challenges for the IFRC network and the communities we support. We can see our organisation is transforming its operations to respond to these complex demands but we will still face constantly evolving trends, sudden shocks and unexpected crises.

So we;

Provide training, tools and methodologies for the network to help them embed strategic foresight approaches in their own planning and decision-making, helping them uncover new evidence and identify new opportunities for action to face uncertainty and emerging risks.

Beyond training, we support our partners as they embed foresight skills and create anticipatory governance models, which help drive innovation and strengthen transformation. We also work with leadership teams to help them explore organisational change and new structures.   

Books Downloaded

The Strategic Foresight Book

Downloaded over 1,000 times since its launch in January 2024

We launched the Strategic Foresight Book in January 2024, a practical way to explore emerging issues and uncover new options for action. It provides simple tools and activities that can help National Societies explore trends, changes and potential future scenarios and their implications on vulnerability and our work. It is also a powerful way to connect with communities and imagine new possibilities.
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Ben Holt

GLOBAL LEAD FOR STRATEGIC FORESIGHT

Embrace uncertainty as an opportunity to shape tomorrow

Foresight for Ukraine
response

The Futures and Foresight team partnered with the IFRC Europe office and the Disaster, Crisis and Climate department to explore insights and needs around the ongoing Ukraine crisis (January 2023). The methodology interrogated scenarios to provoke discussions.

The activity highlighted some strategic questions and considerations on what the network may need to change in view of a protracted crisis, including considering a whole human approach to assistance. The IFRC Solferino team additionally crafted informative key driver dossiers, delving into the emerging issues and repercussions stemming from the Ukraine crisis across Europe and Central Asia.

The Solferino Academy team is now also working with the IFRC country office in Ukraine on innovation, future scenarios of the response, and to support organisational change.

Foresight

Food Security and Livelihood Strategic Innovation Initiative

The Kenya, Malawi and Zambia Red Cross Societies partnered with the IFRC Solferino Academy to develop a portfolio of innovative and future-focused Food Security and Livelihoods (FSL) interventions. The IFRC FSL Team led the project in partnership with the IFRC Solferino Academy at the request of the Zambian, Malawian and Kenya Red Cross Societies. A series of online and in-person workshops were held with the National Society colleagues.
The program ran over several months and mobilised international collaborators, external partners and community members. Complex systems and capabilities were mapped and then a strategic foresight process explored key trends and critical uncertainties, allowing the NS to reimagine their services to meet the new challenges and address emerging vulnerabilities. The final element was innovation workshops to design innovative new concepts for each country. This work created new capabilities in the participating NSs and developed a portfolio of promising ideas for FSL operations.
This work was given special recognition by a global award for the most significant futures work of the past year, across all sectors.

Strategic Foresight Masterclasses

We hold Futures and Foresight Masterclasses for National Societies leaders, staff and volunteers. Examples include a two-day masterclass with Italian RC staff and volunteers and one held to widen the network expertise in conjunction with the IFRC Global Innovation Summit. They equipped participants with the skills and methodologies to design and run their own strategic foresight process in their National Societies. There were 35 participants from 11 National Societies.
We have also established a Community of Practice to connect people across NS who are working on futures and foresight. It has lead to new links between countries, sharing of information, skills and experience and enhanced effectiveness of approaches.

Foresight and Innovation Masterclass

IFRC Global Innovation Summit 2023, Nairobi

Anticipatory governance

Anticipatory governance helps organisations make decisions and take action in a rapidly changing world

Futures we Imagine

Our team also works with speculative designers, artists and the public to generate creative visions of the future

Crisis Intelligence

We work with the decision makers, external experts and frontline staff to develop scenarios and intelligence on possible futures
Priority

Accelerate and Support Innovation

We aim to promote innovation networks within the IFRC National Societies to tackle the structural barriers that slow innovation, create a positive culture for new solutions and experimentation and build support systems for innovation ideas to thrive.

We are reimagining innovation systems, learning lessons that can be applied globally. We teach skills, partner with teams to tackle complex problems and develop approaches that change the way our organisation works. We support the network’s digital transformation journey, helping to unlock new ideas and then rapidly test and iterate them.

Limitless

IFRC Youth Innovation Academy

Youth
The first round supported over 1,000 youth from 80 National Societies to develop innovations related to COVID responses

Projects
Were funded reaching over 300,000 community members

Views on YouTube®
Videos of their projects were viewed 250,000 times
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Henry Cáceres

GLOBAL INNOVATION OFFICER

Calling all youth Red Cross Red Crescent staff, volunteers and collaborators! Join thousands of youth innovators tackling climate and environmental crises
We want to foster the localisation of innovation by empowering youth with innovation tools, funding and a global network of support. Limitless underscores the transformative power of investing in local youth innovation.

The first edition program went beyond conventional models, building innovation capabilities through workshops, mentoring, and funding. Ten finalist projects were announced as winners from sixty teams who received specialized mentoring and extra funding to develop their prototypes.

The localisation of innovation approach not only addresses immediate challenges but helps accelerate the transformation of National Societies, by empowering youth to learn new skills, collaborate, fostering leadership and confidence and supporting diverse volunteer engagement approaches. The ripple effects also extend to creating profound and lasting impacts within communities.

Innovation Support Systems (ISS) initiatives

Now they have the opportunity to lead the process to scale innovation in their NS and support other volunteers in the process, and that make them feel valued
Henry Alejandro Cáceres Pilco

GLOBAL INNOVATION OFFICER, IFRC Solferino Academy

The Innovation Support System program (ISS) was built on lessons from the Limitless Innovation Academy and with contributions from the Netherlands Red Cross, Kenya Red Cross, Danish Red Cross, American Red Cross, Ecuadorian Red Cross, IFRC Global Volunteering Coordination, and Limitless participants.

The program aims to support National Societies to build their local innovation support systems to foster innovation culture and innovation practice. So far, we have developed the ISS guidebook beta version and the ISS program. 

IFRC Solferino Academy with its partners is implementing the pilot version of the program in six national societies: Uganda Red Cross, Rwanda Red Cross, Bolivia Red Cross, Honduran Red Cross, Colombian Red Cross, and Portuguese Red Cross. In the process are volunteers, staff, and sometimes, senior leaders. Uganda Red Cross is using the same process to build a volunteering support system in one of its branches. 
At the Global Innovation Summit, a two-day Innovation Masterclass was hosted with 21 participants from 7 National Societies. The innovation support system approach strengthened the capacity to drive innovation transformation in their National Societies and the understanding of the innovation systemic and strategic approach.

IFRC Global Innovation Summit 2023

Nairobi, Kenya

Participants in person or online

National Societies
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Laurent Fernandez

PROJECTS AND INFORMATION MANAGER

The IFRC Global Innovation Summit 2023 delivered in partnership with Kenyan RC explored the role of innovation as a driver of transformation and change for our IFRC network of National Societies. Key themes explored organisational change, transformative leadership (at all levels), localisation of innovation, transformation in times of crises, strategic foresight, digital transformation, redefining volunteering and new approaches to financing humanitarian work.

It was nice to hear about success stories, I think it will definitely influence the way we work.

I have learned how other National societies handle their problems and I’m surely going to take that to my home, so that we can handle the same, thank you so much

This summit connects us with other innovators, experts and change-makers, so we can build sustainable networks for the future, generating new perspectives and fresh ideas to transform the way we think and operate as humanitarians.

Innovation challenges

Prior to the Global Innovation Summit, the team and partners designed and implemented six challenges across a variety of transformations: Early Warning and Early Action (supported by the Global Disaster Preparedness Centre), Innovative Finance (supported by the Humanitarian Innovative Finance Hub, hosted by Danish RC), Innovative Volunteering (supported by the Global Volunteering Alliance and the IFRC volunteering team), Data Visualization (supported by the IFRC Information Management team), Storytelling and National Society Transformation (both Solferino Academy’s own initiatives).
We received in total of 187 applications from staff and volunteers from 47 National Societies. 15 winners from 15 National Societies received an all-cost covered trip to the Global Innovation Summit 2023, in Nairobi.

Cartoon anonymous – Discover

Another level of reflection on innovation and change

Data is a Team Sport

IFRC Data Playbook v1

Heather Leson

DIGITAL INNOVATION LEAD

The Data playbook is like a Swiss knife for any organisation that wants to strengthen its data capacity. It contains versatile and comprehensive building blocks to support your organisation’s data journey.

Bertrand RUKUNDO

Data Playbook contributor, Burundi Red Cross volunteer and former IFRC staff

Using engagement, skillshares, and open leadership methods, we delivered an exploratory innovation with the Data Playbook to create shared documentation and training materials for and by the network. The network-centric resource demonstrated how we might collaborate as a globally distributed team with 1,000 engaged and 270 contributors for the v1 project. Norwegian Red Cross support enabled the development and launch of the tool.  The Data Playbook v1 methodology report shared insights on how we might better collaborate as a distributive network and some best practices for building collaborative products and services.
To further support the use of data in informing foresight and innovation, we ran a campaign with the IFRC GO team to help people engage with the data in the GO platform. We designed a fun and challenging game, Climate Legacies — Echoes of Change, that could be played inside the platform, although many thousands attempted the game only 6 found all the correct responses, but the process of trying it helped people learn how to use the GO platform. The initiative drove a traffic increase to the platform of +5,978% in users and +33,819% in views.
I enjoyed going through the Go platform and realized there is data dating from way back on disasters and I can easily analyze disaster trends for specific countries.

what a cool game! Really clever way to engage people and get them thinking about preparedness and learning about the info available in the GO platform. Nice one!

A great way to understand the tools we have available.

Top 40 under 40 and Connect Conference

Technology and digital solutions are enabling our core work. Partnering with the IFRC Digital Transformation department, IFRC Solferino designed and delivered a challenge to highlight the expertise of young technology entrepreneurs within the IFRC network.

Solutions ranged from mental health to emergency preparedness. The top candidates attended the Connect Conference in Kigali (organised by IFRC, ICRC, and Microsoft and hosted by the Rwanda Red Cross (February 2023)).

There were over 110 submissions from 28 National Societies and volunteers. All the technology entrepreneur examples were published on YouTube and accumulated over 25,000 views.
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Marine Ronzi

PARTNERSHIP AND COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATION

 

 

Top 40 Under 40
On Solferino Voices YouTube® Channel

Views

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Marine Ronzi

PARTNERSHIP AND COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATION

 

 

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Yeon Park

INTERN, DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS AND NETWORK ENGAGEMENT

Collective intelligence

In partnership with the NESTA Foundation, the Cameroon Red Cross, and the Nepal Red Cross, we wanted to explore the potential of participative Artificial Intelligence – the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Collective Intelligence through community engagement – for National Societies. The value of Participative Artificial Intelligence for National Societies was proven, and key Challenges to sustain it were unveiled.

The Nepal Red Cross can better manage and fit its disaster and crisis response items. The Cameroon Red Cross demystified artificial intelligence and could contribute to building a product fit to its community engagement and accountability needs. No advanced IT infrastructure is needed to design and develop a participative A.I. project, but there’s a need for translators that understand both humanitarian and tech focuses, and languages.

Collective Crisis Intelligence

Insights and key lessons from Cameroon and Nepal

Localising AI for crisis response

Putting power back in the hands of frontline humanitarians and local communities

Participatory AI for humanitarian innovation: a briefing paper

Our team also works with speculative designers, artists and the public to generate creative visions of the future
IFRC Solferino Academy

Partnership

The IFRC Solferino Academy is an IFRC Initiative hosted by the Italian Red Cross

Major Partners

Global youth Mobilization
Swiss Confederation
Monash University, Australia
Global Disaster Preparedness Center, American Red Cross

Supporters and Partners

Netherlands Red Cross
Kenya Red Cross
Monaco Red Cross
Spanish Red Cross
British Red Cross
RIVET
Asia Pacific Disaster Risk Reduction Centre
Nesta
RCRC Climate Centre
International Academy of the Red Cross and Red Crescent at the Red Cross Society of China

The Dream Team

Shaun Hazeldine

Shaun Hazeldine

Head Solferino Academy

Gintare Guzeviciute

Gintare Guzeviciute

Senior Advisor Leadership and Transformation (Deputy Head of Solferino Academy)

Sara Panciroli

Sara Panciroli

Officer Amministrazione e Finanza

Ben Holt

Ben Holt

Strategic Foresight Lead

Henry Cáceres

Henry Cáceres

Global Innovation Officer

Heather Marie Leson

Heather Marie Leson

Digital Innovation Lead

Laurent Fernandez

Laurent Fernandez

Projects and information Manager

Marine Ronzi

Marine Ronzi

Partnership and Communications coordination

Justin Park

Justin Park

Digital Engagement & Communications OFFICER

Sara Gullet

Sara Gullet

Junior Consultancy – Innovation Support Officer

Hamza Hamwie

Hamza Hamwie

Digital engagement

Yann le Floc'h

Yann le Floc'h

Art Director

Yang Liu

Yang Liu

INTERN, DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS AND NETWORK ENGAGEMENT

Yeon Park

Yeon Park

INTERN, DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS AND NETWORK ENGAGEMENT