Open Source Co-Design Toolkit for Humanitarian Energy Practitoners

Hi All

We would love your feedback on our potential open source innovation.

Open-Source Innovation:

Our innovation is to create an easily accessible, dynamic, and interactive training resource for the humanitarian energy sector to understand, collate, and embed co-design processes across their energy response. This innovation is for large multi-national humanitarian agencies, local drivers of humanitarian action, private sector energy system and service providers, financial institutions, and local, national, and global policymakers – who all benefit from a deeper understanding of the people, customers, and end-users they are trying to serve. In addition, this innovation will show contextually specific methods on how to embed end-users into the decision-making processes and produce people-focussed inclusive, sustainable and ethical energy design practices for the humanitarian sector.

Proposed Deliverables:

The goal of this project to provide a toolkit and accompanying resources for humanitarians to design inclusive and transformative energy solutions that recognise and respond to the needs and aspirations of forcibly displaced populations, ultimately enabling this highly vulnerable group to shape their own energy futures. We will develop the following open-source deliverables:

    1. A Collected Interactive Resource of all relevant tools across the Humanitarian Sector embedded on Energypedia ( and Github.
    • a. Interactive Systems Map of all tools/process (containing summary of tools*, benefits, drawbacks, resources required, contextual relevance, examples of use in other projects with practical steps for implementation) with clickable links directly to tools.
    • b. Instructions on how best to use the interactive tool which have practical steps
  1. A Training Pack containing workshop formats, slides, notes, exercises, and a series of case studies identified from project utilising best-practice.

*these tools would include (but not be limited to); CLOVER as used in Rwanda, the Technology Implementation Model for Energy as used by the Humanitarian Engineering and Energy for Displacement Project, MIT D-Lab Creative Capacity Building Tools, Mercy Corps Inclusive Energy Access Tools, the Renewable Energy Recommendations tool, The Humanitarian Innovation Guide, Human Centred Design processes as well as the many other tools published on the topic of developing humanitarian energy systems and services.

Thanks all in advance for your help and advice.


Thanks for this Ben. I am working within a UN training institute who supports development of energy access projects and initiatives through innovative processes, and I see value in this proposal. Last year, we ran a training with UN and NGO practitioners from across 4 regions (East Africa, South Africa, MENA, West Africa) to support them in learning about the fundamentals of energy access, market systems, energy technologies, partnership development and participatory design methods, and mentored the them to design sustainable approaches to addressing energy access needs in areas they serve. From this experience, I can share that there is a demand for this type of support and mentoring, and this sort of mapping/guide as to what tools are out there and easiest to use would be useful. I found their needs were to have very digestible, accessible and actionable tools/surveys/information to integrate energy access considerations into their wider support to community development needs. We’d be happy to share and build on the tools we’ve developed (similar to objective 2), see online here: EDM Training | Global Platform for Action.

Overall, I think this is a useful initiative and hope to see more support to mapping out the tools/methodologies available for energy access programme planning in humanitarian contexts, and collaborating through our tools and others to fill outstanding gaps.

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Hi Aimee, thanks for your feedback - its much appreciated. From your experience what do you think is needed so that this toolkit can be adopted (and hopefully mainstreamed) by humanitarian energy practitioners (at the strategic and field levels) across the globe?

I also definitely see this work as complimenting the EDM work and we would love to add value to the programs that you already run.

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Hi Ben, Thank you for this initiative. We at enerypedia work with a range of humanitarian and energy actors and from our experience, cross-sectoral and cross-organizational learnings on “embedding end-users in the decision process” is a need of the hour. However, due to limited resources (manpower, time, funding), many humanitarian organizations are unable to do so. Hence, mapping the relevant resources and creating a training pack that can easily be used by the organizations would be a great help. In fact, in one of our webinars, when we asked about the limiting factors for different approaches, the lack of resources ( workshops, case studies) was also highlighted. Hence, having it in a format, easily useable and also adoptable by different organizations is very much needed.

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I would like to echo the comments above, as a founder of a Charity and Company both working in energy access, the creation of more easily accessible tools and methods to enable user centred/co-design processes would be immensely helpful. We have run many co-design workshops but have spent too much time re-inventing the wheel each time and searching for content and approaches along with our partners. Having a single authoritative resource that brings together a number of methods would speed up our work and make co-design more likely to happen. We have seen the significant benefits of co-design but even as a proponent, who in some ways owes our foundation of the company to a specific co-design workshop, we still find the process difficult to articulate and train our staff in so this resource would be gratefully received. Thank-you and good luck! (Gareth Selby, Founder of Inclusive Energy and CREATIVenergie)

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I think ongoing mentoring and a simple structured process with easy to use tools for application (surveys for needs assessments, templates that guide project design, pointers on how to integrate life cycle sustainability, roster of energy specialist consultants they can hire, concrete case studies and lessons learned) is very helpful. Humanitarians have little time, and they will not be able to do much more than what is in their TORs (especially if they are not technical or energy specialists), but to me the biggest impact will be mainstreaming energy into their core business. What we had great feedback on from the EDM training was having one-to-one mentoring in which the mentors we hired have developed and managed public-private energy access projects and were able to have meetings every 2-3 weeks with practitioners over a 5 mo period to help them identify energy needs and develop projects.

Agreed with Ranisha - high quality but bite sized videos and interviews with humanitarian energy experts on their learnings (and failures) could be helpful to this point.

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Hi Ben,

To build upon the contributions from Aimee and Ranisha - I think the proposal is definitely addressing a gap in terms of co-design with end users - this often is not structurally embedded also due to programming procedures. From a practitioner perspective I can recommend to also include a component in which project teams are trained on the use of the tools besides the instruction manual- either virtually or physically. From experience I know there are so many very interesting and useful courses, trainings, platforms available to read and use, however, if there is no real commitment or interaction related to the materials it is difficult to prioritize, and mostly, apply to your work/team. The EDM course Aimee mentioned indeed worked well because of the mentor system - this forced participants (including me) to prepare and engage, and has actually led to a new pilot intervention we are currently implementing. Also assuming the development of the tools will in it self be done through co-design methodologies with real life project teams. We could potentially support this with our team in Kakuma for instance - happy to further explore options.

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Hi Aimee, I definitely agree that having the ability to save time and streamline processes for humanitarians is an absolutely critical element of this. I also think there is an accompanying service that Outsight is well placed to deliver as part of this open source resources process that can unlock the one-one mentoring, rosters of consultants, and all the rest you mentioned. I know that you identified this as key in the EDM process, how do you think we can take this process to the next level? e.g. convincing organisations to mainstream this process - is it just about outreach, or data, or even the localisation agenda/targets?

Hi Ranisha, thank you for your feedback and giving the example from your recent webinar. Once a resource like this is created, what do you think are the best methods for spreading the word? And ultimately ensuring that there is not a duplication of these processes (i.e. creating the resource proposed here)? Thanks!

Hi Gareth, thats so much for your feedback. And great to hear that this would be really useful resource for your organisation. In reference to my responses to Aimee and Ranisha, what do you think the service (provided by Outsight International) that accompanies this collated resource would look like in an ideal world?

Hi Karlijn, thanks so much for your feedback - we really appreciate it. I’ve mentioned this in some other replies in this tread, but another component of this is a service (from Outsight International) to go along with the resource. Within your own organisation how many country-level (or project-level) teams do you think would want to engage with this type of service and pack of resources?

We will also include case studies within this (as well as going through a co-design process for the resource) and would love to chat further on integrating your work in Kakuma.

Hi Ben,

We have just won Innovate UK funding to conduct a feasibility study on e-cooking in a refugee camp in Rwanda, where we will be using TIME as a tool to ensure we are embedding communities in the design decision-making process. We would be very happy to share our experience of applying this tool and the learning we gained.

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Hi Alison, great to hear you are using TIME and would be really interested in hearing about your experiences through this piece of work (especially as, for those who dont know on the thread, it was the main output of my PhD work with the University of Nottingham) - i think creating use cases for other humanitarians to streamline their processes is a critical element of funding proposal, and as others have said on this thread, a critical component of mainstreaming co-design processes throughout humanitarian work. How have you found embedding these structured approaches in the past?

Looks like a great initiative. I know several practical organisations, including GIZ and Mercy Corps who would be keen to use such a tool and set of resources. As the humanitarian energy sector grows, practical tools based on research expertise like this will be increasingly needed.
Looking forward to hearing more about the tool and its co-design elements.
Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen

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Hi Sarah, thanks for your response!

Hi Ben, Ashden makes Awards for grassroots climate solutions, including within humanitarian settings. We are particularly interested in finding initiatives that are led by displaced people and whose impact creates real and measurable opportunities within their communities. The Open Source Co-Design Toolkit puts the needs and interests of end-users first and looks like it will add great value to all our efforts. Ed

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Hi Ed, thanks for your feedback. If funded, what do you think would be the best way to engage with grassroots partitioners (rather than the large scale humanitarian organisations which we have another engagement plan for) to enable this resource to really help them?

Dear Ben,
I think this is a very important initiative and timely initiative that may be further implemented in some of the most challenging and crisis-affected context countries (e.g. in the Arab States), and contribute to building the resilience of the local and displaced communities.

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Hi Denis, thanks for your feedback. How do you think that your organisation could best use a resource like this?