What do you actually do?: Try to get people excited about working together, and about GAHI
Why did you join GAHI: Real chance to have impact on people’s lives – and to work with the amazing people who help GAHI.
Dream backup career: Professional cricketer (or given my age, test match umpire.)
Biggest accomplishment: two wonderful daughters!
Last blog post: https://www.thegahi.org/news-and-blog/where-did-we-go-wrong-blog
Laura Walker McDonald
Director of Innovation
What do you actually do?: I try and help humanitarians to innovate more ethically, as practically as possible, with tools and principles that they can use in their work. Also, I herd cats and help people solve problems.
Why did you join GAHI: I like the emphasis on solving the structural barriers to doing things a different way in humanitarian aid, but nailing it down to very practical, tangible steps that feel achievable. I think that’s how progress is made.
Dream backup career: Archaeologist.
What is your life motto?: The truly happy person is one who can appreciate the scenery on a detour. I think that’s Gregory Benford.
Best learning of the past year?: People appreciate it when you share what you learn from your mistakes.
Director of Innovation
What do you actually do?: I try to bring balance between order and chaos.
Why did you join GAHI: I wanted to help make a difference in how Humanitarian Action grows and develops over the next few years. The need for innovation in the Humanitarian sector is enormous. Humanitarian Action requires radical change to make it more effective, efficient, decentralised and diverse in order to better meet the current and future needs of vulnerable people.
Best learning of the past year?: Really appreciate the good things in your life.
Dream backup career: Marine Biologist
Biggest accomplishment: Leading the Exploratory Team of Médecins Sans Frontières on the front lines of the Rwanda Genocide throughout the war in 1994.
What is your life motto?: Hope is not a good plan.
Programme and Planning Manager
What do you actually do?: Pull everything into lists, matrices and plans and make sure the right things are happening.
Why did you join GAHI: It has a unique mandate to bring the system together around the difficult problems and to help innovation to thrive in the humanitarian sector, to enable innovation to play its critical role (in both senses of the word). I wanted to help, I like helping.
Dream backup career: Filmmaker of short arty films and explorative documentaries
Best learning of the past year?: Talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend
What is your life motto?: Humans like to have an effect, and a cause (and might want help to achieve either).
Director of Innovation (secondment)
What do you actually do?: Lead GAHI’s work on generating and using evidence for innovation impact and support the sector to think about the ethical implications in innovating (and in not innovating).
Why did you join GAHI: To help collectively address the incentives and barriers that work against broader improvement in humanitarian action
Dream backup career: Tree doctor
Biggest accomplishment: Yet to be achieved! (I hope)
What do you actually do?: I try to pique people’s interest in humanitarian innovation by publishing blog posts and news pieces that our members will enjoy.
Why did you join GAHI: Rahul approached me in a coffee shop because he saw me reading Foreign Policy, and he struck up a conversation about his work with GAHI. He gave a great elevator pitch. The rest was history.
Dream backup career: Street musician
What is your life motto? “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Best learning of the past year? You never know what direction life will take you, and that’s something to be excited about.
Special Advisor on Global Alliances, New York
What do you actually do?: Attract new members and support new partnerships that will bring greater reach to humanitarian solutions.
Why did you join GAHI: To support positive disruptions that strengthen the humanitarian system and deliver new solutions to more people affected by crises.
Dream backup career: Documentary Photographer.
What do you actually do?: I work to stretch the practice of innovation. It's time to enable people with big dreams (or big problems) to innovate at a new level, reshaping complex and messy systems instead of building the next mobile app.
Why did you join GAHI: GAHI is uniquely positioned to confront messy complex difficult and intractable problems that stymie traditional innovation practices. Collaborating with GAHI is like being given permission to run into the biggest (creative) burning buildings.
Dream backup career? Perennial Gardner. Slow motion systems innovation where nature is your judge.
What are some of your life mottos?: Everyone gets a pony. Don't deliver a dead rat. Water wants to flow downhill. Run into burning buildings.
Special Advisor on Global Alliances, MENA
What do you actually do?: Support GAHI with relationship and partnership building and the creation of a constituency supporting GAHI in taking its strategy forward
Why did you join GAHI: I joined GAHI because this is an opportunity to contribute to the achievement of its mandate and mission and, selfishly, to learn from this process.
Biggest accomplishment: Creation and institutional development of the Myanmar Peace Network which uses dialogue for peace and reconciliation between Buddhists and Muslims.
What is your life motto?: Inclusion for peace, stability and prosperity is non-negotiable.
Best learning of the past year?: One can always make a difference irrespective of the framework within which one is evolving.
Special Advisor on Global Alliances, Geneva
What do you actually do?: I help people work together on risks, humanitarian and development related objectives of mutual interest.
Why did you join GAHI: To help transform the international humanitarian system. I want to help people invest in new ways to prepare for and respond to future crises in an age more networked and interconnected than ever before. The more we can do to help people work together, to access and collaborate on innovative solutions to their challenges, the more ownership they will have, and the more effective and resilient they will become.
Dream backup career: Night Club Manager... or gardener
What is your life motto?: You are worth as much space on this planet as anyone else
Best learning of the past year?: Life is too short to wait
GAHI Innovation Fellow
What do you do when you’re not a GAHI fellow? I’m currently Director of Data and Demonstrators at the Future Cities Catapult, a UK government backed innovation centre for the advancement of smart cities. I’m also Head of Cities and Regions at PUBLIC, a private GovTech venture firm where I lead our engagement with UK and European cities, developing our challenge-led innovation programmes.
Why did you agree to become a GAHI fellow? Purpose and impact. I hope that my experiences in urban innovation can support GAHI’s compelling mission.
Which three words might describe your blog contents? Provocative, challenging, insightful
Dream backup career: Documentary expedition photographer (getting there!)
What’s been your favourite milestone in your life? Running my first ultra-marathon, a lesson in mind over body.
What is your life motto? Do meaningful work with amazing people!
GAHI Innovation Fellow
What do you do when you're not a GAHI fellow? I work with IFRC on leading our futures work across our global network. I am usually working with some incredible people across the world on how anticipation and futures can help us all in what we do, or being head deep in geeky research and reading.
Why did you agree to become a GAHI fellow? I agree with the mission of GAHI at looking at systemic solutions for some of our most pressing challenges. I also appreciate GAHI’s approach in looking at how to drive collaboration across the sector rather than coming up with yet another solution in silos - it is something we greatly need.
Which three words might describe your blog contents? Honest, raw and confronting.
Dream backup career: Space explorer
What are your research interests? Decolonising futures and development approaches, and interrogating how our mental models and underlying assumptions influence how we work.
Best learning of the past year? If you want change to happen, you have got to be a little bit brave and make a move. It will all be ok.
GAHI Innovation Fellow
What do you do when you’re not a GAHI fellow? I spend my days working to address sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual violence in aid workplaces. Not always pleasant, definitely always challenging. It is however deeply satisfying and rewarding to be helping to create safer aid delivery - for this giving it and those receiving it.
Why did you agree to become a GAHI fellow? When I was approached to be a GAHI Fellow I agreed, without hesitation. I believe in the platform and what it stands for in the humanitarian community. We’ve reached a point where reflection and innovation are necessary for the industry to evolve and meet so many different challenges. Playing even a small part in those conversations is an honour.
Which three words might describe your blog contents? Reflective, balanced, vulnerable - traits I worry are missing in so many difficult conversations these days!
Dream backup career: A combination bookstore, yarn store, and bakery somewhere in the hills of England! No, more seriously, I cannot image a more fulfilling and rewarding career than what I am being given the opportunity to do right now. The path I have taken as a humanitarian has evolved and shifted over the past few years, yet it still remains inspiring and motivating. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings.
What is your life motto? Remain curious - you never know what the next opportunity, place, person, or book will bring you.
Best learning of the past year? Be kind - to yourself and to others. In the closure of Report the Abuse on 20 August 2017, I felt like a complete failure. It took a long time before I could be kind to myself and reflect on the positivity that the NGO brought to my life and to others, not just the sadness of it ending.