Credit : Syrian Red Crescent

The role of the innovation department of the British Red Cross is to help the National Society define itself for the future so it can continue to create a deep and long-term impact for people in crisis – now and for generations to come. We interviewed Celia Scruby, Head of Fundraising Innovation, and Tanya Mathew, Head of Humanitarian Innovation to tell us more about the role of the BRC to develop, test and launch ambitious products, services or ventures that solve fundraising or humanitarian challenges.

The British Red Cross is joining the French Red Cross and the Spanish Red Cross in the development of the Red Social Innovation resource centre. On this occasion, we interviewed Celia Scruby, Head of Fundraising Innovation and Tanya Mathew, Head of Humanitarian Innovation, to share with us their vision of innovation at the British Red Cross.

What is the role of innovation within the British Red Cross?

The role of innovation at the British Red Cross is to develop, test and launch ambitious products, services or ventures that solve fundraising or humanitarian challenges. We often do this by adopting new trends and technologies, using insight and designing solutions in collaboration with service users, supporters, staff and members of the Red Cross movement, Ultimately, we exist to help the British Red Cross define itself for the future so we can continue to create deep or long-term impact for people in crisis – now and for generations to come.

Can you share two main initiatives that the British Red Cross will develop in 2024 (in the innovation space)?

We are currently exploring a new fundraising opportunity area: ‘How might we build trusted relationships by helping audiences find a sense of certainty, clarity and calm in a world that increasingly feels overwhelmingly chaotic, threatening, confusing and fake?’ We are expecting this opportunity area to inspire 2-3 new fundraising concepts for product development. We are hoping to leverage the fundraising potential of these concepts using relevant AI applications. We’ve seen AI-powered fundraising software prove highly effective in a few ways: identifying the ‘most likely to give’ donors amidst large, complex databases; enhancing donor engagement and, increasing donations via personalised prompts and a tailored donation experiences. 

We are also partnering with the Cash Hub to explore the linkages between anticipatory action and cash and voucher assistance (CVA), and using data and technology to scale this up. Anticipatory action is when we give people assistance ahead of a forecastable climate disaster happening, and CVA is an increasingly popular tool in this. Evidence shows it can reduce the cost of humanitarian response and means service users can better prepare for and be less impacted by crises. Our first step has been to synthesise insights that already exist and to interview experts across the sector to understand where the most impactful interventions could be. With data technologies such as machine learning improving our ability to forecast and target, there are many opportunities for us to improve outcomes for our service users.

How can Red Social Innovation be useful to the British Red Cross and, more globally, to the social innovation actors?

Red Social Innovation is a great way of showcasing the innovation projects we deliver – the work is presented in a modern, high quality, engaging aesthetic which speaks to the level of consideration that goes into the work itself.  

Publishing our solutions and experiments on Red Social Innovation raises the profile of our work amongst the Red Cross innovation community. Sharing articles on projects we’ve launched on the platform is also a great promotional tool for prospective donors and internal stakeholders that we want to engage more deeply with our work and involve in future projects. 

We also value Red Social Innovation for the benefit of being a knowledge sharing database between national societies. We often refer to the platform during the ‘discovery phase’ of a project, to see how other national societies have solved a similar challenges and, to get inspired about the range of possible solutions to play for.

Red Social Innovation also connects us to the bigger picture of why we do what we do. Having a wealth of innovative solutions, from across the global Red Cross movement – in one place – builds a sense of collective impact. The Red Social Innovation platform, and its community, helps us understand that our work, no matter how small, is part of something bigger – a global movement of positive change.

What do you think are the biggest challenges the British Red Cross has or will have to face and where innovation will be crucial?

Keeping up with the rate of change and technology is a huge challenge and this is where I believe innovation is crucial: assessing the constant changes in our social and physical environment; deciding how to respond most effectively and humanely to support people in crisis and using new technology, new systems or new ways of thinking to do so. Investing in foresight capabilities, to anticipate the future is essential for the Red Cross in order to continue to deliver against its service areas and to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

Read more about the British Red Cross here.