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  • Nanthilde KAMARA

Top 7 new humanitarian jobs in the next ten years

Updated: Apr 28



I got inspired by the new international study undertaken by Bioforce through consultations with 1000 humanitarian professionals, “the State of Humanitarian Professions 2020 (SOHP)”.


One of the biggest conclusions of this report is the need to increase and improve digital skills in the humanitarian sector.


This need is driven by the massive scale up and use of digital cash transfers but not only. The development of new technologies (GIS, satellite imagery, blockchain, mobile technology etc.), the increased use of digital tools across all sectors and professions and the challenges to address the digital divide and digital harm call for new digital and technology skills and expertise in the humanitarian sector.


In parallel to an increasing demand for experts in the new developing technologies (satellite imagery and remote sensing, drones and UAV, blockchain, machine learning and AI), new jobs will emerge in the humanitarian digital sphere, characterized both by their specialization and their cross-cutting approach .


So, here are the top 7 new humanitarian jobs I can see emerging and rising in the next ten years.


1. Humanitarian Data scientist/Data analyst




A huge amount of data is already generated by current automated and digital systems and we can expect a sharp increase in the years to come. All sectors and professions will be concerned: programmes and projects, monitoring and evaluation as well as finance, logistics, human resources, security, IT, communication will look for solutions to analyze their data.


Organizations will hire data analysts to manage sets of data generated through their activity, including the sensitive ones. I strongly advocate to consider hiring in-house data analysts who can offer a double expertise – humanitarian + analytics- and provide relevant and appropriate analyses to support strategic and programmatic decision-making processes.


I can imagine that organizations will also look at outsourcing part of their data analysis for specific or complex works to private or social companies, freelance or specific NGOs, depending on their own resources and systems.


And of course, you will need to look for and hire data analysts with multiple skills:

1. Mandatory expertise in statistics, using Python and R free and open softwares - SPSS will be nothing but a memory

2. Mapping and Visualization with GIS open softwares and Power Bi (Tableau will disappear)

3. Qualitative data analysis – yes, let’s break silos and hope we can find strong data analysts speaking both qualitative and quantitative language!


I foresee a specialization trend in this profession with sectoral data analysts in supply chain, logistics, HR, M&E, cash based and programme, ICT sectors etc.


2. Coordinator of technology and digital working group or cluster





Nowadays, when it is activated, ETC clusters provide communication services and tools in humanitarian and crisis contexts. You can also find Information Management (IM) working groups managing complex database in a number of countries.


But their scope and mandates seem too limited today when you look at the explosion and wider use of new technologies in the humanitarian sector. Digital technology will become a sector in the coming years and I can imagine a technology and digital working group or cluster as we were able to witness with the expansion of cash-based transfers in the last 10 years.


Roles and responsibilities of this new cluster or working group and its coordinator would include:

- Mapping the complex technology and digital ecosystem in the country including private sector (startups, social enterprises, innovation labs, entrepreneurs, mobile operators etc.), government, civil society

- Coordinating digital and technology needs assessment and conducting feasibility studies in the country or at region levels

- Building humanitarian staff capacity on digital skills and digital technologies

- Designing the digital strategy for the humanitarian actors

- Identifying digital risks and designing mitigation measures

- Designing and sharing standards, norms and good practices

- Negotiating global or joint contracts with private sector


Who could lead this working group or cluster?? Some ideas come to mind but I leave this question open. For example, maybe co-chairs or co-leads could come from the private sector?


Do you think this is a crazy idea?


Check out the newly formed Geo-AI Working Group alongside the Food and Agriculture Organization to give you an idea of the newly alliances and working groups around technologies.


3. Predictive analyst





Where will the most affected areas be next year and who will be the most affected?

Where will the most serious security hotspots be in the coming 2 months?

Where can we rent warehouses and store our contingency stock in disaster prone areas?

What will be the impact of a specific shock on the most vulnerable men, women and children?


I am sure your manager had asked you all these questions – especially last year with COVID19 - and in most cases you’d stared back at him or her with blank eyes!


But these questions will become more common and more difficult to respond in very complex humanitarian contexts affected by combinations of shocks.

In parallel, increased availability of data sets can constitute an opportunity to better understand effects of shocks and build predictive models.


This is where the predictive analyst enters the scene, abracadabra!


Searching, finding and harnessing a host of quantitative, geographical, open datasets and other sources of information (including qualitative information), the predictive analysts will build strong and evidence-base models and scenarios of future humanitarian needs, contributing to the design or preemptive adjustments of your country strategy, your programmes and your resource planning and mobilization.


Of course, predictive analysts are not magicians and their analysis and scenario will be adjusted in line with the evolution of the country and the humanitarian context.


Some tools and models are today quite advanced in the climate change and environmental areas but there is a great window for improvement in our sector when you consider that the majority of us still works with basic and disconnected tools and analyses.


Predictive analysts will help to build more comprehensive tools and embrace an interdisciplinary system thinking approach - maybe we’ll get inspired by the tools of the “futurists”?


4. Digital expert or digital programme officer




In the middle (or at the beginning?) of the digital revolution we are living, well yes, we need digital experts or digital programme officers as we had needed them ten/fifteen years ago to manage cash-based transfers programmes.


He/She will be in charge of:

- Training and building capacity on digital technologies within the organization, with partners and communities

- Carrying out digital needs assessment and digital feasibility studies

- Mapping the digital ecosystem, networking and finding new digital partners

- Mainstreaming digital tools throughout programme and other support units

- Managing digital risks and mitigation measures

- And coordinating with other humanitarian actors under the umbrella of the technology and digital humanitarian cluster or working group


I foresee specialized digital experts, such as digital protection expert dealing with digital risks, data protection and digital harm, digital technologies expert or digital finance (or fintech) expert.



5. Innovation and Change-maker experts




Do you remember my post about humanitarian innovators?


Well, this is it! The word Innovation is flourishing everywhere, sometimes for good reasons – technologies and low tech offer great opportunies of innovation in the humanitarian sector – but the term is also used broadly – even if it is not new at all!


You NEED innovation experts or change-maker officers who will of course look at technologies and digital tools but, differently from digital experts, they will also look at all types of innovations (low tech, new ways of working, new approaches and tools, local solutions etc.).


In response to the challenging SDGs in 2030, we are also witnessing the creation of innovation labs or hubs supported by donors, NGOs or UN agencies, they (will) need a multitude of innovators in the coming years.


Change-makers will smoothly guide your colleagues in the Change, using the appropriate tools to co-design transformation, from the initial diagnosis, the identification of needs, the design of solutions up to the implementation and monitoring of the change.



6. Life-saving information officer/ coordinator




Information is aid!


Signal code proposes to apply a human right approach to INFORMATION during crisis with the idea that "information itself, including the means to generate, communicate and receive it, is a basic humanitarian need that should be afforded protection equal to other such traditional needs as food, water, shelter, and medical care".


Inspired by the signal code and some recent publications (including job advertisements), I believe we’ll see the rise of the Life-saving Information Officer, at the crossroad of ICT4D, IT and ETC, social behavior change expert, socio-anthropologist, accountability and protection officer.


He/She will look for technologies to collect, share and receive essential data from and with affected populations and communities, providing them information and power while mitigating risks related to information and data.


He or she will be in charge of:

- Emergency and life-saving information needs assessments

- Designing and implementing life-saving information campaigns and information delivery mechanisms

- Setting up standards of information collection and communication, including data responsibility and data protection issues

- Technology intelligence and setting up nontraditional partnerships


7. Climate change and environmental (innovation) experts


Last but not the least, climate change and environmental experts will be highly demanded in the coming years.


You’ll tell me: but they already exist!!


Yes, you’re right but their expertise is mainly used in specific sectors (agriculture, environment, public hygiene and sanitation).


The expertise will evolve with the rising concerns about environment protection and under citizen, civil societies and donor pressure, environment will be mainstreamed in every humanitarian organization, at organizational level AND in the humanitarian response.


Technology and digitalization are very demanding in terms of resources and energy and they are posing as well environmental challenges that need to be tackled with their increasing use.


Climate change and environmentalists will support organizations to tackle these challenges, in:

- Developing tools and methods to assess in depth the environmental impact of humanitarian organizations

- Mapping existing solutions and finding new partners

- Supporting the implementation of solutions within organizations and in the humanitarian response

- Building capacity and influencing practices and mindsets in the sector


Good luck to everyone who is interested in one of these 7 jobs and share your ideas!


The post “Top 7 most in demand humanitarian jobs in the next ten years “ appeared first on #Future4Change.


Special thanks to Katia Oslansky for her help and review of the article!


#futureofwork #furureofjobs #digitalexpert #humanitarianinnovator #dataanalyst #predictiveanalyst #technoandigitalcluster #climatechangeexpert #future4change


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