Social Innovation

Learn more about our projects.
Read our new book Digital Humanitarians.

Why Social Innovation?

The overflow of information generated during disasters can paralyze humanitarian response efforts just like lack of information does. Computers, mobile phones, social media, mainstream news, earth-based sensors, humanitarian drones and orbiting satellites generate vast volumes of data during major disasters. Making sense of this flash flood of information, “Big Data”, is proving an impossible challenge for traditional humanitarian organizations. To meet this challenge, QCRI’s Social Innovation Program partners directly with humanitarian organizations around the world to develop the next generation humanitarian technologies they need to make sense of “Big Data." Our humanitarian technologies are also directly applicable to a wide range of other social good initiatives, ranging from wildlife protection and election monitoring to building resilient societies and flying drones for good.

A list of our ongoing projects is available here. The video below also introduces some of our flagship technologies, which have also been featured in Science, New Scientist, Nature, Wired, Mashable, Tech Crunch, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, CNN, BBC, Forbes Magazine, Times Magazine, Reuters, UK Guardian, Al Jazeera and elsewhere.

Our Social Innovation Strategy

QCRI's Social Innovation Program currently focuses on four applied research tracks:

1) Social Good Doha: Applying social innovation locally for meaningful social impact

2) Humanitarian: Enabling humanitarian organizations to improve their relief efforts

3) Development: Supporting poverty-reduction strategies of development organizations

4) Resilience: Providing cities with the means to monitor city resilience in real-time

As an institute for advanced computing research, development and prototyping, our comparative advantage lies in Data Science, Big Data Analytics, Social Computing, Machine Learning, Computational Social Science, Machine Translation and Language Technologies. We thus approach social challenges through the lens of Human Computing (crowdsourcing, microtasking, etc) and Machine Computing (natural language processing, machine learning, etc). The purpose of our Social Innovation Program is to apply our world-class expertise to address and positively impact major challenges around the world.

We do this through extensive series of direct consultations with humanitarian, development and environmental organizations during which we jointly identify the most pressing challenges they are facing. This process is critical and takes time; it is not rushed. A careful approach to identifying, scoping and defining the applied research agenda is imperative. The process is one of co-creation. With the agenda jointly defined, QCRI forms a dedicated Solution Team for the given research questions, selecting advanced computing experts from across our research groups including Big Data Analytics, Social Computing and Language technologies.

The Solution Team carries out the applied research & development (R&D) and prototyping through a series of well-defined phases. The first phase of our social innovation process seeks to answer the research questions jointly formulated with our partners. The findings from this phase serve as proof of concept and thus inform the second phase of our work--namely the development of a prototype. The third phase entails the piloting and co-deployment of this prototype with our partners. The results are then used to develop more robust and targeted platforms; this completes phase four. The fifth and final phase involves the spin-off and scaling of the platform through strategic partnerships. All prototypes and platforms developed for Social Innovation purposes are free and open source.

  • To learn more about our projects, click here.

For more information, contact Dr. Patrick Meier, QCRI's Director of Social Innovation, at, send him a tweet @patrickmeier or follow his blog iRevolutions.  You can also contact Heather Leson, Program Manager of Social Innovation, at, or tweet her @heatherleson.   Other great people on the Social Innovation team to contact are:

Dr. Carlos Castillo, Senior Scientist,, @ChaToX
Ji Lucas, Senior Software Engineer,, @jikimlucas
Dr. Koushik Sinha, Senior Software Engineer
Dr. Muhammad Imran, Scientist,, @mimran15
Dr. Sarah Vieweg, Scientist,, @velofemme

For technical or informational questions, please send an email to QCRI Careers with the name of the group to whom you’re directing your question, e.g. ALT, CS&E, Cyber Security, Data Analytics, Distributed Systems or Social Computing, in the subject line.

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