H2H Network at GeONG 2022: “Do no harm” in the era of environmental emergency


How can humanitarian data and information management organisations contribute to solutions for the environmental crisis - while leaving a smaller environmental footprint?

This was explored during the 8th humanitarian and development data forum, GeONG, one of the largest forums of its kind. This year, more than 150 organisations and 50 countries were represented in Chambéry, France and online.

Organised by H2H Network member CartONG, the forum addressed issues related to data in the humanitarian and development sectors, including mapping, GIS, data collection, data processing, and information management. The theme of the year was “do no harm” in the era of environmental emergency: revisiting information management in the aid sector.

The H2H Network includes many agencies specialising in data, information management and analysis; the event provided a platform for members to share their expertise and discuss common challenges and solutions. Participants included HQAI, iMMAP, REACH Initiative, MapAction, ACAPS, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, REACH Initiative, Groupe URD, Data Friendly Space, Ground Truth Solution and Atlas Logistique.

In the keynote of the forum’s opening session, H2H Network member ACAPS’ Director, Lars Peter Nissen, captured what differentiates the organisations gathered at the forum from other tech, data and information management actors:

In one way or another, all of us here are engaged in enhancing the ‘agency’ of crisis affected populations through the use of data and tech. Our main purpose is to provide more choices and freedom to highly marginalized people with no choices, not technology itself.”

He further explained that to provide this support with a minimal environmental footprint, we must see ourselves as a community and avoid being carried away by the fascination of technology or collecting unnecessary data.

From this starting point, the forum explored how the community of humanitarian data and information management organisations could contribute to the response to the environmental emergency. This was done through workshops, roundtables, ‘speed geeking,’ and a ‘fail fest’ where failures were shared to promote an exchange of lessons learned within the sector.


During one session, Pierre Gallien, Director of Innovation, Impact and Information at Humanity and Inclusion, raised a question relevant to the H2H Network;

To what extent should we rely on specialised NGOs serving other humanitarian actors and the wider aid system as solutions to the environmental crisis – and to what extent should we rely on operational agencies?”

A potential answer was provided in the presentation of the report ‘Climate Change and Humanitarian Action, 2021’, by H2H Network member Group URD and produced by the ADAPT Initiative. The report considers the relationship between climate change and humanitarian action, asks how climate change will affect humanitarian needs, proposing changes to improve readiness and response capacities. In calling for a shift to local leadership, new types of partnership, and new tools, the findings of the report speak directly to the H2H concept, with many H2H Network members developing innovative services and creating innovative solutions through partnerships at the edge of the system.

During the forum, H2H Network members came together to discuss how they can better support the decision-making opportunities for solutions in this area, solutions that came up include:

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There is, of course, no miracle solution but the forum provided a platform to further stimulate ideas around what the aid sector could and should do in this area. In the closing session, Maeve de France from CartONG concluded her key learnings from the event by saying:

We can start things at a small scale and get the ball rolling within our ‘industry’- which I see is our responsibility in the sector. We have to rationalise all our data systems and technology and take the time to think of what we really need, and get rid of what we do not need. Lastly, we will need to adapt – as the world is changing.”

Within the H2H Network, our model of service provision to the wider system plays a crucial role in increasing efficiency and reducing duplication. Even so, we must continue to explore how we adapt ourselves and support the broader system to develop solutions to the climate emergency, while reducing the environmental footprint of the data and technology used.