Innovation as an Enabler of Humanitarian NGO’s Performance: A Review of Literature


  • Rotuno Kipsang Catholic University of Eastern Africa
  • Susan Wasike Catholic University of Eastern Africa


Innovation is already and irreversibly part of the humanitarian organisations, driven by a demand for new models, growing private sector engagement, rapid technological change, need for better, faster, efficient and effective ways of assisting vulnerable communities. Donors and governments are demanding for ‘value for money’ for their contributions made through NGOs, The biggest risk is for NGOs not to innovate. Humanitarian NGO performance on the other hand remains an area that has received low interest to researchers and scholars, the situation has not been made better by the different opinions as to how to define and measure performance therefore the need to have clear empirical corroboration of NGO performance. The impact of innovations on performance of profit making organizations has received much attention to researchers, however from empirical studies on innovation as an enabler of Humanitarian NGO performance remains scarce. This paper attempts to review related literature on the subject with a view of highlighting it as an emergent agenda for more scholarly engagement. The review highlights theories underpinning innovation and performance, mentions some types of innovations and definition of performance from the humanitarian non-governmental organizations perspective and finally highlighting gaps in theoretical and empirical literature for further research on the topic.

Keywords: Product Innovation, Process Innovation, NGO’s & Performance.

Author Biographies

Rotuno Kipsang, Catholic University of Eastern Africa

PhD Student, Catholic University of Eastern Africa

Susan Wasike, Catholic University of Eastern Africa

Lecturer, Catholic University of Eastern Africa


Abdel-Kader M, and Wadongo B, (2011). Performance Management in NGOs: Evidence from Kenya.

Aliasghar, O., Rose, E. L., & Chetty, S. (2019). Where to search for process innovations? The mediating role of absorptive capacity and its impact on process innovation. Industrial Marketing Management, 82, 199-212.

Bakewell O, and Garbutt A (2015). The use and abuse of the logical framework approach. A Review of International Development NGOs‟ Experiences. A report for Sida

Baregheh, A. Rowley, J and Sambrook, S. (2019). Towards a Multidisciplinary Definition of Innovation. Management Decision, 47(8), 1323-39.

Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99-120. doi: 10.1177/014920639101700108.

Becheikh, N., Landry, R., & Amara, N. (2016). Lessons from innovation empirical studies in the manufacturing sector: A systematic review of the literature from 1993–2013. Technovation, 26(5-6), 644-664.

Bengtsson, L. et al (2011). Improved Response to Disasters and Outbreaks by Tracking Population Movements with Mobile Phone Network Data – A Post Earthquake Geospatial Study in Haiti – PLOS Medicine Journal.; jsessionid=BA6AEC2DC467EFD46AC4488256A1829 ambra02

Bessant J, Tidd J. 2017. Innovation and Entrepreneurship. John Wiley: Chichester, UK.

Betts, A., & Bloom, L. (2014). Humanitarian Innovation: The State of the Art. Vol. November2014, 009. OCHA POLICY AND STUDIES SERIES. Retrieved from

Bill, James A., and Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr. 1981. Comparative Politics: The Quest for Theory. Washington, DC: Bell & Howell, University Press of America

Campbell, J. L. (2017). Why would corporations behave in socially responsible ways? An institutional theory of corporate social responsibility. Academy of management Review, 32(3), 946-967.

Chesbrough, H. (2010). Business model innovation: opportunities and barriers. Long Range Planning, 43(2), 354-363.

Crossan, M. M., & Apaydin, M. (2019). A Multi ‐ Dimensional framework of organizational innovation: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of Management Studies,47(6), 1154-1191.

Davenport, T. H. (1992). Process innovation: reengineering work through information technology: Harvard Business Press.

Drucker, P. F. (2016). Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Harper Business.

Edwards, M., & Hulme, D. (2016). Non-governmental organisations - performance and accountability. Beyond the magic bullet: NGO Performance and Accountability in the Post-Cold-War World. London and West Hartford: Earthscan/Save the Children Fund.

Eisenhardt, K. M. (1988). Agency-and institutional-theory explanations: The case of retail sales compensation. Academy of Management journal, 31(3), 488-511.

Fine, T., and Snyder, L. (2019). What is the difference between performance and benchmarking? Public Management, 81(1), pp. 24-25.

Gill, M., Flynn, R.J., and Reissing, E. (2015). The governance self-assessment checklist: An instrument for assessing board effectiveness. Nonprofit Management and Leadership,15(3), pp. 271-294.

GSMA, “Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation,” Annual Report February 2019. Available at:

Hage J. (1980). Theories of Organizations: Form, Process, and Transformation. New York: Wiley

Herman, R. D, and Renz, D.O. (2017). Multiple constituencies and the social construction of non-profit organization effectiveness. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 26(2), pp. 185-206.

Herman, R. D., and Renz, D. O. (2019). Theses on nonprofit organizational effectiveness. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 28(2), pp. 107-126.

Hodgson, Geoffrey M. 1994. “The return of institutional economics.” In The Handbook of Economic Sociology, 58-76, Neil J. Smelser and Richard Swedberg, ed. Princeton and New York: Princeton University Press and Russell Sage Foundation

Hogan, S. J., Soutar, G. N., McColl-Kennedy, J. R., & Sweeney, J. C. (2011). Reconceptualising professional service firm innovation capability: Scale development. Industrial Marketing Management, doi: 10.1016/j.indmarman.2011.10.002.

Johnson, M. W., Christensen, C. M., & Kagermann, H. (2008). Reinventing your business model. Harvard business review, 86(12), 57-68.

Kanter, R. M. (1988). When a Thousand Flowers Bloom: Structural, Collective, and Social Conditions for Innovation in Organization. Research in Organizational Behavior, Vol. 10:169 211.

Kareithi, RNM, Lund C. (2012). Review of NGO performance research published in academic journals between 1996 and 2008. S Afr J Sci. 2012;108(11/12), Art. #755, 8 pages. http:// v108i11/12.755

Keystone. (2008). Developing a theory of change. Retrieved from 115. Accessed June 2010.

Korten, D. C. (2010). Getting to the 21st century: Voluntary action and the global agenda (p. 2). West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press.

Kraaijenbrink, J., Spender, J. C., & Groen, A. J. (2010). The resource-based view: A review and assessment of its critiques. Journal of management, 36(1), 349-372. doi: 10.1177/0149206309350775.

Kyrgidou, L. P., & Spyropoulou, S. (2013). Drivers and performance outcomes of innovativeness: An empirical study. British Journal of Management, 24(3), 281-298. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2011.00803. x.

Leong, G.K., Snyder, D.L. and Ward, P.T. (2011), “Research in the process and content of manufacturing strategy”, OMEGA International Journal of Management Science, Vol.18 No. 2, pp. 109-22.

Lewis, D. (2010). Nongovernmental Organizations, Definition and History,” in Anheier, H.K., Toepler, S., eds., Encyclopaedia of Civil Society. 1st Edition. New York: Springer

Lewis, D., Kanji, N., & Themudo, N. S. (2020). Non-governmental organizations and development. Routledge.

Markard, J., & Truffer, B. (2018). Technological innovation systems and the multilevel perspective: Towards an integrated framework. Research Policy, 37(4), 596-615.

NGO Coordination Board (2010), Report on the National validation survey of NGOs in Kenya, Government Printers, Nairobi

Penrose, G. J. (1959). Competitive advantage: Creating and sustaining superior performance, with a new introduction. New York: Free Press.

Peters, B. G. (2011). Institutional theory in political science: The new institutionalism. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

Quintanilla, J (2012). When communication really matters: the experience of CDAC in Haiti[online] Available at: whencommunication-really-matters-the-experience-of-cdac-in-haiti

Ramalingam, B., Scriven, K., & Foley, C. (2019). Innovations in international humanitarian action. Overseas Development Institute.

Sahin, I. (2016). Detailed review of Rogers' diffusion of innovations theory and educational technology-related studies based on Rogers' theory. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology-TOJET, 5(2), 14-23.

Salamon L, Sokolowski, W. & Associates (2010), Global Civil Society: Dimensions of the Nonprofit Sector, Vol 4, Kumarian Press: Bloomfield, CT

Salamon, L (2013) “The Global Associational Revolution: The Rise of the Third Sector on the World Scene” Baltimore. Johns Hopkins University.

Schilling, M. A. (2015). Strategic management of technological innovation: Tata McGraw-HillEducation

Schumpeter, J. A. (1942). Capitalism, socialism, and democracy (2nd ed. ed.). New York: Harper

Schumpeter, J.A ((1911/1934)). The Theory of Economic Development. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, MA.

Scott, W. Richard (2011). Institutions and Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2nd ed

Terjesen, S., & Patel, P. C. (2017). In search of process innovations: The role of search depth, search breadth, and the industry environment. Journal of Management, 43(5), 1421-1446.

Terziovski, Mile. 2010. Innovation Practice and its Performance Implications in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the Manufacturing Sector: A Resource-Based View. Strategic Management Journal. 31 (8): pp. 892-902

Thompson, P. (2011). The trouble with HRM. Human Resource Management Journal, 21(4), 355-367.

Trott, P. (2015). Innovation Management and New Product Development, (3rd edition.). United Kingdom. Pearson Education, Inc.

UN (2010). Haiti: 6 Months after…’Availableat: after commemoration. Pdf

UN OCHA, “Global Humanitarian Overview 2018,” 2018, available at:

WFP (2015). A Value for Money Framework for WFP.

WFP (2016). Corporate Results Framework 2017-2022. Downloaded from 45.pdf

WFP (2016). Digital Innovation at the World Food Programme.

WFP (2016). Innovation at the World Food Programme. Policy Briefing Paper.

Willets P (2012) “What is a Non-Governmental Organization” Article in UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems.

World Bank (2011) World Bank (2012). Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile. Washington, DC: World Bank. DOI: 10.1596/978-08213-8991-1; website: License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0.

Wright, M., & Charlett, D. (2015). New product diffusion models in marketing: an assessment of two approaches. Marketing Bulletin, 6(4), 32-41.




How to Cite

Kipsang, R., & Wasike, S. (2021). Innovation as an Enabler of Humanitarian NGO’s Performance: A Review of Literature. Journal of Entrepreneurship & Project Management, 5(1), 64–80. Retrieved from