Technology for Impact: Year 4

Two people talking while using a caomputer.

Mercy Corps & Cisco

The Technology for Impact partnership is a 5-year collaboration between Mercy Corps and Cisco. Cisco has given the Mercy Corps Technology for Development team (T4D) $8.5 million in funding and $1.5 million in product and technical expertise to support seven specific initiatives to unlock new possibilities and reach more people through the power of technology. Our combined vision is to work toward a world of digital inclusion and opportunity where the ethical use of technology empowers secure, productive and just communities.

Featuring stories from the Mercy Corps’ global team, this year’s Annual Impact Report focuses on Technology for Impact’s engagement with programme participants, Mercy Corps staff, and the humanitarian community across four themes: Impact, Innovation, Influence, and Implementation.

Technology for Impact: Global Reach

To date the Technology for Impact partnership has reached 44 countries with 82 different tech-enabled interventions. Together we’ve reached more than 9.4 million participants with activities like digital information services, WiFi access, digital cash and voucher assistance, and more.

A map of the world showcasing counties that have been home to technology for impact initiatives.
  • 32,855

    people in Kabul, Afghanistan provided input on solutions for their communities through digital civic engagement online and offline.
  • 118,000

    Individuals in Puerto Rico were reached with critical and targeted COVID-19 related public health information to dispel rumors about the virus that were pervasive on social media.
  • 280,000

    people were reached by Mercy Corps’ Digital Cash and Voucher Assistance programming with over $8.7 million of assistance.

Amplifying Our Impact

Digital transformation from within

The Technology for Impact partnership with Cisco gives us an opportunity to look at the impact of technology on our entire organisation, revealing a much bigger picture that affects all of our programming around the world.

Over the past four years, integrating technology into our programming has transformed the way our teams work — and the way we work together. Team members that were once wary of change are now excited about the transformative potential of technology. Time previously spent on manual processes can now be spent on problem solving and innovation. Individual successes can be more easily replicated in new contexts. As an organisation, we’ve learned, grown and continue to evolve, with technology driving us forward.

An infographic indicating the benefits of centrally managed systems and data.
A diagram of Mercy Corps’ Digital Transformation Approach.

Fueling Innovation

Applying proven methods to new challenges

A small group of people stand together talking.
Mercy Corps Nigeria’s Gaskiya pilot programme to counter rumors, mis- and disinformation about the coronavirus provided valuable evidence and experience in community listening and responsive information.

It’s tempting to see innovation as a process of creating something new—a new device, or app or platform. But there’s more to it than that. Innovation is also about finding new ways to use existing solutions, or about seeing a problem through an unexpected lens.

When the COVID‑19 pandemic hit, humanitarian aid and development organisations were challenged to keep crucial programming going while also supporting vulnerable communities through a massive global health crisis. For Mercy Corps, that meant tapping into community engagement systems we already had in place, and replicating approaches we knew had the power to counter dangerous mis- and disinformation with crucial, credible facts.

I managed to get a whole family vaccinated. The piece [called] ‘Vaccine risks and benefits vs COVID-19 risks’ was key.

Community leader, Puerto Rico

Growing our Influence

Leading a tech-driven approach to humanitarian aid

As Mercy Corps teams have learned, experimented, and piloted new solutions and programs with support from Cisco, we’ve shared what we’ve learned with the broader humanitarian community. That means sharing information, inviting other organisations to collaborate, and making tools and solutions we’ve developed available for others to use.

In this way, we’ve been able to lead the way toward a tech-driven approach to humanitarian aid, applying technology to better understand what communities need and when they need it most, tapping into the power of data to make better decisions, and informing government policy and investment to make life better for people in communities facing poverty, conflict, economic instability, natural disaster and extreme hardship. One example of this is the Mercy Corps Timor-Leste team working with the nation’s government and the private service provider Similie to lay the groundwork for a national early warning system using hydro-meteorological data and artificial intelligence (AI).

As climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, this technology will become even more critical in assisting vulnerable households to prepare for disaster and minimize their losses.

Kirsten Mandala, Mercy Corps disaster risk reduction and climate change program manager

Tools Mercy Corps has developed and shared

Improving Systems and Processes

Pivoting and adapting to changing contexts

A person cooking.

Integrating technology into Mercy Corps programming is a learning experience every step of the way, from launching an initial pilot to assessing impact after a programme has been implemented. Everything we learn provides an opportunity to improve, as well as extend tools and processes to new and changing contexts.

COVID‑19 made adaptation a necessity to keep crucial programming in place despite the need to keep socially distant and in order to meet rapidly changing, urgent needs in fragile communities. Partnerships we’ve developed over the past several years have been integral in helping us make quick pivots and build on our experiences implementing specific programmes with broad potential.

An infographic of a framework for understanding risks and resilience of social media and conflict.
In close collaboration with the Peace and Conflict team, the Technology for Development team has continued to expand and build on our approach to digital peacebuilding and addressing the weaponisation of social media.

Over the past four years, Mercy Corps has shown how the use of technology in humanitarian and development programmes enables faster and more effective responses, creating the opportunity to reach more people.

Tae Yoo, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Social Responsibility, Cisco

Thank You, Cisco

In the 4+ years of working together, partnership activities have become part of the foundation of the organization — from tech-enabled programs to digital data collection to advanced analytics of primary and secondary data about the contexts in which we work. Technology for Impact has irreversibly changed how Mercy Corps operates, and we are enormously grateful for Cisco’s invaluable collaboration in that transformation. This project has been made possible in part by a grant from the Cisco Fund, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Read our full Year 4 Annual Impact Report