Solferino Academy

A Year In Review

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The IFRC Solferino Academy supports the network of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies on their transformation journeys as outlined in Strategy 2030.

The Academy particularly aims at promoting innovation; convening new thinking and dialogue on complex contemporary and future challenges and; supporting leaders who are driving transformational change in their National Societies.

We have learned a lot this year in pursuit of these goals, some things went well and some not so well. Read on below to see what happened.

Shaun Hazeldine, Head of the Solferino Academy

A message from the President of The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent

A dialogue about transformation

We try to engage the network in dialogue and stories of transformation, innovation and change

Justin Park — Communication & Innovation Intern

From solferinoacademy.com you will find innovation stories, leadership voices and other thought pieces, curated selection of events and much more.

We received over 500,000 views on our combined platforms from 216 countries. This includes 20,000 views per month on our solferinoacademy.com website, largely an internal audience with a trend that showed they were more likely to stay longer on the website and to visit repeatedly.

We also grew to over 70,000 followers and participants in our social media channels where all the content is produced by the network of staff and volunteers. Their content was very popular across the network, including 200,000 views on our Youtube and Vimeo channels.

Hamza HamwieDigital engagement

We tried to promote language inclusivity: most of our content was published in the 4 official languages of English, Spanish, French and Arabic, but we also added other languages for specific initiatives, including Persian, Bahasa Indonesia, Turkish, Hindi, Swahili, Chinese (Mandarin), Russian, Bengali, Korean and Japanese.

The power and increasing ubiquity of digital technologies enable opportunities to promote global collaboration in ways that we have never seen before. In 2022 we will continue to focus on creative ways to bring people together to mobilise around global threats that affect us all. 

Promotional video

The power of local innovators

We believe in the power of local innovators to drive sustainable change

For the Limitless program, our partner Monash University Action Lab developed an innovative and inclusive platform that functioned in low bandwidth in 17 languages and autonomously produced, polished and (with manual moderation) published the application videos submitted by young people through it. The platform was highly popular with over 36,000 views from 11,000 users.

We received over 700 applications, and selected 334 ideas from 63 different countries.

Participants are now being provided additional training and seed funding to help implement their ideas. They will submit results in early 2022.

Here you can watch the Limitless videos, telling stories of Covid-19 impacts around the world but also of the passion of young people across our network. It is clear these videos have struck a chord with the network, amassing 190,000 views and thousands of supportive comments including;

“Thanks for raising such (a) pain point for our vulnerable, stuck people. Many of our families are collapsing due to limited medical access. But having such innovations implemented in our community, it will increase our community life span”

“Thanks for raising the voices of voiceless vulnerables… this country needs more  of your kind… Blessings!”

 “This is such a perfect strategy and can easily be applied thanks for those innovative ideas people like you will change this world into a better place” 

Henry Cáceres — Global Innovation Officer

It is our hope that this process excites others to promote local innovators and young people’s ideas and to offer support to their development. We also hope that this will encourage more youth to come forward with new ideas.

Leaders to Transform

We believe in the Power of our leaders to transform humanitarian work in the 21st century

We set up a series of in-depth creative problem solving approaches with Senior Leaders; 

Gintare Guzeviciute — Senior Advisor Leadership and Transformation

We hosted a series of large think tanks for senior leaders on youth innovation, digital transformation and on the subjects of climate change, pandemics and localisation during the Planet Red event. On average around 100 Secretary Generals, Presidents and other senior leaders from National Societies attended these.

We will continue these conversations in 2022. The biggest challenge for us remains in how these dynamic dialogues can unlock concrete and transformative actions within National Societies and how we can deepen our support for leaders.

Innovation Opportunities

Given the Digital Transformation and innovation opportunities presented through COVID 19 we invested in accelerating these areas

We staged the IFRC’s first ever digital and data week. With 4,000 registered from 130 countries it was one of the largest meetings ever held in the IFRC network.

The agenda was crowdsourced from the network. We learned there is a huge appetite for learning on digital and data. In almost 150 workshops, people connected with each other to share skills, experiences, ideas and projects. 

With so many workshops being held it was a challenge to ensure participants for all of them, while overall participation numbers were high some struggled with lower numbers, though this experience occurs also in face to face conferences.

We also developed an IFRC Data Playbook, due to be released in January 2022. The Data playbook is a social learning project designed to co-create network-centric resources. 

It is a recipe book with examples, best practices, scenarios, session plans, training materials, slidedecks, and handouts to guide teams on their data literacy journey. It tackles issues such as responsible data use, emerging technology, data for decision-making and more.  

200 + contributors helped create 120+ pieces of content across 10 modules, across regions, languages. The Data Playbook version 1 will launch in Q1 2022. 

We also played a co-lead role in developing the IFRC Digital Transformation Strategy which was launched in 2021.

Collaborating across the network with shared leadership models can be a transformation in itself. We have seen how distributed networks can apply open methods to innovate and develop new products and approaches. However the digital divide still excludes many and we have to keep exploring new ways to work together that addresses this” 


Heather LesonDigital Innovation Lead, Solferino Academy

Future Leaders

We see a special role for future leaders alongside our current investments in senior leadership.

In 2021 we launched our leadership pilot programme for emerging leaders from the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement: FutureFellows.

We want to help emerging leaders to tap into their vision, creativity, institutional support, courage and energy to drive transformation in our organisation. We also believe it is important that our network identifies high potential people and invests in them.

From more than 200 applications we selected 28 fellows from 28 National Societies. These 28 fellows, volunteers and staff, worked in five teams throughout the 8-month programme, each team supported by two coaches. 

Watch the video to learn more

Annemarie Poorterman — Head engagement and design

The power of digital technologies enables us to bring together more diverse people from all levels of the Movement across the world.

We believe this is critical to helping people connect, learn and to collaborate.

Promotional video (available in four languages)


The Power of Many

From October 12 to 14, 2021, Planet:Red was organised (virtually on planetredsummit.com) together by the ICRC and IFRC in order to support Movement collaboration on two pressing humanitarian issues: Climate Change and Pandemics/Epidemics, and to share our experience and showcase the power of local action to drive global impact.

Tanmoy BiswasVirtual Events Manager

“….it was so uplifting! Gave me so many wonderful ideas inspired by the talks and dialogues. I only wish I could have stayed up for 24 hrs each day to hear them all… I am so happy most were recorded so I can listen to ones that I missed.”

National Society Participant

“Volunteers from my National Society organised a workshop, it was amazing they could do this and they got so many connections with others from around the world with it”

National Society Participant

General event data

Event webpage views


Unique visitors




Event registrants


Average daily participants


Snapshot of the summit agenda

Promotional video (available in four languages)

Logotype from the game


Can you solve the Mystery?

In support of the Planet:Red Summit, we also played Code:Red. It was a week-long, digital alternate reality game around the climate crisis, taking place across the internet and across the globe. During the game, around 780 players came together on an online forum, sharing over 1,100 messages in order to crack codes, solve puzzles and reveal the mystery at the heart of this innovative game. 

Yann le Floc’h — Art Director

Code:Red was developed in collaboration with our long-term partner OpenLab, Newcastle University. Read more about the game here.

Promotional video (available in four languages)


Virtual tour

Destination innovation!


Mirva Helenius — Global Communications Lead

Solferino Air Virtual Tour concept provides National Societies an innovative and exciting platform to globally showcase their local work as drivers of change, and to let their leadership, staff and volunteers explain their transformative approaches to invoke discussion and inspire others. At the same time, it’s a new and fascinating way for the participants to learn about and experience various places where and ways how innovation, change and transformation happens within the RCRC network. We will organise the next Virtual Tour in 2022.

You can watch the first Solferino Air Virtual Tour here. Note that the recording is only available in original languages.

Promotional video, “save the date!”

“So flying around the globe can still be innovative 😉 Excellent journey!!! Million thanks to the entire organising team – you are our pride.”



“Absolutely in love with this entire tour and how beautifully it has been arranged. A top-of-my-lungs shout out to Team Solferino Air ❤❤❤”


“Loved this flight and love that this will hopefully be the first flight of many for Solferino Air.”


“We are extremely proud to showcase our work to the network in such a cool and innovative way, the support from the Solferino team was beyond any expectations – and most importantly, we had so much fun!”

Host NS team member

Futures and Foresight

We believe that by better understanding trends and potential future risks and opportunities, we can better use foresight to strengthen our work

“Shifting Sands is a new initiative which helps the IFRC Network engage with an uncertain future. By building a network of fringe thinkers, futurists, innovators, and leaders from around the world, we will help National Societies uncover new opportunities for action.”

Ben Holt, Strategic Foresight Lead

This year, the Solferino Academy built a team to design and deliver Shifting Sands. We partnered with the British Red Cross and the Kenyan Red Cross to recruit two Futures and Foresights professionals.

Two parts of the Shifting Sands have been launched in 2021.

Hourglass and Future Routes

Patricia Mugenzi — Coordinator, Strategic Foresight

We conduct Innovation experiments ourselves to catalyse new approaches

To explore the value of collective intelligence in humanitarian crisis settings, The IFRC Solferino Academy launched an innovation partnership with Nesta UK and the United Kingdom Humanitarian Innovation Hub. 

We are able to support two National Societies, Nepal and Cameroon, to run pilots linking artificial intelligence with community engagement practices. 

Laurent Fernandez — Digital Innovation & Information Management

Teams in Nepal and Cameroon are testing the solutions with volunteers and communities. We hope that this project not only brings knowledge and experience to both National Societies, but also generates useful insights for the rest of the RCRC Network. Project evaluations will be shared.


This year we benefited from a wide variety of partners who bring skills and expertise in specialist areas that we don’t have, but who share common visions and goals for the world.

These included

  • Our Major Partner in the Solferino Academy –  Italian Red Cross

Other Key Partners

  • Norwegian Red Cross 
  • Open Lab at Newcastle University UK
  • Action IT at Monash University Australia
  • Red Cross Society of China
  • Kenyan Red Cross
  • Finnish Red Cross
  • British Red Cross
  • DNV 
  • 510 at Netherlands Red Cross
  • French Red Cross
  • American Red Cross
  • Cameroon Red Cross
  • Nepal Red Cross Society
  • ThinkPlace
  • Nesta

Lorenzo Trova — Officer Amministrazione e Finanza

Thanks Ever So Much!

Our Team

Shaun Hazeldine

Head of The Solferino Academy

Annemarie Poorterman

Head engagement and design

Lorenzo Trova

Officer Amministrazione e Finanza

Heather Marie Leson

Digital Innovation Lead

Mirva Helenius

Global Communications Lead

Gintare Guzeviciute

Senior Advisor Leadership and Transformation

Laurent Fernandez

Digital Innovation & Information Management

Ben Holt

Strategic Foresight Lead

Tanmoy Biswas

Event Manager

Yann le Floc'h

Art Director

Safia Verjee

Youth Innovation Advisor

Patricia Mugenzi

Coordinator, Strategic Foresight

Justin Park

Communication & Innovation Intern

Henry Cáceres

Global Innovation Officer

Hamza Hamwie

Digital Engagement

© IFRC | Solferino Academy — 2021