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EU Madad Labs - Collaboration and Innovation for the region’s future

The context

The EU Madad Innovation Labs (“Labs”) are part of a growing number of innovation labs, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to jointly learn and develop innovative solutions to local challenges in the context of the Syrian and Iraqi crises. The Labs seek to provide a platform for exchanging experiences, learning participatory techniques, and developing innovative approaches (prototypes) to strengthen the resilience of refugees/IDPs and host communities. Each Lab round addresses a different guiding question related to sectors such as education, skills development, social cohesion and local administration or address cross-cutting issues like gender, disability, and protection.

Programme name

Qudra – Resilience for Syrian refugees, IDPs and host communities in response to the Syrian and Iraqi crises

Commissioned by

German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Co-funded by

EU (Madad Trust Fund)


Jordan, Lebanon, North Iraq, Turkey

Implementing partners

GIZ in cooperation with AECID, EF and HIA


June 2016 to June 2019


Total: EUR 82.4 million (EUR 7.8 million from the BMZ; EUR 74.6 million from the EU)

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The Labs have been devised as a key element of the Qudra Programme, which works on the link between humanitarian relief and development in Jordan, Lebanon, North Iraq/KRI and Turkey. The Labs are part of Specific Objective 5 (SO5) and provide a safe space for experimental learning for and by stakeholders, partners and beneficiaries of the Qudra Programme, of which the outcomes can feed back into other Qudra Modules. Depending on the topical focus, representatives of other Modules and their partners will be integrated in the ML round in order to capitalize on synergies and the diverse input of the lab participants. Importantly, SO5 aims at establishing platforms for dialogue and exchange in order to give a voice to refugees, members of host communities and IDPs through the Labs.

Lab Objectives

  • To create a safe space for dialogue and learning for the participants

Lab participants are guided through individual and collective learning processes, and are encouraged to share their learning experiences with others as multipliers (peers, employers, indirect beneficiaries). Participants are strengthening their self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and team building abilities in a horizontal learning community. Furthermore, they gain topical knowledge through lessons from the field and on national and regional collaboration across (local) governments, NGOs, the private sector, the donor community, and refugee, IDP and host communities. Finally, they are trained in innovative design thinking methods.

  • To foster and facilitate sustainable innovation

Building on the design thinking training and on the new insights gained on the nature, sensitivities, and needs of the identified challenges, participants will jointly develop innovative solutions and approaches and implement these as prototypes. In this iterative process, thinking outside of the box and being experimental is highly encouraged. The Madad Lab Innovation Fund allows participants to take their ideas beyond theoretical design, and facilitates the testing and adapting of the prototypes. Due to the bottom-up approach of identifying challenges and solutions, the prototypes will have full local ownership and carry the potential to live beyond the end of the Qudra Programme.

Target groups

Target groups for the Labs are representatives of stakeholders from partner countries (e.g., government ministries and agencies, local administrations, NGOs) and members of host communities and refugees/IDPs. Depending on the topical focus and lessons learned, the composition of the participants (up to 10 per country) may differ per Lab Rounds. This flexibility makes it possible to include a variety of stakeholders, ranging from senior CSO representatives to youth from the refugee and host communities, and adapt to their specific needs and potential.

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How do the Labs work?

The design of the Labs has benefitted greatly from work on other lab and leadership programmes, such as Global Leadership Academy and other GIZ learning programmes, as well as the UNICEF innovation labs. During the Qudra Programme, at least four Lab Rounds will take place, each focusing on a different guiding question. As one objective, it is expected that at the end of the Qudra Programme, 20-25 change agents are identified and better equipped to significantly contribute to take a leading role in strengthening their local communities. The first (pilot) Round took place from January to November 2017, but, incorporating the lessons learned, future Lab Rounds will take place over the course of approximately 4 month only.

Each Lab Round consists of a mixture of national and regional workshops. The round starts with stakeholder workshops in each of the participating countries at which the concept of the Lab Round and its guiding question are fine-tuned and decided upon. The guiding question for the first Lab Round was “How can we improve the skills development measures for youth amongst Syrian refugees, host communities and IDPs?” The second Lab Round will be guided by the question how to support young people to solve problems in their communities with digital innovations.

Watch the video on "How does it work?"


The labs provide safe spaces where ideas and potential solutions are developed and tested through innovative participatory techniques such as open spaces, scenario planning, and design thinking, facilitated by experts in their field. Design Thinking is a methodology that is being used by the most progressive companies around the world as an innovation tool; it essentially demystifies innovation and turns it into a process, anyone from any background and anywhere can learn to innovate consistently.

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The participants form groups within their country, ideally composed from a variety of stakeholder and beneficiary groups. These groups will learn and work through a sequence of workshops and meetings, develop their prototype, while being exposed to regional learning experiences and exchange with the other national groups. The group work during and between the workshops is facilitated by experienced moderators. In a final workshop, the prototypes are presented, as they are a key element of each Lab Round.

While being developed, the prototypes are cross-checked by sectoral experts to ensure that they are technically sound, relevant and quickly implementable. Scalability of prototypes is welcome, but not a must, as the exercise encourages risk-taking, experimentation and thinking (and doing) outside of the box. A Madad Lab Innovation Fund has been set up from Qudra Programme resources to finance the implementation of those prototypes that have scored well with amounts of up EUR 10,000. Implementation can be supported by further facilitation and technical assistance by Qudra’s or external experts, if requested.

© Qudra Programme
© Qudra Programme

The prototypes that were developed in the first Madad Round include, but are not limited to, an online portal for demand driven job matching (North Iraq/KRI), a multi-step platform to increase the access to personalized services to Syrian refugees (Lebanon), and a trainings system for both employees and HR departments in order to improve employment and retention rates among youth and women in labor intensive sectors (Jordan).