Centre for Social Impact Swinburne

Reimagining humanitarian action in a digital world

Humanitarianism is changing in the 21st century, with corresponding developments in the meaning of humanitarian action and emerging challenges for humanitarian organisations and institutions.

To help develop innovative responses to these challenges, a strategic partnership was forged in 2017 between the Australian Red Cross and the Social Innovation Research Institute (SIRI), including Centre for Social Impact researchers. Initiated and co-led by Professor Jane Farmer, Director of SIRI, Panayiota Romios, Amanda Robinson, and Ebony Gaylor of the Red Cross’ Strategy, Social Innovation, and Mobilisation and Social Change teams, this partnership has generated a number of interlocking basic and applied research projects. These projects shed light on the meaning and measurement of voluntary humanitarian behaviour in a digital world.

Taken as a whole, these projects have clarified the nature and drivers of humanitarian behaviours in complicated, complex and chaotic humanitarian contexts, mapped social media hotspots of humanitarian activity, and generated a new typology of voluntary humanitarian behaviour. This typology delineates well-known forms of charity-mediated voluntary humanitarian behaviour, such as volunteering and charitable and philanthropic giving, from the types of leading and organising activities that individuals and groups enact independently of formal humanitarian organisations.

SIRI’s latest research project draws all these research stands together in a project to identify and map the range of voluntary humanitarian behaviours enacted in response to the bushfires.