Humanity First

Humanity First

A prototype guiding ethical technology development.
 A space for our evolving work on the Humanity First concept. In seeking to work openly and iteratively, we are sharing these while it's still in development.


About Humanity First

The Humanity First prototype is being developed to support organisations and individuals working with technology on humanitarian challenges to investigate the consequences of their products or services, address risks, and engage people and communities as decision-makers in the design process. In its current form, the prototype involves three domains and nine principles, which are guided by the core humanitarian principle to ‘do no harm’.

Humanitech is undertaking this work in collaboration with stakeholders across sectors and communities. This includes social innovators, people with lived experience, technology developers, and humanitarian practitioners. The prototype integrates components of human-centred design, systems thinking, and principles of co-design - along with considerations of ethics, accessibility, and the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The next iteration of this work will look at moving from principles to practice, and co-creating a resource that can contribute to responsible, ethical and inclusive innovation in the humanitarian sector and beyond.

Further opportunities for individual or organisational input into the next iteration of the Humanity First prototype will be provided through a series of community consultations. More information about this can be found below.

Project Goals & Success Measures

What is the change we are trying to achieve?

  • Develop a resource for people working with technology on humanitarian challenges to support and guide its design, development and implementation. Building on the humanitarian imperative to ‘Do No Harm’, this resource will ensure technology is developed in ways that are responsible, ethical and inclusive.

  • The resource has been co-created with stakeholders across sectors, including meaningfully with people with lived experience.

  • Clear metrics exist as a part of the resource to determine the impact of a technological solution and whether it is responsible, ethical, and inclusive.

What are the gaps and unmet needs in existing frameworks? Are we clear on who we are designing for?

  • The unmet needs in existing frameworks are people working on humanitarian challenges with technology.

  • We are designing for humanitarians and people in the for-purpose sector.

What will allow us to say that we've reached our goal?

  • A developed resource/toolkit exists.

  • The resource is accessible to practitioners and people working with technology.

  • We have robust impact measurement process and a growing evidence base on how Humanity First has changed design or use of technology.

  • Co-creation is at the heart of our approach, and the resource is co-owned and co-created by diverse stakeholders.

The Current Prototype

Domains: community as HQ, move at the speed of trust, be a better ancestor

Domains have been developed based on years of collaborative research and experimentation to amplify the most incisive and resonant ideas of what it takes to pursue responsible, ethical and inclusive innovation. The terms are inspired by from: Robin Mays, who talked about putting community as the centre of decision-making in the 2020 Future of Vulnerability report; Kristin Alford, who spoke about the importance of taking things at the pace set by communities at the 2021 Humanitech Summit; and Bridgette Engeler, who challenged us to take a futures lens and leave a good legacy at the 2022 Humanitech Summit.





Do no harm

Guiding principle

Promote dignity, safety and trust in the design, use and regulation of technology. This means scrutinising ethical considerations throughout the lifecycle (by asking the hard questions), testing responsibly (by not experimenting with poorly understood tools on people and communities), and being transparent and realistic about the benefits and harms

Empower people and communities

Community as HQ

Recognise people and communities as experts and decision-makers, involving them in the design of technology products and strategies for their safe use from the outset.

Bring the right people in the room

Community as HQ

Provide access and build capacity for diverse voices and perspectives - especially those on the margins - to participate in decision-making.

Be inclusive

Community as HQ, Be a better ancestor

Ensure technological tools and solutions have broad, societal benefits and that these benefits are accessible to many.

Explore and create collectively

Community as HQ, Move at the speed of trust

Bring together stakeholders from different sectors, disciplines, and backgrounds in reciprocal partnerships to explore and develop common understandings and strategies around technology products or solutions.

Take time to understand the problem

Move at the speed of trust

Recognise the complexity of environments and relationships that humanitarian technology innovations are trying to intervene in and allow time to develop an understanding of the people, networks, cultures, politics, infrastructure and markets that technology product is targeting.

Protect data and privacy

Move at the speed of trust

Design technology products with respect for privacy rights and ensure the security of personal data. This is important for everyone, but especially when working with vulnerable people and communities.

Adapt, improve and share

Move at the speed of trust, Be a better ancestor 

Learn from what others have done, leverage it, adapt, and share insights (and capabilities) with others.

Sustainable for life

Be a better ancestor

Build sustainable products and solutions that can adapt as needs and contexts change.

Be alive to consequences

Be a better ancestor

Consider the present, future, intended, unintended, social and ecological impacts of technology products, and take steps to address the risks.


Opportunities to Contribute

Key dates (approximate):

  • Fortnight 5 December, 2022: Stakeholder testing of the principles

    • How you can contribute: We’d like to hear how these principles resonate with you and your own work at the intersection of humanitarian action and technology.

  • Fortnight 30 January, 2023: Ideation workshops

    • How you can contribute: We’ll be beginning to move from principles to practice, with a series of workshops with stakeholders imagining how possible tools or frameworks might enable this.

  • Fortnight 3 April, 2023: Stakeholder testing of the prototype

    • How you can contribute: At this point of the project, we are aiming to have the beginnings of a toolkit or approach defined, with some low fidelity (low fi) examples to test with our stakeholders to gain feedback, and continue refining ahead of presenting the work at our in-person Humanitech Summit in May.

  • 18 May, 2023: Humanitech Summit Day 2 workshops

    • How you can contribute: Join us in person at the State Library of Victoria as we present the prototype for a series of collaborative and interactive sessions to refine and finalise the Humanity First approach.

Become involved

Register your interest in community consultations.

Read the Humanity First press release

Australian Red Cross testing ‘Humanity First’ prototype to guide ethical technology development

Technology can help us tackle complex social challenges and empower communities. This prototype seeks to realise this potential by ensuring tools and systems are developed in ways that safeguard people’s rights and dignity.

Contact Us - For any questions or further information, please contact our project lead Sam Clifford.

Australian Red Cross 2023. ABN 50 169 561 394