Islands of Innovation in Protracted Crises: A New Approach to Building Equitable Resilience from Below

In Africa, remote borderland regions are commonly the site of protracted humanitarian crises. These places are formidable “islands of innovation”, where local initiative and skills are combined to generate innovative adaptive responses through multiple shocks.

How do these individual and community forms of resilience develop? What is the impact of such learning processes in relation to equity? Can these ‘islands of innovation’ provide the basis for broader structural transformation?

This research project will seek to answer these questions through studying various communities that have successively experienced conflict, natural hazards and epidemics in Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Studying these bottom-up approaches to resilience will contribute to discussions on synergies and tensions between individual and collective forms of resilience in humanitarian situations. This research will build capacity for researchers to capture these bottom-up processes through a new interdisciplinary methodology relying on social sciences, arts and humanities. By empowering survivors, this project will propose a new approach to humanitarian responses to protracted crises through local voices and long-term social learning.

The project is a consortium of: the Institute of Development Studies; two partner organisations in DRC – the Centre d’etude et de promotion en interventions socio-economiques (CEPRISE) and Institut National des Arts (INA) and two partner organisations in  Côte d Ivoire – The Laboratoire de Sociologie Economique et d’Anthropologie des Appartenances Symboliques (LAASSE) and the Unité de Formation et de Recherche en Information, Communication et Arts (UFRICA) at the University  Houphouët-Boigny.

If you would like more information on this project, please follow the project’s blog sites Ivoiroland at and RD Congo Résiliences et Résistances at


Watch the full documentary from this project ‘We’re Staying Here’, directed by Mariam Doumbouya.

Project details

start date
14 November 2019
end date
13 November 2023


About this project

Programmes and centres
Humanitarian Learning Centre


Recent work


Are we in the age of the polycrisis?

Last week, as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund Islands of Innovation in Protracted Crises project, a workshop organised by Professor Jeremy Allouche, Dr. Shilpi Srivastava and Dr. Megan Schmidt-Sane brought together philosophers, sociologists, political scientists, political...

31 October 2023


Pandemics and the paradoxes of life stories in Kikwit

Local communities in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of the Congo, have long endured the ravages of local ravines, without government assistance. Their political marginalisation and distrust of the central government mean that state-led Covid-19 pandemic response are failing in the area. The...

13 April 2022

Working Paper

Vernacular Resilience: An Approach to Studying Long-Term Social Practices and Cultural Repertoires of Resilience in Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo

This working paper aims to situate our research project within the various debates around resilience. It advocates a historical, cultural and plural approach to understanding how communities develop and share resilient practices in contexts of multiple and protracted crises. A focus on...

14 May 2021