Humanitarian Encyclopedia

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia research project was launched in 2017 to bring greater clarity and meaning to the multiple concepts and phrases used in the humanitarian sector. The Humanitarian Encyclopedia is the product of humanitarian professionals and academics who identified a necessity to provide a common, clear language for use throughout all humanitarian responses. 

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia offers an inclusive online space for dialogue and promotes co-production of new knowledge to enhance collaboration in future humanitarian responses.

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia platform was launched in 2021, visit:

Staff involved

Prof Karl Blanchet

Prof Karl Blanchet

Designation: Director & Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva

Related to 4 course(s)

Alex Odlum

Alex Odlum

Designation: Research Coordinator, The Humanitarian Encyclopedia

Sian Bowen

Sian Bowen

Designation: Partnerships & Communications Manager

Joelle Gentile

Joelle Gentile

Designation: Administrative Manager


The Encyclopedia was conceived as a partnership project. Many emerging and traditional stakeholders from academia, humanitarian organisations, and humanitarian support groups have been approached to engage in identification of key terms and concept selection, co-creation and dissemination as well as governance of the project.

Academic scholars are involved in the analysis of concepts, based on theoretical expertise and field research and building on a shared systematic methodology. Partnerships will bring more opportunities for knowledge-sharing and visibility of research, particularly by actors in the South.

Humanitarian organisations actively take part by participating in field research projects, analysing the operationalization of the concepts by their own organisation. Comparative analysis among organisations will directly benefit both the organisations and the Humanitarian Encyclopedia.

Governments can benefit from the Encyclopedia analyses to inform humanitarian policy, while donors more broadly, public and private, can increase aid effectiveness through their support to this innovative project financially.

Complementary to other initiatives

It is essential for the Encyclopedia to interact effectively with the entire humanitarian ecosystem creating synergies as relevant. Many valuable initiatives are seeking to strengthen the sector, especially its impact and efficiency in the context of a growing diversity of actors. The aim is to Building on the strengths of other initiatives, such as ALNAP, ACAPS, CHS Alliance, the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, PHAP, Sphere will avoid overlap and ensure complementarity.

With the generous support of the Government of Switzerland, the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and the Loterie Romande (Switzerland), the Humanitarian Encyclopedia has paved the way for success in the coming four years and beyond. To date, donor support has enabled the key phases of defining the structure and research approach of the project through extensive consultation, the set up and analysis of a database of nearly 2,600 humanitarian organizations, a survey of 1,450 humanitarian professionals, and the initial phases of the online platform.


Visit our Concepts section and our Library.

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