Humanitarian Geoanalytics Research and Education Program

The humanitarian sector is increasingly adopting geospatial data to better address population needs. support operations. However, the use of geographical data in the humanitarian arena—with the notable exception of the logistics sector—is predominantly in thematic map or simple descriptive format, thereby limiting the full insight and utility of geospatial information. The HHI Humanitarian Geoanalytics Research and Education (HumGeo) Program leverages the potential of geospatial data and analytics –including pattern analysis, geographically-weighted regression, optimization algorithms, and predictive modeling, to introduce new ways of thinking, identify targets for micro-planning and research, and optimize resource allocation for cost-effective programming. 

Our Mission

At HHI’s HumGeo Program our mission is to:

  • Increase the credibility and uptake of geoanalytics as a valuable tool in humanitarian research and response through the production of academic product and the cultivation of best practices.
  • Transform humanitarian research and programming through the practical, effective, and ethical application of spatial analytics.
  • Create a diverse portfolio of educational programs, including in-classroom modules, conference workshops and online content, to foster a new generation of humanitarians and researchers that value, understand and employ geoanalytic methodologies in humanitarian and global health spheres.
  • Provide geoanalytical services for organizations without in-house capacity for research, programmatic design, or M&E purposes.

Modus Operandi

The HumGeo Program intends to engage both academic and programmatic humanitarian communities through 1) research, 2) education, and 3) consultancy


Through rigorous research, the HumGeo Program is creating and testing geostatistical methodology that is relevant to humanitarian work, but emphasizes the impact on tangible, programmatic outcomes. While our geoanalytic methodology touches upon a wide range of inter-disciplinary domains that use spatial data –such as climate sciences, migration, conflict studies, public health, and critical geography—our primary focus lies in population-based, epidemiological study. 


As we evolve, the HumGeo Program will provide diverse educational offerings to both academic and programmatic humanitarian communities. Modules on geospatial analytics are currently incorporated into preexisting Harvard educational products, such as courses at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Humanitarian Academy at Harvard, HHI’s Remote Sensing for Humanitarian Programs Workshop, and the École des hautes études en santé publique in France.


The HumGeo Program will provide geospatial analytics capacity for humanitarian agencies that currently do not have internal capacity to analyze geospatial data. These contracts can range from short-term, post-hoc programmatic evaluations to longitudinal involvement in needs assessment, interventional design and monitoring and evaluation efforts.

Capacity and Partnerships

The HumGeo Program has the capacity to analyze spatial data from multiple sources, ranging from public-health datasets to remotely-sensed data, such as satellite and drone imagery. We have broad geostatistical capacity including: spatial variation and cluster analysis, spatial interpolation, geographically-weighted regression, geospatial optimization, network analysis, and multivariate analysis with population data.

To improve our capacity for data extraction, we work in close partnership with the Signal Program at HHI. HumGeo has employed spatial analytics for population estimation, sample frame creation, needs or risk assessment, micro-targeting and micro-planning of research and programs, index creation and validation, hypothesis testing, and predictive analytics.

The Humanitarian Geoanalytics Research and Education Program at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is a center for methodological expertise. While our content expertise lies in humanitarian aid, population health, and medicine, we are excited to partner with those involved in other geographically-relevant disciplines.


Erica Nelson MD, PhM
Co-Director, Humanitarian Geoanalytics Research and Education Programs