Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

A global organisation that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation..
Our purpose is clear: we work in partnership with a global community of humanitarian actors, researchers and innovators to improve the quality of humanitarian action and deliver better outcomes for people affected by crises.
We empower the humanitarian community. Find out how we can support you...
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It is my great pleasure to introduce Elrha’s Annual Report for 2018 – our first as an independent charity. Here you’ll find out specifically what we do, and the change we want to see; discover ten ‘stories’ that showcase the best of our work over the past ten years; take a look at how we spend our money, and where it comes from; and learn about our ambitious direction for the next five years.

I have followed Elrha’s progress closely since it was first established in 2009. From the beginning, Elrha has proactively brokered and nurtured partnerships between humanitarians and researchers to improve the quality of research and innovation to support evidence-based improvements in humanitarian response. We’ve consistently used this approach in the management of our ground-breaking Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) and world-class Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) programme. Drawing on our ten years of experience, we are uniquely positioned to equip humanitarian responders with knowledge of what works, through tools and guidance, so that people affected by crises get the right help when they need it most. We develop and foster networks and strategic partnerships to harness the global expertise needed to help us collaboratively drive and advocate for crucial transformative change in the humanitarian system.

2018 was a very busy year. We supported 122 live research and innovation projects around the world, 25 of which were granted in 2018. 40 peer reviewed articles written by our grantees were published in leading journals with open access.

R2HC provided dedicated seed funding to develop research partnerships; in-person and bespoke support and training; and written guidance on effective partnerships management. In July we co-edited a special edition of the Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) Humanitarian Exchange publication on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Humanitarian Crises. This edition contains a series of articles featuring R2HC-funded research studies and their findings, methodologies and approaches.

The HIF continued working on four innovation challenge areas in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and gender-based violence (GBV), supporting the right people to develop new solutions to pressing problems through inclusive approaches, including user-centred design, operational field testing and impact evaluation. In June we held our Humanitarian Innovation Forum in Brussels, where we discussed the key challenges facing the sector, including engaging affected populations, ethical innovation, scaling, building effective partnerships, problem recognition and piloting innovations. We developed and published our Humanitarian Innovation Guide – the first of its kind, and a growing online resource to help individuals and organisations define humanitarian problems and successfully develop innovative solutions. In October we published our Too Tough to Scale? Challenges to scaling innovation in the humanitarian sector report, providing in-depth analysis of why more innovations aren’t successfully scaling, and identifying the key barriers facing the humanitarian community.

Elrha has grown tremendously in size and ambition over the last 10 years and has strived to maintain the highest ethical standards and deliver high quality, cutting edge research and innovation. I am proud to be associated with Elrha and know you will find this report an interesting and thought-provoking read.

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Wendy Fenton - Coordinator of the Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN) & Senior Research Fellow, ODI. Elrha Board Chair January 2018-June 2019


A global charity that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation.

Our vision for change

We want to see a world equipped to mitigate the impact of humanitarian crises.

We want to contribute to a global community where humanitarian actors at all levels are well prepared to respond effectively and efficiently when a crisis happens. Their response will be led by the latest evidence of what works, and they will routinely use cutting-edge solutions. As a result, people affected by crises will get the right help when they need it most.

Our mission

To improve humanitarian outcomes through partnership, research and innovation.

Our purpose

To empower the humanitarian community to improve humanitarian response. We make this happen by supporting and championing the outcomes of robust research and proven innovations.

How we achieve this

We are an established actor in the humanitarian community, working in partnership with humanitarian organisations, researchers, innovators and the private sector to tackle some of the most difficult challenges facing people all over the world. We equip humanitarian responders with knowledge of what works, so that people affected by crises get the right help when they need it most.


To meet our vision, we work primarily through our research and innovation funding programmes:

Participants in an IRC Women’s Protection and Empowerment Programme in Bukavu, DRC. Credit: Peter Biro/IRC.

The Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF)

Our aim is to improve outcomes for people affected by humanitarian crises by identifying, nurturing and sharing more effective and scalable solutions.

A nurse measures Palestine refugee child weight at Irbid health Centre, Irbid, Jordan. Photo Credit: Mohammad Magayda/ UNRWA

Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC)

Our aim is to improve health outcomes for people affected by humanitarian crises by strengthening the evidence base for public health interventions.


In pursuing our vision of a world equipped to mitigate the impact of humanitarian crises, we want to make sure that our work is undertaken in an ethical and robust way. All our work is led by six guiding principles.

  1. Improving outcomes for people affected by crisis is at the heart of our work.
  2. People have a right to quality humanitarian response that is informed by robust evidence.
  3. Research and innovation should always be undertaken within a responsible and ethical framework.
  4. Evidence must be made widely available and accessible to achieve the greatest possible impact.
  5. Collaboration and partnership, including with people affected by crisis, improves the quality, impact and uptake of research and innovation.
  6. Creativity, exploration and informed risk-taking is crucial to learn and bring about change.

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