We are Elrha, a force for change in the humanitarian community. The research and innovation we support equips the humanitarian community with the knowledge of what works, so people affected by crises get the right help when they need it most.
Our purpose is clear: 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.
We empower the humanitarian community. Find out how we can support you...

We tackle complex humanitarian problems

Damaged homes in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Photo Credit: University of Colorado

Why we do this

Humanitarian crises continue to grow in severity and scale. Due to a range of social, economic, political and environmental factors, the crises people face are increasingly complex and require innovative approaches and sophisticated solutions.

The global innovation agenda has overly focused on product or single-solution innovation rather than looking at more nuanced, multi-dimensional or systemic approaches. We’re changing that.

"Creativity, exploration and informed risk-taking is crucial to learning and bringing about change" - our guiding principle #6

What we do

We tackle some of the most challenging humanitarian problems that affect millions of people in crises.

We develop specific, problem-focused design and development processes. Working in close partnership with our grantees and with the wider community, we discover what works. And we adapt our approach as we go so that people get the right help.

  • We carry out detailed research to understand the priority problems around focus areas such as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and gender-based violence (GBV).
  • We conduct ‘deep dive’ research on those problems to make sure we understand them.
  • We seek the views and insights of a range of actors, including people in crises-affected communities.
  • We design innovation challenges based on our research so that solutions are targeted and relevant.
  • We provide innovation management guidance, so solutions have the best chance of being put into practice.
  • We help distil the results and work through our networks to push for the uptake of proven innovative solutions.

What we’ve achieved

"The HIF [has] made substantial contributions to humanitarian innovation from its launch…when innovation was considered insufficient. Starting from zero in 2010 and working as a lean start-up with few resources, the HIF selected, funded and supported a mixed portfolio of innovation grants; developed an effective and well-respected process for grant making and fund management; fostered a new body of learning about innovation management; and acted as an influential voice in the growing field of humanitarian innovation." HIF Evaluation, Triple Line

User-centred Sanitation Design Challenge 2017

Our commissioned Sanitation Lighting research found that an average of 40% women across five camps in Iraq, Nigeria and Uganda, were not using agency latrines.

Research this like highlights that the needs of many individuals, and the barriers they face, are not accounted for by standard humanitarian best practices. Addressing the need for appropriate sanitation facilities for women and girls was clear – however a single product solution wasn’t going to work, and more iterative user-centred approaches were essential to tackling this complex problem.

In response to this larger issue of gathering and understanding users’ needs, we launched an innovation challenge to pilot user-centred design (UCD) approaches for providing sanitation in rapid onset humanitarian crises. It marked the beginning of an ongoing conversation between WASH practitioners and affected communities, resulting in a better understanding of needs and the building of facilities to meet those needs.

We funded five projects, implemented by three sets of partnerships, of which two included a private-sector design partner:

QRCS team along with beneficiaries examining the “Smart Bucket”, a practical solution that ensures handwashing and making use of soap water for discharge. Photo Credit: Suleiman Al Sumairy.

Qatar Red Crescent Society and SESRI ran a user-centred community engagement pilot in four informal tent settlements in Joub Janine, Bekaa valley, Lebanon to help provide sanitation infrastructure that is flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances and needs of users.

Digital survey tool used in rapid-onset emergencies to inform the design of latrines and sanitation facilities that are usable and safe for both communities. Photo Credit: Save the Children UK

Save the Children UK and Eclipse Experience piloted a user-centred community engagement approach in Jadimura displacement camp, Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh and Sharia displacement camp, Kurdistan, Iraq. Through the use of a digital survey tool and co-creation sessions, communities were involved in designing child-friendly sanitation facilities. The results:

  • The feedback and design ideas received from 407 children and 167 caregivers led to adaptions to the latrines. Children’s satisfaction with latrines increased from 10.8% to 47%.
  • The digital tool and the UCD process it supports has been adopted by Oxfam, which has committed to further developing the tool and piloting the innovation across its WASH programmes and more widely, beyond latrines.
Gaining the insights of potential users around existing sanitation facilities. Photo Credit: Deutsche Welthungerhilfe

Deutsche Welthungerhilfe and Snook combined user-centred design in two settlements in Northern Uganda, with other participatory approaches to identify user needs and problems with existing sanitation facilities.

This was the largest and most complex investment ever made by our humanitarian innovation programme (the HIF). We knew it was crucial that the pilots were extensively evaluated, so we commissioned a fourth independent partner – Oxfam and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) – to do that. The evaluation was reviewed by Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP) as part of its wider work on adaptiveness (published in 2019).

The evidence from these pilots suggests UCD has great potential to change the way people work together to build appropriate sanitation facilities in humanitarian crisis situations. The approach has already received significant interest from across the WASH sector.

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Elrha © 2018 - 2019 Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).
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