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...

Please note that this opportunity has now closed. Find out about our current and previous funding opportunities.

Our new Adoption Challenge aims to tackle the complex barriers within the WASH ecosystem that prevent the sustainable adoption of humanitarian WASH innovations. 

The ambition of this first-of-its-kind Adoption Challenge is to enable humanitarian organisations to adopt promising new solutions, adapt them to new settings and evaluate their effectiveness. Ultimately, with this support, we aim to enable the sustained use, at scale, of innovations that can improve outcomes for people affected by crisis.

The Problem

We recognise that both innovators and implementing organisations face significant challenges when it comes to adoption. These include the lack of evidence around innovations in the context of use of the ‘adopter’; the uncertainty around additional time, skills and resources required to adopt the solution; and the amount of adaptation required across different settings.


Bagus demonstrating toilet use on a partially-constructed communal Tiger Worm Toilet. Credit: Mee Mee Htun/Oxfam

The Challenge

We are looking for humanitarian organisations interested in adopting innovations from our WASH Innovation Catalogue into their programmes. Funding will be made available to cover the adoption costs. If evidence gathered throughout the grant shows that the innovation is effective, then adopting organisations will be expected to commit to sustained adoption.

The Challenge is open to humanitarian organisations interested in adopting innovations featured in our WASH Innovation Catalogue (second edition, 2020) and on the WASH Innovation Marketplace page. 

By focusing initially on our own portfolio of innovations, we aim to help our strongest WASH innovations adapt, improve and begin their journey to scale, ensuring the priority WASH problems we have identified are addressed at scale. Our ambition is to learn from this first Adoption Challenge and understand what works and what doesn’t in driving the adoption of humanitarian innovations.

Get the full details in the Challenge Handbook

For further information about the Challenge, assessment criteria, expected deliverables and application timelines, as well as a glossary of key terms, please read the Challenge Handbook.

Read the Challenge Handbook

Challenge Handbook in accessible formats

The Challenge Handbook is also available in accessible PDF and EPUB format.

If you require any Challenge materials in an alternative format please contact us.


The Marketplace showcases innovations available for adoption through the Adoption Challenge. The innovations shown on this page have actively registered for this Challenge and are keen to be approached by potential adopters.

Visit the WASH Innovation Marketplace


How do I apply?

To apply for the Challenge, fill out the Expression of Interest (EoI) via our Common Grant Application platform.

Already have an account? Login to start an application.

Don’t have an account? Sign up to open an account and start an application.

Which innovations are eligible for the Adoption Challenge?

Any innovations included in our WASH Innovation Catalogue (second edition, 2020); the Catalogue also includes the innovators’ contact details. 

Also, see our WASH Innovation Marketplace for innovators who have actively registered for this Challenge and are keen to be approached by potential adopters.

Who is eligible to apply for the Adoption Challenge?

All adopting organisations part of the application must be new to the innovation. This means that adopting organisations are only eligible if they have not been part of developing the innovation. Any organisation that has been a partner on a previous or current HIF grant for the selected innovation is ineligible as an adopting organisation for this Challenge.

Your application must consist of at least one operational humanitarian organisation, and at least one adopter must be a local organisation operating in the chosen humanitarian setting(s). The operational humanitarian organisation and the local organisation can be one and the same (ie, no further partners are mandatory if the lead applicant is a local humanitarian organisation operating in the chosen humanitarian setting(s)). 

By ‘local organisation’ we mean civil society organisations or NGOs who are a registered entity in the country of implementation, and who have an organisational leadership team from that country. This means that we would expect the organisation’s headquarters to be in the country of implementation. Eligible countries are those currently affected by humanitarian crises (see Challenge FAQs section for our definition of a ‘humanitarian setting’).

For further details on the eligibility criteria, read the Challenge handbook

What are eligible ‘adoption costs’?
  1. The additional costs of the innovation. This means that the HIF will only fund implementation and material costs additional to what is already spent on the existing solution that the innovation would replace or complement in existing implementation locations (ie, the cost of adopting the innovation minus the cost of the existing solution being implemented). Where relevant and necessary, we would expect adopters to manage the risk of adoption by having another solution to ‘fall back on’ if the innovation does not work. People affected by crisis should never be left without access to safe and dignified WASH if an innovation proves ineffective.
  2. The costs associated with adopting the innovation internally (eg, one-off costs for staff training, adaptations of the innovation to the chosen setting, adaptation of management systems, including risk monitoring or management).
  3. The costs associated with generating sufficient evidence of the innovation’s impact on the humanitarian organisation’s operations for an informed decision to be made on its sustained adoption.

For further details, read the Challenge handbook

What do you mean by ‘sustained adoption’?

Applicants will be asked to commit in principle to a minimum level of sustained adoption, should the innovation meet the evidence threshold set by the adopting organisation(s). This might include further adopting the chosen innovation in additional settings or locations, and/or complementing this by developing internal or local structures and capabilities to support its longer-term adoption. This sustained adoption should happen after the HIF grant ends and should be integrated into, and covered through, standard emergency programming funding. In this case, we would expect adopters to continue the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the innovation as part of their existing WASH programming M&E activities. 

For further details, read the Challenge handbook

Can I apply to adopt more than one innovation?

No. You can only apply to adopt one innovation per application. If you would like to test several innovations, please submit a separate application for each innovation you would like to test.

What counts as a ‘humanitarian setting’?

Humanitarian settings can include:

  • Conflict-affected locations (eg, Yemen, Central African Republic, Mali)
  • Natural hazard-driven disasters
  • Complex emergencies (eg, eastern DRC, northeast Nigeria)
  • Refugee or internally displaced person (IDP) camps/settlements including in protracted crises
  • Refugees and IDPs in urban settings.

We exclude:

  • Countries that are not included in the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list of official development assistance (ODA) (eg, Greece, including refugee camps)
  • General populations in low- or middle-income countries (LMICs), including those that have been affected by COVID-19 unless also qualifying as a humanitarian crisis setting as above
  • Other vulnerable population groups such as migrants, slum dwellers, or rural communities that are not otherwise affected by a humanitarian crisis.
Is COVID-19 response considered a humanitarian setting?

We recognise that in existing humanitarian settings there may now be new or amended humanitarian programming to prevent and respond to COVID-19. Projects implemented as part of COVID-19 response activities in an existing humanitarian setting will be eligible. Implementation as part of COVID-19 response activities outside of an existing humanitarian setting (ie, in the general population of a country) is not eligible.

What is the total funding for the Challenge?

Our total budget for this Adoption Challenge is 650,000 GBP. 

Humanitarian organisations interested in adopting innovations from our WASH Innovation Catalogue are invited to apply for grants between 50,000 GBP and 150,000 GBP. Please note that budgets outside of this range are ineligible. 

For further details on what costs are eligible for this grant, see the ‘Funding’ section in the Challenge handbook.

What are the timelines?

The Adoption Challenge launches on 8 December 2020. 

On the 14, 15, 16 December 2020 there will be live Q&A sessions for interested adopters to ask questions about the innovations available for adoption. For more information, see our Innovation Marketplace page.

The deadline for Expressions of Interest (EoIs) is 25 January 2021 (23:59 GMT) (check what this is in your timezone). Apply via the Common Grants Application platform.

For further details on the application process and timelines,  read the Challenge handbook

What is the rate that overheads can be included at?

Overheads may include up to 10% of the direct costs listed in the budget. They should not exceed this amount, nor be calculated as a percentage of both the direct and indirect costs combined.

For more information, please see the Eligible Costs Guidance document on our Application Guidance page.

What are the eligibility and assessment criteria for the Challenge?

For details on who is eligible to apply and application criteria, see ‘Eligibility criteria’ and ‘Assessment criteria’ sections in the Challenge handbook.

What should my memorandum of understanding (MoU)/letter of support look like?

Many organisations have templates for MoUs or similar, and we have no preference for format. We are looking to see a stated commitment to the project and partnership and a clear outline of roles and responsibilities between the different organisations in the partnership. We would expect this letter or document to include organisational logos and signature(s) from relevant senior managers.

Still have questions?

We’re here to help. For any questions that are not covered by the Challenge Handbook or FAQ section, please email us at, referencing ‘Adoption Challenge’ in the subject line.

We will publish any frequently asked questions on this page on an ongoing basis.

Video: Everything you need to know 

Want to know more? In this short explainer video we’ll share:

  • An overview of the Challenge
  • What we’re looking for
  • Key criteria and how to apply
Play video

Banner photo: 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

This Challenge is supported by

UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)

Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)

Subscribe to our newsletters....

Elrha © 2018 - 2024 Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110). KEEP IN TOUCH Want to stay up to date with our latest updates? Sign up to our newsletters
Elrha Please upgrade your browser

You are seeing this because you are using a browser that is not supported. The Elrha website is built using modern technology and standards. We recommend upgrading your browser with one of the following to properly view our website:

Windows Mac

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of browsers. We also do not intend to recommend a particular manufacturer's browser over another's; only to suggest upgrading to a browser version that is compliant with current standards to give you the best and most secure browsing experience.