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.

Scaling humanitarian innovation remains a critical challenge for the global humanitarian community.

Too often promising innovations fail to gain traction and wider uptake. This means work and resources are wasted, and great ideas don’t reach their full potential. In a resource-constrained sector, there is a need to generate greater impact from investments in innovation.

In direct response to this challenge, we are launching the second round of Journey to Scale.

Journey to Scale

Journey to Scale (J2S) is aimed at humanitarian innovators who have successfully piloted their solution in at least one humanitarian setting and are now looking to scale up its impact.

Journey to Scale will provide initial support for ten shortlisted teams to develop scaling strategies for their innovations.

We will then award five teams with the strongest proposals flexible funding of up to 580,000 GBP each to explore different scale pathways and refine their approach.

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Overview of the process

J2S includes two phases: Strategy Development and Strategy Implementation.

Phase 1: Strategy Development (May – September 2020)

Following an open application process, ten innovation teams will be selected to take part in the Strategy Development phase. The teams will receive mentoring and support to develop a comprehensive scaling vision and strategy. At the end of the Strategy Development phase, we will bring the teams together for a workshop to learn from each other and to finalise their scaling strategies. Up to 10,000 GBP will be available to each team to support this phase.

Phase 2: Strategy Implementation (December 2020 – 2023)

At the end of the Strategy Development phase, the ten teams will be invited to submit their Phase 2 proposal, including their scaling strategy. The five strongest proposals will progress to the Strategy Implementation phase, receiving up to 580,000 GBP each in grant funding.

In addition to financial support, we will also offer one-to-one mentorship for each team throughout the grant period, as well as workshops to strengthen their scaling capacity, further opportunities for peer learning through the grantee cohort, and access to our network of former grantees and humanitarian partners.


For further information about Journey to Scale, the application and evaluation process and timelines, please read the J2S handbook.


Introduction to Journey to Scale Webinar

Missed our Journey to Scale webinar on 17 January 2020? Find out everything you need to know before you apply in the below recording. We explain key aspects of our eligibility criteria and answer FAQs.

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How do I apply?

To apply for J2S, complete the Phase 1 application via our Common Grant Application platform.


Who is eligible to apply for J2S?

To be eligible to apply to J2S:

  • Your organisation must be a legally registered entity (ie, academic/research institute, government, international non-governmental organisation, national non-governmental organisation, private company, Red Cross/Red Crescent movement, United Nations agency or programme, or civil society organisation).
  • Your application must be from a single organisation, rather than from a partnership between two or more organisations. We encourage this to ensure that there is clarity over the ownership of the innovation and that teams have the flexibility to explore diverse partnerships throughout their scaling journey.
  • Your innovation must address a challenge from one or across multiple sector(s) of humanitarian action. It can involve either directly empowering or supporting people affected by crises or providing services to other humanitarian actors.
  • Your innovation must have been piloted in at least one humanitarian setting. This might include, but is not limited to, a rapid-onset disaster, slow-onset disaster, or conflict or protracted displacement situation.
  • Your innovation must have undergone an independent evaluation of its effectiveness.
  • If your team is part of a larger organisation, you must have agreement from leadership to explore different pathways to scale, including potential uptake of your innovation by other organisations.
  • You must not have previously received funding in the first round of J2S.
  • Your team must be able to attend the Strategy Development workshop (two to three team members), taking place 8–10 September 2020, plus a day of travel time on either side. The location of the workshop will be confirmed at a later date.

For further information about eligibility requirements and success criteria, see J2S handbook.

Are you looking for innovations in specific humanitarian domains?

No. We welcome applications of innovations that address challenges in any sector(s) of humanitarian action. Innovations can involve either directly empowering or supporting people affected by crises, or providing services to other humanitarian actors.

What can and can’t be covered by the grant funding?

We can fund

  • implementation costs (including shipment) and project activities
  • material costs (ie, the production or development of the innovation)
  • innovation adaptation costs (ie, costs associated with any iterations informed by the research)
  • staff salaries
  • travel expenses.

We can’t fund

  • retrospective costs
  • loan repayments
  • non-project-related materials or activities
  • standard humanitarian programming that is not related to the chosen innovation
  • construction of permanent structures.

You can find out more information in our Eligible Costs Guidance.

What are the key milestones for J2S?

J2S will launch on 13 January 2020 with Phase 1 applications opening on this date.

The deadline for Phase 1 applications is 14 February 2020, 23:59 GMT.

The ten teams selected to join the Strategy Development phase of J2S will be announced in late April 2020.

Phase 2 applications will be open from 1 September to 28 September 2020. The five selected teams will undergo final due diligence and contracting in November 2020 and will start implementing their scaling strategies in December 2020.

For further information about the structure of J2S and key milestones, see J2S Handbook

How will applications be assessed?

Both Phase 1 and Phase 2 applications will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  1. A well-understood problem
  2. An impactful solution
  3. Readiness for J2S
  4. The right team for scaling
  5. Relevant partners and networks

For a detailed explanation of each criterion and an overview of the application and evaluation process, please read the J2S handbook.

What do you mean by "humanitarian"?

Disasters are frequently characterised by the hazards that drive them and the speed at which they occur. We consider humanitarian settings to include, but not necessarily be limited to, rapid-onset disasters, slow-onset disasters, or conflict or protracted displacement situations. 

Natural hazard-driven disasters may include:

  • earthquakes (geophysical),
  • hurricanes (meteorological),
  • floods (hydrological),
  • droughts (climatological), or
  • epidemics (biological).

Conflict-driven disasters can involve different types of armed actors such as state, non-state and mandated peacekeeping forces, and present their own unique challenges and requirements. In many humanitarian crises, internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees can end up living in cramped and unsanitary conditions leading to disease epidemics, such as cholera. These are sometimes referred to as secondary humanitarian crises.

Emergencies begin, and develop, at different speeds, but there are three main types:

  • Rapid onset: These are emergencies that happen extremely quickly, often with devastating impact. They may have little or no warning, like an earthquake, some warning like a typhoon or hurricane, or may be anticipated, such as cyclical flooding.
  • Slow onset: Slow-onset emergencies are those where the signals of the impending emergency can be seen a considerable time before it becomes an acute humanitarian crisis. The classic slow-onset emergencies are droughts, which are often climate related and cyclical.
  • Protracted: This type of emergency lasts for years, and in some cases decades. They are most often a result of ongoing conflict situations, and often relate to refugee or IDP camp settings.


What do you mean by "scaling"? Do we have to be working in multiple countries?

Journey to Scale is focused primarily on maximising the impact of innovations, which often means replicating and adapting innovations across different settings, and/or with different partners. But this does not necessarily mean replicating the innovation in different countries. 

For example, in the first round of Journey to Scale, we funded a project that was primarily focused on building a robust evidence base in one location and codifying its activities. This learning then informed replication in two more locations in the same country during the grant period.

If the application is primarily focused on one location, we will be assessing whether there is clear focus on generating robust learning about the barriers and enablers for uptake that will support scaling. We would also expect an intention to scale out to at least one other location during the grant period.

What do you mean by "independent evaluation"?

We expect the evaluation to demonstrate appropriately robust and credible evidence that the innovation works better than any alternatives on offer. Often, appropriately robust and credible evidence will be an independent evaluation that has used methods and approaches that are clear and replicable and that demonstrate efforts to minimise bias. 

By “independent” we mean an evaluation conducted by specialist/s who are not involved in the management and/or implementation of the project. This may include either external consultants, in-house specialists, or partners who are not part of the originating innovation team. Evaluations may be based on internal monitoring data, but the data collection methods, and analysis and evaluation of the data, should be led by someone outside the originating innovation team.  

Please note that the evaluation must be submitted with the initial application by 14 February deadline.

What do you mean by "intersectionality"?

By “intersectionality”, we mean recognising the interaction of multiple factors – such as disability, age and gender – which can create compounded layers of discrimination and distinct perspectives for individuals. 

We encourage you to show in your proposal that, as is relevant and appropriate to your context, you have ways to understand and hear from the diverse individuals that are using/accessing your innovation in order to find out how people’s experiences might differ. For example, this may mean having mechanisms in place to collect rich, qualitative feedback that allows individuals the space to explain and feedback in their own way.

Would you fund innovations targeted at humanitarian organisations, rather than people affected by crises?

Yes, we would. However, for projects where the primary user or target audience is humanitarian organisations rather than populations affected by crises, we would want to see clear and direct links to improved humanitarian outcomes for populations affected by crisis in the evidence supporting the problem and proposed solution. 

For example, in the last round of Journey to Scale we funded Translators Without Borders (TWB), a non-profit organisation that offers language and translation support for humanitarian agencies. TWB’s activities are supported by extensive research and evidence that highlights the detrimental effects of a lack of local language translation on the provision of appropriate humanitarian aid, and therefore the need for better translation in emergencies.

Would you fund an intermediary organisation working outside the country of implementation?

Yes, we would. However, this is dependent on the intermediary organisation being the owner of the innovation. By owner we mean that they must hold the knowledge and expertise necessary to implement the innovation (with the exception of humanitarian expertise, which may be acquired through partnerships), and they must be able to lead the development of the scaling strategy. 

We consider all member organisations within affiliate or confederation structures to be part of the same organisation and, as such, the organisation’s headquarters or UK office can apply on behalf of another member organisation or country office. 

Would the application be better from headquarters or from our country office or in-country partner?

Journey to Scale is focused primarily on maximising the impact of innovations, which often means replicating and adapting innovations across different settings. If you would envision the possibility of scaling out your innovation to different countries, and that work would be led by headquarters, then headquarters are probably best-placed to lead on the application.

However, in general terms, when it comes to providing supporting evidence of the problem and solution, we also want to see the close involvement of local teams and networks, so that we can see – in at least one location – that deep contextual understanding underpins the project team’s approach to assessing the problem and deploying the solution in any given setting. As such, it may make sense to involve both headquarters and the country office or in-country partner in the application.

Can we submit more than one application?

Yes, organisations can submit more than one application, but the applications must focus on different innovations. Every application that is submitted will be assessed on its own merit according to the same set of criteria laid out in our Journey to Scale handbook.

However, if two applications are ranked equally, but the first of the two applicants also has another higher ranked application under consideration, the second applicant may be given preference after considering the balance of organisations.

What are the reporting requirements?

The five projects selected for funding will be required to report on their progress via written reports (approximately every 6-12 months), verbal conversations and/or monitoring visits. Details on the reporting requirements and timings will be shared at the contracting stage, as well as details of our safeguarding and whistle-blowing policy, procedures and feedback mechanisms. You can find out more about this on our Application Guidance pages.

As grant funding of up to £10,000 is available to each of the 10 teams selected for the Strategy Development phase, they will be expected to submit a financial report at the end of the phase, based on a budget they will submit to us during the phase. Budget submission is not required for Phase 1 applications on Common Grants Application.

What are the metrics and measures that will be used for the stage gate?

The intention for the stage gate is not to set overly ambitious targets that put extra pressure on the innovation teams. Rather, we see it as a mechanism for setting realistic expectations between the projects and Elrha, and coming to a joint agreement at the time about whether or not the project is proceeding as envisaged.  

The metrics and measures for the assessment are expected to focus largely on learning objectives, rather than implementation targets, and will be agreed with the final grantees well in advance of the stage gate itself. More information about this process will be shared during the Strategy Development phase.

What is the overhead rate for this funding opportunity?

Overheads may be claimed at up to 10% of direct costs. Please do refer to our Eligible Costs Guidance for further information on eligible and ineligible costs.

Still have questions?

We’re here to help. For any questions that are not covered by the J2S Handbook or this FAQ section, please email us at, referencing ‘Journey to Scale’ in the subject line.

Helpful Tools & Research

Tool Innovation Management

Humanitarian Innovation Guide

Video Capacity Development, Gender-based Violence, Information Management, Communication & Technology, Innovation Management, Scale

The full Journey to Scale story

Tool Innovation Management, Scale

Progress to Scale Framework

Read our Too Tough to Scale Report

Drawing from our own experience in funding over 150 humanitarian organisations to develop, test and scale many highly impactful innovations, and drawing on research and experience from the social and development sectors, Too tough to scale? identifies 13 key barriers across five different challenge areas.

Too Tough to Scale?

Relevant Projects

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