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

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2022 has been another busy year for R2HC. As it draws to a close, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the year and share what we are looking ahead to in 2023. 

Adapting our funding mechanisms

In 2022 we launched our ninth annual call for proposals where we focused on research calls addressing thematic gaps or approaches; strengthening health systems and current or anticipated crisis. Through this call we also wanted to shift the power towards in-country leadership of the research we fund.  

We drew on lessons observed from our COVID-19 cohort of studies and our From Knowing to Doing report, placing greater emphasis on encouraging research teams positioned for impact and with strong in-country leadership to apply for grants. We believe that this ensures greater impact locally, whilst retaining the potential for wider impact. We have also engaged with the decolonising research agenda discussing our practice with Emilie Koum Besson and taking learnings from her paper on epistemic injustice in global health funding. We look forward to sharing reflections on the success of these approaches, and to announcing the studies funded through our ninth call, early in 2023. 

We are excited to have adapted our approach to research funding calls in 2023 by consulting a wide group of humanitarian practitioners to explore whether there was any critical research needed that could support the current food insecurity and nutrition crisis in the Horn of Africa. Following this, we are now commissioning two pieces of work. The first is a long-term research programme that will investigate, develop and test preventative nutrition packages;  and the second is a literature review that will identify evidence on what is known about the impacts of food insecurity on other health outcomes. We anticipate this will be highly impactful by focusing resources on a critical and neglected topic.  

Also, this year, our cohort of grantees funded to conduct rapid research on COVID-19 wrapped up. We celebrated this with a communications campaign showcasing findings from these studies and a webinar focusing on community feedback in outbreak response.  We have learned a lot about funding studies with a short timeframe through this work, many of these lessons will be applicable as our newest cohort of 18-month studies begin. 

Strengthening our collaboration with communities of practice

During 2022 we continued to explore collaboration with thematic communities of practice, including the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), noncommunicable diseases (NCD), mental health and pyschosocial support (MHPSS) and nutrition communities, supporting research and operational partners to identify and address critical evidence gaps.  

In June we launched the findings from our flagship publication, the updated Humanitarian Health Evidence Review (HHER). The report highlights significant remaining evidence gaps across multiple health themes.  At the end of January 2023, we will be hosting a side event at the Global Nutrition Cluster (GNC) annual meeting to share findings from the HHER alongside work the GNC has been doing to understand evidence gaps for nutrition in emergencies. 

Next year, we will continue collaboration with a number of thematic communities of practice. On 17th January we will launch the results of the MHPSS research priority setting, which involved broad consultation with the MHPSS community of practice. This will be followed later in the year by launching findings from the WASH research prioritisation exercise. 

Demonstrating our impact 

Through our engagement with our grantees during 2022 we’ve further developed our understanding about the impact of our work and how this can be supported. Grantees’ research snapshots  have enabled us to share findings and engage with key stakeholders such as FCDO on thematic topics. We look forward to announcing in early 2023 further support for promising grantees to maximise the impact they are able to have on policy and practice. We will continue to explore factors that improve capacity for research uptake among humanitarian actors on the frontline, including through further investment in online learning modalities in our Research Impact Toolkit. We will also be reflecting on the impact achieved through the R2HC programme through an independent impact evaluation. 

With lots of exciting things to come in 2023, we look forward to you joining us!  

2023 will mark ten years since the R2HC programme was founded. It will also see the launch of Elrha’s new 15-year strategy, seeking to ensure Elrha’s work can have maximum impact for people affected by humanitarian crises. We will aim to work more closely with Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund to maximise the synergies across research and innovation. Building on our situation analysis of Innovation for Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) in humanitarian crises, we will seek to develop and secure funding for a joint initiative within the field of SRH that could provide a model for future collaboration across multiple sectors. 

Please get in touch with if you have any questions. We also welcome suggestions about what you would like to see from the R2HC programme in the coming year.  

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