Our purpose is clear: to 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.
Our new Strategy is fundamental to our aim of improving outcomes for people affected by crises. It has been designed to help develop a cohesive global system; one that routinely identifies and addresses critical humanitarian problems through research and innovation. A system in which policy and practice continuously improve through the sustainable and strategic resourcing and adoption of new evidence and innovative solutions.
If we’re to achieve this, the humanitarian community must focus on building a much stronger relationship between research, innovation and practice. Just as this connection defines most professional sectors, it must come to define us. Research and innovation give practitioner communities unique tools to advance knowledge, investigate and understand problems, and evaluate effective responses. And they help anticipate future needs and challenges, enabling and developing transformative new thinking and solutions.
We need deep engagement with research and innovation to support the steady improvement and validation of our practice. And we urgently need the new thinking and the breakthrough potential that these disciplines offer, because that’s how we’ll deliver better outcomes for people affected by crises.
Building a global research and innovation system that is relevant, responsive to need, and able to effect transformative solutions requires the collaborative efforts of multiple actors. It requires long-term vision and commitment. Our Strategy works towards 2040 as a critical juncture, by which time humanitarian practice will be transformed through a deep and wide-reaching relationship with research and innovation.
We know we can’t always predict the challenges of the future. So, while our long-term vision provides us with a clear and focused direction of travel,our deep commitment to learning will allow us to adapt and evolve our approaches to the changing landscape around us.
The humanitarian community must focus on building a much stronger relationship between research, innovation and practice. Building a global research and innovation system that is relevant, responsive to need, and able to effect transformative solutions requires the collaborative efforts of multiple actors.
A strong system of monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning (MEAL) is central to Elrha’s mission to improve humanitarian response through research and innovation.
We want to be able to:
The following key principles underpin our approach to MEAL:
Multiple layers of complexity come into play when we try to assess the impact of research and innovation on humanitarian practice. Research and innovation achieve impact through non-linear and iterative pathways and timescales that are typically longer than any one intervention and are not easily captured by quantitative indicators. In most cases, we will only be able to demonstrate contribution to impact, rather than straightforward attribution. These challenges are compounded by the fact that, as a funder, we work mostly through our grantees rather than directly. This means that the impacts we deliver will always be the result of collective effort and can never be claimed as ours alone.
But we embrace this complexity as an integral aspect of our approach to MEAL. We see ourselves as part of an extended community of practice that is reflecting on new ways to understand, define and measure the impact of research and innovation. We are invested in ensuring that creativity and innovation – approaches at the very core of Elrha – are reflected in the way we think about impact and in the methods we use to assess it.
Through our funding of research and innovation, we are well-placed to influence the humanitarian ecosystem. But having consistent, reliable and good quality data from the grants we fund is only the first step in the process. Our MEAL system needs to have rigorous methods for data aggregation, synthesis and analysis, and for assessing impact at the macro level. Because, while individual innovations can have important local-level impact, wider and longer-term efforts are needed for sustained change and a shift in the paradigms of humanitarian practice. Furthermore, our MEAL system must enable us to understand and assess our overall impact as an organisation, across research and innovation, so that we can be ‘greater as a whole than the sum of our (programme) parts’.
We fund research and innovation in a wide range of crisis contexts, including some of the most acute, protracted and complex emergencies worldwide. MEAL in these contexts poses enormous conceptual, practical and ethical challenges, ranging from the limited availability of good quality data, to safety and safeguarding considerations. We give our grantees the guidance and space they need to design and implement MEAL processes that are ethical, proportionate, and context-appropriate. This won’t always be straightforward – we recognise that in any given context/setting, specific, appropriate approaches may mean other elements of MEAL are compromised, particularly in terms of the feasibility of data aggregation and reporting. But we are committed to being open and upfront with our funders and partners in navigating these inevitable tensions.
Our MEAL system embodies our organisational commitment to shifting the power. We are acutely aware that MEAL is not neutral. The way in which impact is defined and measured is inherently and inevitably political, reflecting power structures and dynamics, and the positionality of those involved in the process. Data collection methods can often be top-down and extractive, particularly under compressed timelines. Recognising these issues is the first step. The next is our promise to constructively engage with our funders, partners, and grantees to shape MEAL processes that are truly inclusive and that celebrate diversity of perspectives and ‘ways of knowing’.
We are committed to never being ‘too busy to learn’. We encourage open feedback from our partners and grantees, and we make time and space for internal reflection at critical times. Our systems will actively capture learning and use it to continuously improve our own practice.
As a leading funder of research and innovation for the humanitarian community, we are committed to ‘walk the talk’ to ensure that our own MEAL system, processes and tools are fit for purpose to achieve and demonstrate impact.
As a member of the international humanitarian community, we recognise the legacy of our sector and that, as an influential, UK-based organisation, we hold a position of power and privilege that others do not. We hold ourselves accountable to be part of the change that must come and to live up to our responsibilities to those affected by crises.
So, we’re making three long-term commitments:
These commitments formalise the things we believe in and the direction we’re taking. They’ll continue to shape our development as people and as an organisation. And they’ll help us take even greater strides towards building a better humanitarian community.
We have also created an online booklet capturing our strategy in full so you can read, download and share our strategy in the format you prefer! Take a look...
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