Pakistan floods: read a selection of innovations and guidance for acute crises response.

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...

Why Scale?

Newly-developed and piloted innovations in the humanitarian sector often fail to gain the traction necessary for sustained use and wider uptake. This means that work and resources are wasted, and great ideas don’t reach their full potential.

Innovators face a range of barriers to scale, from lack of hands-on experience and knowledge, to inadequate funding and challenges meeting evidence needs. There are also systemic barriers that require a coordinated response from actors across the sector.

Having worked with more than 150 innovations, at different stages of their progress, we want to tackle these problems and make it easier for innovations to scale. In 2016 we made this a key focus of our work.

What we do

  1. We identify challenges and barriers that stop many innovation projects from achieving scale within their organisation or being adopted by others.
  2. We support some of the most promising innovations and organisations with a package of grant funding, mentoring, and technical assistance to help them scale.
  3. We produce practical resources and guidance to help our grantees and the wider humanitarian community understand the best ways of scaling innovation projects.
  4. We collaborate with the sector to tackle the complex systemic barriers that need to be overcome if humanitarian innovation is going to achieve truly transformative change.

Journey to Scale

We introduced our ‘Journey to Scale’ work to support promising innovations to become scale-ready through a bespoke package of advice, tools and guidance.

This work started with an open funding call for scale-ready innovation projects. The most promising organisations and partnerships were invited to develop their scale strategy.

From there we chose three projects to support over the three years, providing each with £400,000 funding, along with additional mentoring and technical assistance.

Learning from this work informed our ‘Too tough to scale?’ report, released in 2018, where we explore some of the key challenges and barriers to scale in more detail.

Our practical learning has also informed the development and curation of tools and guidance to help innovators to scale, made available online in our Humanitarian Innovation Guide.

The video below summarises the first phase of our Journey to Scale work, where you can hear from the three innovations we supported.

Play video

Too Tough to Scale? Challenges to scaling innovation in the humanitarian sector

Our ‘Too tough to scale?’ report explores the challenges to scaling innovation in the humanitarian sector. We explore why more innovations aren’t successfully scaling and identify key barriers. Drawing from our own experience and on research from the social and development sectors, ‘Too tough to scale?’ identifies 13 key barriers across five different challenge areas. The report goes on to provide clear calls to action for different humanitarian actors and encourages those groups to contribute to sector-wide transformative change.

Read our report

Our Scale Tools & Research

Report Innovation Management, Scale

Too Tough to Scale? Challenges to scaling innovation in the humanitarian sector

Tool Innovation Management, Scale

Progress to Scale Framework

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

Our Scale Blogs

Our series of blogs delves deeper and unpacks some of the most pressing barriers to scale highlighted in our 'Too tough to scale' report. In these blogs we explore the key challenges and how we can all work together to change them.

Read our Scale blogs

Our Journey to Scale Projects

Abigail Taylor

Innovation Manager, Elrha

Innovation is essential to ensure that humanitarian action can be ever more effective and more efficient – saving lives and reducing human suffering in the face of unprecedented global need. However, the promise of innovation can only be realised if more innovations are adopted by the sector at scale. Scaling innovation is extremely difficult, and is more complex than the development of new solutions. An ambition to scale requires innovators to consider how they might integrate into wider systems: the systems of adopting NGOs, the different operating contexts working with different affected communities, and forces that operate within the wider humanitarian sector. Innovation teams must evolve. They must develop business models to sustain the solution beyond innovation grants. They must build support and inspire change – often beyond their own organisations, often battling inertia, vested interests and always within time-poor and resource-poor environments. It is vital that we understand more about why it is so hard to scale innovations, and how we can support innovators and other humanitarian actors to overcome these challenges. It is a great privilege to work alongside such talented humanitarians, committed to solving problems and changing the status quo to improve the lives of people affected by crises around the world.

What’s next?

Our Journey to Scale work is growing! We’re pleased to announce that we have launched the next round of Journey to Scale, with an increased amount of funding available for a larger number of projects.

We are also stepping up our work to address some of the systemic challenges that prevent innovations from achieving the most impact. Through convening donors and other innovation actors, we aim to tackle these system-wide issues through system-wide collaboration.

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