Lack of access to funding should never be a barrier to the innovation process for humanitarians, and so we’ve rounded up a list of ten sources of funding for humanitarian and social innovators. From private sector grants and cash awards, to funding schemes developed by aid and relief agencies, there are multiple avenues to bring your ideas to life through grants and mentorship.


1. Humanitarian Innovation Fund

The Humanitarian Innovation Fund supports organizations and individuals to identify, nurture, and share innovative and scalable solutions to the challenges facing effective humanitarian assistance. The Humanitarian Innovation Fund supports core grants related to humanitarian aid. In addition to these core grants they offer funding for themed intiatives focused on Water Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) and Gender Based Violence in emergency settings. You can view their current funded projects here.

2. UNICEF Innovation Fund

The UNICEF Innovation Fund is a vehicle modeled on the support and analysis approaches of successful venture investment structures, that will quickly assess, fund, and scale innovations, both internal to UNICEF and external, that work. This fund is a first-of-its kind experiment that UNICEF is undertaking to encourage innovations across the globe. The first stage of the Fund aims to churn out self-sustaining projects out of the current stack of innovation projects. Investments will be in the form of small grants first, followed by Venture capital (VC) like equity investments.

3. WFP Cooperating Partners Innovation Fund

WFP has created an innovation fund to promote collaboration with NGOs in the design and development of new tools and approaches for food assistance. The newly established WFP fund – the Cooperating Partners’ Innovation Fund (CPIF) – is focusing in its first year on innovative ideas around cash and voucher programing.

4. Deloitte Humanitarian Innovation Program

Through the Deloitte Humanitarian Innovation Program, the professionals of Deloitte member firms and humanitarian organizations co-create and implement solutions to the sector’s most pressing challenges. By collaborating with local, national, and international humanitarian leaders – combining diverse skills and expertise – Deloitte aims to enhance the ability of the sector to prepare for, and respond to, crises.

Past projects have included scaling humanitarian response in times of crisis with Save the Children and strengthening humanitarian leadership with UNOCHA.

5. Google Org: Impact and Community Grants

The Google Impact Challenge travels to different regions, asking local nonprofits how they would use innovation to make a better world, and inviting the public to vote for the projects with the greatest impact potential. Impact challenges have been hosted in seven different countries, the most recent in France, to find and support the most innovative nonprofits who use technology to solve society’s greatest problems.

Winning projects will be selected by the public and a panel of judges to each receive €500,000. All finalists will receive mentoring and technical support from Google and partners.

6. GSK Healthcare Innovation Awards

The Healthcare Innovation Award contributes to an ambitious partnership between GSK and Save the Children, which aims to save the lives of a million of the world’s poorest children. The award was established to identify and reward innovations in healthcare that have proven successful in reducing child deaths in developing countries.

An Award fund of USD$ 1 million has been made available by GSK for organisations practicing innovative approaches to increase access to and the quality of healthcare for newborns and children under-5. They describe innovation as “a match between a new solution and an unmet need that involves the creation and implementation of new processes, products, systems, services and/or methods of delivery.”

7. Global Innovation Fund

The Global Innovation Fund invests in social innovations that aim to improve the lives and opportunities of millions of people in the developing world. Through grants and risk capital, they support breakthrough solutions to global development challenges from social enterprises, for-profit firms, non-profit organisations, international organisations, researchers, and government agencies.

The Global Innovation Fund is supported by the Department of International Development in the UK, the United States Agency for International Development, the Omidyar Network, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia. To date, these partners have pledged over US $200 million over the next five years.

8. OCHA Humanitarian Research and Innovation Grant

The OCHA Policy Development and Studies Branch’s Humanitarian Research and Innovation Grant Program provides small grants to encourage and support original research and writing on issues and trends relating to humanitarian needs. The grants are given yearly.

The maximum grant payable under this program is US$4,000. The exact disbursement is determined by the nature of the work and the number of selected projects. The program is open to people of any nationality who are interested in improving humanitarian assistance.

9. Visa Innovation Grants

Visa and NetHope, a consortium of more than 40 humanitarian organizations, partnered to develop the Visa Innovation Grants Program, awarding five leading development organizations with grants to help modernize the distribution of payments related to microfinance, agriculture, health, and emergency relief.

10. Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award

Now in its third year, Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award offers innovators, developers, and entrepreneurs a total of US$6 million in cash prizes, plus the opportunity for winners to participate in an accelerator program designed to help develop their ideas and bring solutions to market faster. The 2015 program is seeking ideas in three core categories: Emergency Response, The Internet of Things, and Transportation.

Did we forget any great resources? Tell us in the comments below.

Photo credit: Internews Europe


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