Photo: Nazeer Al-Khatib, AFP

You’ve submitted your bold idea – What happens next?

The request for proposals for round 2 of Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge closes on Thursday July 18th at 11am E.T (15:00 GMT) (extended deadline). The winners will be chosen in December, 5 months later. So, what happens in between?

When the window to apply shuts, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and Grand Challenges Canada – the Creating Hope in Conflict partners – embark upon a robust and unique review process. The task of selecting up to 25 seed and up to 5 Transition to Scale innovations from a vast pool of proposals (last year we received over 600 from around the world) is a huge undertaking. Our process is designed to surface only the most promising and compelling innovations – those with the potential to transform the way humanitarian assistance is received by vulnerable, hard-to reach populations affected by conflict.

There are two stages to the selection process:

Step 1: The Innovation Screen

All eligible applications enter the innovation screen, where project summaries from each application are rated on two core criteria:

  • Innovation: Is the proposed solution truly innovative? – i.e. is it a substantially new approach to the problem? Does it represent a significant improvement over current approaches?
  • Relevance: Is the idea relevant to the challenge? – i.e. does it address one or more of the four focus areas outlined in the request for proposals? Does it focus on communities affected by conflict?

Each application is reviewed by three screeners. Last year, over half of all applications received were removed from the competition at this stage for lacking innovation and relevance. Those that sufficiently meet the criteria will proceed to the next stage.

Stage 2: The External Review

At this point, Transition to Scale applications and Seed applications are separated. The highest rated Transition to Scale proposals will undergo extensive due diligence, including expert analysis, with only up to 5 of the best chosen to pitch their idea to our Investment Committee. This committee is comprised of a mix of angel investors, venture advisors and humanitarian professionals. The shortlisted innovators will present their ideas in a Dragon’s Den style pitch, with the hope of convincing the committee to recommend them for funding.

For Seed funding, those that pass the innovation screen are analysed in detail by a panel of experts. The panel is hugely diverse and includes subject matter experts; ethics specialists; private sector professionals; and, perhaps most importantly, people with lived experience of conflict. Each application is reviewed by four panelists, one from each of these perspectives.

The inclusion of people affected by conflict as reviewers represents a progressive step forward in the way such funding opportunities are assessed. We expect applicants to include affected people in the design of their innovations, as we firmly believe that those closest to problems are best placed to deliver solutions. We feel it is vital to also uphold this principle in our own selection process.

Following an online review, we convene an in-person meeting with all of our volunteer panelists to debate the best scoring innovations and arrive at a shortlist of ‘fundable’ projects. One of our panellists from last year, Dr Kirsten Gelsdorf, wrote about her experience, giving an insight into the richness of the deliberations on the day. You can find the blog here.

In the final step in the selection process, the shortlisted proposals are discussed and approved by a steering committee made up of the Humanitarian Grand Challenge partners. This is set to take place in December, with the winners notified shortly after.

Our review process is built upon transparency and learning. With this in mind, all unsuccessful applicants will receive feedback on their proposal so that they may refine their idea for future funding opportunities.

While this is indeed a robust and stringent review process, it is also one that is agnostic to the profile of the applicant – we encourage applications from all genders, from all geographies, from all types of organisation, be they large NGOs or local grassroots actors. From all of us at the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, we wish you the best of luck and look forward to receiving your bold ideas. Apply now!

Timelines snapshot:

Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge is a partnership of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, with support from Grand Challenges Canada.
  • Patrick Coburn