Habitat for Humanity & Engineering for Change

From post-disaster to resilience

Habitat for Humanity wants every family in the world to have a decent place to live. The shelter NGO began its journey providing direct home building support to families in need but soon realised they could not simply build their way out of the housing deficit and needed to work with partners and markets in pre- and post-disaster contexts.

The decision that followed had a huge impact as they went from helping tens of thousands of people to millions of people. Habitat demonstrated an excellent example of how to embrace an innovative mindset and in reformulating the question as they switched from direct post-disaster assistance to the enhancement of a community’s resilience by looking at the pre-disaster building and financing conditions.

However, when a family’s home is destroyed in a natural disaster, the family will build with whatever materials are affordable and accessible around them. More often than not, these materials are of poor quality and unsustainable. Furthermore, the stark observation by the International Energy Agency that buildings and the building construction sector combined are responsible for nearly 40 percent of the total of direct and indirect CO2 emissions prompted Habitat to reframe the question and think differently about solutions.

For the Access to Modern Energy programme, Habitat joined forces with Engineering for Change (E4C) to consider new ways to support sustainable building and to invest in local, circular economies that would make environmentally friendly solutions available to those who need them the most. Habitat and E4C want these families to not just build back, but to build back better.

Together, Habitat and E4C hope to facilitate this transformation of the construction sector through the creation of a coalition in which actors in the Kenyan housing ecosystem can collaborate in order to scale the production of green materials and improve existing regulations and standards. In addition to this, Habitat wants to influence potential stakeholders to embrace sustainability in the shelter-sector and to see housing and building materials as impact categories.

In ten years’ time, Habitat and E4C hope to see that, in ten years, sustainable and circular materials are available at every hardware store, big and small, for prices that are affordable for lower- and middle-income segments. For their first user test, they will try to enable this change in Kenya where the entrepreneurial environment is currently ripe for facilitating this kind of engagement by supporting startups with circular economy innovations.

Innovation steps towards impact


How do we make sustainable materials accessible to low income households?

Most families have to build back themselves following the destruction caused by a natural disaster. Currently, self-recovery does not allow for green and sustainable materials due to high costs, no accessibility and low consumer confidence.


Habitat & E4C

Habitat found a natural partner in Engineering for Change as they connect engineers to solve some of the world’s toughest engineering challenges. E4C has rich experience in East Africa supporting building material innovation.


Support in Kenya for sustainable growth

Habitat and E4C want to form local a coalitions with industry leaders, governments, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders in Kenya to support growth in sustainable building materials and practices.


A strong foundation and building an innovation mindset

In practice, speeding up the innovation process can be difficult at times for an organisation. A strong foundation built on embracing a beginner’s mindset and giving teams space to fail-fast can help you overcome institutional barriers and support an innovation mindset.

Movement for modern energy in humanitarian settings

Read the challenges of the Humanitarian Organisations involved in the Accelerator Programme. Would you like to share your energy stories, challenge or solutions? Submit it to our demand and supply platform, Source2Gather. Or join us at the upcoming Energy and Innovation Summit on 13 April 2021. We’re committed to matching today’s challenges with tomorrow’s solutions.

Access To Modern Energy Programme

The AME programme is about doing new things to solve problems and improve the quality of renewable energy access in humanitarian programmes around the world. Access to Modern Energy is increasingly recognized as an area of humanitarian concern. If communities affected by crises go without proper access to energy, it becomes impossible for them to meet the basic needs of life. The programme enables humanitarian organisations to be the catalysts for tackling specific energy challenges, whilst opening themselves up to receiving the knowledge and business insights from energy experts and private-sector partnerships. Ultimately, the projects will provide local insights for humanitarian partnerships to enable cost efficiency and improve quality of humanitarian work.  DCHI brings together humanitarian organisations, research and educational institutes, businesses of all sizes and governmental actors. The coalition enables them to jointly find, develop and scale innovative solutions. 

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