Baking Social Impact Business into Sustainable Humanitarian Financing Model

by Dr. Kerem Kınık | Jul 26, 2022 | Thought Pieces

When you are baking, you know every single ingredient serves for a different function, and if the backbone of the recipe is lacking, you soon realise your product is unsavoury. Just as baking, the humanitarian system has ingredients that bring out the humanitarian support’s full efficiency – and sustainable financing is the most fundamental one of them.

Currently our life-saving humanitarian assistance in times of emergencies, it goes without saying, mainly rely on crisis-driven funding mechanisms. These donations bank on a small set of traditional donors. The funds coming from these donors are being used to respond the crisis on short-term emergency response and early recovery efforts.

But the changing environment of these crises with long-lasting conflicts and protracted natural hazards requires more sustainable resources for long-term plans and early response capacity. What we need is to shift away from the current reactive system that we have and be much more focused on preparation, resilience and acting early yet the shift in that direction currently is not quick enough or at the necessary scale.

While donations have a significant role that enables humanitarian organisations to offer their support to people in need, existing funding mechanisms are becoming inadequate to cover the skyrocketing costs of aid; leaving the humanitarian financing tasteless.

Indeed, the humanitarian financing gap is expanding vastly. I believe the key indicator that shows the expansion here is the Global Humanitarian Overviews published annually by the OCHA. If we compare the UN appeals for humanitarian funding between 2021 and 2022, we will see how financial requirements to respond the existing crises have bounced from $29 billion to $41 billion only in one year. What’s more tragic is that the appeal 2022 was less than half funded for the first time in the history. If the current humanitarian situation continues, we expect the costs of humanitarian efforts to increase more than $50 billion dollars per year.

This illustrates how undiversified humanitarian financial resources are outpaced by the increase in humanitarian needs, and how it is leaving humanitarian organizations with an unsustainable financial system – bringing out the need for a developed recipe that includes new flavours to improve our humanitarian financing models to ensure sustainable financing in the sector.

Given the current economic situation, rising depts have increased the competition for financial resources between humanitarian organizations. The humanitarian system was falling behind on pledges to bring help to those who need the most. To ameliorate the situation, the humanitarian community have started pondering on forming new income generation mechanisms to fund its emergency preparation, anticipatory action and resilience activities.

Just like trust funding, crowdfunding, Islamic funding mechanism as zakat, forecast-based financing models and other pooled/unearmarked funding tools came to the light with this sustainable finance trend, humanitarian organizations also started to consider social impact businesses.

But, what are these social impact businesses?

The official term for social impact business is still ambiguous. But to get down to the nitty-gritty, we see that companies started to adopt philanthropic values to make a social impact and achieve a positive change against the humanitarian challenges.

Their new business models that adopt humanitarian values that can be a part of the humanitarian financing and create a diverse funding mechanism. And day by day, we are witnessing how social entrepreneurship is evolving into social purpose-driven business models that can have sustainable impact in the humanitarian field with a large scale. Looking at the social enterprises, we often see successful and sustainable business models that also comes with an efficient volunteer service capacity. Within this perspective, just to give a small example, we know that there are many social ventures within the commercial food sector that uses a significant portion of their profits to fund people in need; tackling social issues in an environment sensitive manner.

So, how can we spice up our humanitarian financing model?

I think as the Red Community, we need to bake the developing social impact business models into our financing system. Adopting the business mindset and merging it with our humanitarian endeavours will take us from the misty nature of donation-based mechanisms and create a self-sustainable system that scales us up to cover our humanitarian operations.

Although not a financial scaling model, another fine instance to innovative funding tools would be the “Humanitarian Impact Bond’’ launched by the ICRC in 2017, to encourage social investments from the private sector and support its health programmes to transform financing of humanitarian support in conflict-hit countries, raising 26 million CHF capital at that time. In this model, ICRC cooperates with Bank Lombard Odier to attract investments from “Social Investors” to enable its activities in a predetermined theme to expand its programmes. At the end of the 5th year, “Outcome Funders” – the governments of Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, the UK and “la Caixa” Foundation – will pay for the ICRC according to the results achieved. ICRC then will pay back the social investors partially, fully or with an additional return, depending on its performance in terms of efficiency of its programme. Independent auditors will verify the ICRC’s reported efficiency. As the World’s largest physical rehabilitation services provider in developing and fragile countries, ICRC supported nearly 330,000 people with its innovative funding mechanism.

At Turk Kızılay, we are investing in Research & Development practices, innovations and incorporated companies to sustain our goodness operations and channelling the revenue obtained from these companies to fuel our humanitarian support efforts. We have companies working in logistics, asset management, shelter systems, home-based health care and many other business fields, we are investing in revenue-generating businesses with a social impact mindset.

What else can be done for a full flavour?

  • We can increase the capacity, efficiency and the field of work of our social enterprises by diversifying our funding mechanisms.
  • We can replicate and implement new financing methods by partnering with other social enterprises with an enchanted cooperation with other business actors; aligning our humanitarian funding mechanisms with commercial companies.

At this point, it is obvious that humanitarian financing gap will not be addressed with private capital or additional funds alone but with political solutions and reducing needs by preventative measures and prior readiness. This is especially due to the challenge of persuading private investors to invest in fragile contexts. Other challenging factor is the political and cultural stance of private donors which is somewhat shaped by what they consume in terms of information.

However new financing models will allow us to design new ways of working across the humanitarian sector and private sector with more local engagement and ultimately new solutions. We need to continue explore and replicate those new possibilities and hopefully scale up in near future to have the cherry on the cake.

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Dr. Kerem Kınık was born in 1970 in the province of Malatya, Turkey. He moved to Istanbul and resided there throughout his academic studies. He graduated from Istanbul University, Faculty of Medicine in 1993 and received his PhD in Disaster Medicine from Bezmialem University. Continuing his career after his studies, Dr. Kınık took various roles and responsibilities. He worked as an administrator at the Ministry of Health and Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality for many years.

Later in his career journey, he undertook duties at the Istanbul Provincial Council as a Councilor and Chairman of the Health Committee. During his time as a Councilor, he represented Istanbul Province at the Committee for Social Policy and Public Health of Assembly of European Regions (AER). Dr. Kınık also served as a General Manager for various domestic and international health and technology companies. Dr. Kınık currently works at University of Health Sciences (SBÜ) as an Assistant Professor, Head of Emergency and Disaster Management and Disaster Medicine programs. Throughout his academic career, he has authored many chapters and essays on disaster medicine, humanitarian aid, migration policies, development, humanitarian law and humanitarian diplomacy in addition to co-authoring books.

Dr. Kınık’s admiration and interest in humanitarianism and humanitarian organizations started early in his life going back to his student years. He volunteered with several organizations working in the field of humanitarian aid and protection. During the Kosovo War and the Marmara Earthquake in 1999, Dr. Kınık worked as a voluntary physician. The personal and professional experiences he gained throughout his academic, voluntary, and professional journey led him to Doctors Worldwide Turkey, where he served as the President. There, Dr. Kınık managed various humanitarian aid activities and projects in many conflict and disaster regions, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Palestine, Central African Republic, Niger, Kenya, Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan, and Uganda, among others.

In 2004, Dr. Kınık joined what would be his long journey in the Turkish Red Crescent. He first joined the Turkish Red Crescent as a volunteer, which he carried out honorably. Then, in 2015 he was elected as the Vice President. A year later in 2016, Dr. Kınık was elected as the President of the Turkish Red Crescent, where he initiated numerous breakthroughs and transformations in the organization.

As the leader of Turkish Red Crescent, he undertook changes in governance, strategy, and vision, which led to enhanced overall sustainability, operations, and accountability of the National Society. During his term as the President, the Turkish Red Crescent came a long way in terms of restructuring its governance and management as well as institutional development, increasing levels of work, activity, efficiency, and internationalization. With his visionary and change management approach, under Dr. Kınık’s leadership with Governing Board members and senior management leadership team he launched an organizational transformation process to build on the achievements of the past and make significant adaptations to remain relevant, focused, and responsive to the rapidly expanding national and international humanitarian needs.

His long journey in academia, private sector and humanitarian organizations led him to the next step when he represented Turkish Red Crescent in the Governing Board of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) from 2015 to 2017. Proceeding this, Dr. Kınık decided to carry forward his contributions to the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement through his candidacy for the IFRC Vice Presidency for Europe and Central Asia. In 2017, at the 21st Session of the General Assembly held in Antalya, Dr. Kınık was elected as the IFRC Vice President, where he continues his services.

Dr. Kınık is also a strong activist who works hard to combat drug abuse and addiction. Dr Kınık is a Board Member of Green Crescent, which is a Civil Society Organization specializing in the prevention of drug and other substance addictions. With this hat, he contributes to awareness raising and risk reduction programs.

Aside from his long and diverse career path, Dr. Kınık has invested his time in different recreational activities. Dr. Kınık is a songwriter musician who composes musical pieces and writes lyrics for songs. He speaks English and intermediate Arabic. Father of three and grandfather of three, Mr. Kınık is married to Hatice Öztürk Kınık, Dt. The Kınık family have a special affection for animals and a deep place in their heart for animals causes.


  1. Asiimwe Gwendolin

    Members from Uganda Red Cross Society Bushenyi Branch would love to participate

  2. Fred Marule

    Looking at the social enterprises, we often see successful and sustainable business models that also comes with an efficient volunteer service capacity. Within this perspective, just to give a small example, we know that there are many social ventures within the commercial food sector that uses a significant portion of their profits to fund people in need; tackling social issues in an environment sensitive manner”
    With the above in cots, this could be one of the best ways to go however the challenge still remain with the least developing countries that are still struggling with lots of challenges including livelihoods and now the current hard hitting phenomenon of global warming that has brought a disruption and unstable conditions in climate seasons where agricultural practices has been highly impacted giving farmers no yields and yet for example in Uganda our country’s backbone is the Agriculture.
    When the gardens are yielding no much and communities are starving to almost near death like what is currently happening in the northern region of Uganda (Karamoja), tapping from local communities to source funds becomes a challenge. Above all this is worthy trying and perfect idea that we as humanitarian workers could engage our communities in.
    Basing on the existing vulnerability of some communities, we would probably need some initial and small funds that supports localized innovations and or initiatives to set grounds for where then communities are engaged.

  3. Christian Kloyber

    At the Austrian Red Cross we have some experiences with that, fresh from the oven. In 2021 we successfully piloted REDpreneur – the program to accelerate Business Skill and Social Enterprise Development of RC/RC staff, with National Societies in South Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. Currently we are gearing up to continue with REDpreneur 2.0 consisting of 1) inspiration sessions to spark entrepreneurship 2) an Online Training Academy for business skill training & venture incubation 3) an Enterprise Development Accelerator and 4) a network to connect RC/RC entrepreneurs. Especially the Online Academy will be offered globally, so we are happy to connect with everyone who is interested in transforming grant-based core service delivery into enterprise models for more diversified funding of our humanitarian activities. More infos on

  4. Mohamed Bahero.

    This is great.


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