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About Airbel

Innovation has always been the spirit of the International Rescue Committee. The early IRC — founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein — invented new ways to help people escape the horrors of World War II. Today, our commitment to research and development is pioneering changes in products and processes that, in turn, are changing lives.

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What does Airbel do?


Airbel brings together multidisciplinary teams of experts drawn from inside and outside the IRC to:


  • Develop solutions that draw on a deep understanding of context, a user's needs and values, outside sciences and disciplines.
  • Build prototypes and responsibly pilot them in fragile contexts. 


  • Subject solutions to gradually more rigorous testing, from simple feedback mechanisms to wider impact evaluations.
  • Share our success and failures with the humanitarian sector. 


  • Measure exactly how much improvement and cost-effectiveness we can achieve, leveraging the IRC’s global network and expertise.
  • Engage public and private partners to achieve scale. 

Where does Airbel focus?


Nearly 24 million children living in crisis zones are out of school. That’s 1 in 4 children between six and fifteen years old who are missing out on their education. The IRC is designing mobile-based experiences to help parents be better teachers, and to help teachers overcome interruptions in a child’s development. Learn more.


Over 1.3 million Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan, comprising 13% of Jordan’s population. The IRC is conducting analysis with leading economists, creative entrepreneurs and government agencies to unleash job growth for Syrian refugees and Jordanian host communities.


Over 50 million children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished. Only 10% of those have access to clinic-based standards of care. The IRC is developing a system that enables community health workers to diagnose and deliver lifesaving treatments to children, which does not require literacy or specialized skills. Learn more.


Vaccines are highly effective at preventing communicable diseases. But in crisis-affected countries, immunization rates are stuck at 40- 60%. The IRC is testing a set of tools to enable community health workers in Uganda to find and treat unvaccinated children, and optimizing the supply chain for shots. Learn more.


Evidence shows that cash is effective aid in emergencies. But it’s expensive to process and takes 4–8 weeks to reach people in crisis. The IRC is exploring how big data can speed up the identification of aid recipients in Pakistan, and is using new software and systems to get money to people more effectively. Learn more.

Violence prevention

Every year, nearly one billion children worldwide are subject to regular physical punishment by their caregivers. The IRC is studying how to affect social norms in order to reduce violence against women and children, promoting their safety in crisis settings. Learn more.


Read about Airbel's latest R&D projects in our Medium publication. 

Who is the Airbel team?

Airbel is a team of design-thinkers and strategists. Together with IRC technical experts and field staff, we design and scale new solutions that will reach more people and have a bigger impact in some of the most challenging places around the world. Our team includes: 

Ravi Gurumurthy, Vice President, Strategy and Innovation [LinkedIn]

Austin Riggs, Director [LinkedIn

Ben Moskowitz, Associate Director of Development [LinkedIn

Rachel Lehrer, Design Innovation Lead [LinkedIn

Mariana Prieto, Design Innovation Lead [LinkedIn]

Natan Last, Innovation Strategy Advisor [LinkedIn

Shirin Ahmed, Project Manager – [LinkedIn]

Contact us: [email protected]

How can I get involved?

Resources for R&D are fragmented and a large proportion of funding is inflexible. To achieve the next generation of humanitarian breakthroughs, we need risk capital that embraces experimentation and uncertainty—and donors that understand the importance of “failing fast,” learning quickly, and building on what works.

We seek bold partners to help us establish the Airbel R&D center at the IRC, and to help finance, refine and implement projects that will achieve better outcomes for people suffering from violence and displacement.

Contact us: [email protected]

Read about Airbel's latest R&D projects in our Medium publication. 

Why "Airbel"?

Airbel is named for Varian Fry, who arrived in Marseilles in 1940 with $3,000 and a mission: to help people escape the horrors of Nazi-occupied France. There he established the Air-Bel Villa, a secret safe house that helped thousands of people escape to freedom. 

Like all heroes of the early International Rescue Committee, Fry had no playbook or standard operating procedure to guide him. He learned by doing, applying ingenious methods, embracing inventive thinking, taking calculated risks, and building on success. This spirit has persisted for over 75 years and echoes throughout all of our programs worldwide. 

Innovation in focus

Bethany Marron of the IRC speaks with Think Tank TV on malnutrition research in South Sudan. She focuses on a tool the IRC developed to support low-literacy community health workers to tackle childhood malnutrition.

Expert views

Evidence suggests that current humanitarian practices are not reaching enough people, nor making a big enough difference in their lives. We need to develop solutions that reach more people, deliver more value for money and make a bigger impact on the lives of the people we serve.

Ravi GurumurthyVice President, Strategy and Innovation, International Rescue Committee