Close this search box.

ShelterBox, Leading the Field in Humanitarian Shelter Provision: A Social Venture of Beakerhead 2016

This is part of our series focusing on The World of Social Entrepreneurship, showcasing social impact stories at Beakerhead 2016.


Written by: Stephanie ChristensenExecutive Director, ShelterBox Canada

ShelterBox was started in 2000 in the UK by an ex-military serviceman who had seen a need for shelter and supplies to be delivered to families effectively and immediately after a disaster.

Since then, the organization has grown into a global leader in providing high-tech shelter solutions and supplies to families in over 100 countries around the world.

Each disaster is different, and so is every community. We don’t believe that one size fits all, so we make considered assessments to provide the exact support that gives people the hope and the power to transform their own lives.

The aid we supply comes in the form of ShelterBoxes and ShelterKits. Our sturdy green ShelterBoxes contain family-sized tents specially designed to withstand the elements and provide people with temporary shelter until they are able to start the process of rebuilding a home. Our ShelterKits contain all of the essential tools people need to start repairing and rebuilding homes straight away.

ShelterBox contents

That’s not all. We know that a home is much more than bricks and mortar or tarpaulin and tent pegs. Our kits and boxes contain the items that help transform shelter into a home, like cooking sets, solar lights and activity sets for children.

There has been a lot of learning and growing to get to this point though. ShelterBox has grown from a project in some one’s garage, to a respected multi-national non-profit organization. Scaling up an idea is never easy. While the ShelterBox remains the heart of what we do, and is a brilliant aid solution – it is not always the right one. That is why we have diversified our aid options to include other types of tents, ShelterKits, SchoolBoxes, and individual items from the Boxes so that the beneficiary is always receiving exactly what they need.


Communicating these changes when scaling up an idea can be a big challenge. It has taken us over a year to transition our donors from specifically sponsoring ShelterBoxes, to providing funds for all our aid items. This has been achieved through email communications, through presentations, sharing stories about the impact of our new aid items on beneficiary families, phone calls and more. Everything we do, we do for the people we are serving and we are fortunate to have donors that understand that and very generously support our work.

You might think that now the goal has been achieved and we can carry on as we are, however, at ShelterBox we know that the landscape is always changing, and we can always be better.

We test and evaluate all of the aid we provide by talking to, and learning from, the families who use it. This fuels us to be innovative and to continue evolving.

While trying to grow a business can be daunting, more people than ever before in human history are displaced by natural disasters and conflict, we therefore, are doing everything we can to spread the word and increase donations to help those who need us.

One of the biggest challenges for ShelterBox is that people do not think to donate to disaster relief when there is not a major one in the media. While these types of disasters come once a year or every few years on average, ShelterBox is responding to around 24 disasters every year. This means we have to operate on a very lean budget, and sometimes have to make difficult decisions when we don’t have enough aid to help everyone who needs us.

ShelterBox still has a lot of potential, and the ability to grow significantly. By 2020, over 200 million people are predicted to be displaced. Our goal is to grow significantly by that time to meet that need. We know our solution works, and we will continue monitoring, evaluating, changing and growing as needed – we want to see a world where no family is left without shelter after a disaster.

ShelterBox standard releif tent in the background.
ShelterBox standard relief tent in the background.

[box] Join us at Beakerhead 2016 to meet six extraordinary social entrepreneurs fusing design, engineering and entrepreneurship to make the world a better place – and still meet the bottom line!

TWOSEKudo’s from Oprah to ABC’s Shark Tank, Forbes Magazine and B-Corp; growing from 100 units a month to 10,000; hitting revenue of $5 Million; responding to over 270 disasters and humanitarian crises in over 95 countries – these social entrepreneurs have seen it all.

September 16 will be Social Entrepreneurship Day in Calgary. You will be able to check out:

A morning keynote by Michel Gelobter called “Lean Start-ups for Social Change: Insights and Perspective for Social Purpose Organizations”:

Michel is author of “Lean Startups for Social Change: The Revolutionary Path to Big Impact”. The lean startup approach has been revolutionizing businesses of all sizes for years and Michel’s book shows how lean startup can have the same transformative impact in non-profits, government, faith institutions and across the social sector.

“How Doing Good in the World is Great Business” Panel:

This candid, “how to make great ideas a reality”, lunch-hour panel discussion featuring the six social entrepreneurs and moderated by Kim Smith, Community Manager for the award-winning Capital Ideas in Calgary.

An evening pitch contest where five Calgary social ventures compete for a grand prize of $10,000:

Everyone wins as you can watch three of the Beakerhead social entrepreneurs give tips on how the local social ventures can enhance their pitches. The three Beakerhead social entrepreneurs will the transition to an “Art of the Pitch” panel discussion. The event us hosted by Calgary’s own Million Dollar prize winner of a Global Billion Dollar Idea Pitch Competition, Craig Elias.

Click here to learn more and register. [/box]

  • Categories

  • Archives