Innovator Digest
November 21, 2017
The U.S. Global Development Lab serves as an innovation hub. We take smart risks to test new ideas and partner within the U.S. Agency for International Development and with other actors to harness the power of innovative tools and approaches that accelerate development impact.
Highlighted Announcements

Congratulations to 18 new winners of the DIV (Development Innovation Ventures) program! The grantee organizations span seven sectors and nine different countries, from Brazil to Zambia. Since 2010, USAID-supported DIV innovations have collectively impacted 25 million people living in poverty and resulted in $4 in funding from outside investors, lenders and philanthropies for every U.S. taxpayer dollar spent.
Recognition and Accolades
Two DIV grantees' founders were listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs! Eli Pollak and Earl St. Sauver co-founded Apollo Agriculture to bring modern farming technology to smallholder farmers throughout Africa. Andrew Foote was featured as the co-founder and CEO of Sanivation, which developed the first method of converting human waste into sustainable fuel with solar power.
EFL Global is one of five nominees selected by The Financial Times for their 2017 Fintech Impact Award. EFL Global provides alternative credit scoring for people previously outside the banking system's traditional models for predicting risk. EFL Global created an AI system that analyses psychometrics and other data collected online to predict an individual's credit risk. 
DIV partner EarthEnable won the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2017 and received €500,000 to put toward further developing their innovation. EarthEnable provides cheap, eco-friendly flooring to households to prevent diseases caused by germs and insects found in traditional dirt floors.
  Shout Outs
Rachel Glennerster of the  Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) explores various models for bringing evidence-based intervention to scale, including Pratham's Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) approach. TaRL is an approach that has been implemented in India, tested in Kenya, and with support of the Ministry of Education in Zambia, it is currently being scaled up to 1,800 schools in Zambia over the next three years, with potential for further scale based on the results of an ongoing randomized evaluation.
USAID provides support to the organization Instiglio to develop, with Village Enterprise and other donors, a development impact bond (DIB) to scale Village Enterprise's poverty graduation model in Kenya and Uganda. This DIB is first in the world to focus on poverty alleviation, the first in sub-Saharan Africa, and the first to bring on major donors like USAID and DFID.
Ella Gudwin and Claire McGuinness from VisionSpring explain how their social enterprise uses strategic partnerships to provide eyeglasses to workers and students in developing countries, with the goal of increasing productivity and quality of life.
Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) emphasizes the need to invest in early-stage social entrepreneurs that can iterate more rapidly with their freedom from existing constraints. As an example, Living Goods utilized an Avon-like business model to create a network of community health workers who deliver life-saving products door to door. This model brought a new delivery mechanism to the market and, as a result, Living Goods and its partner BRAC reduced child mortality in Uganda by 27 percent for less than $2 a year and proved it could be sustainable at a regional level.
  Read This
Economists from USAID's Office of Economic Policy conducted a cost-benefit analysis of four off-grid solar energy investments, representing $8.4 million in development assistance through DIV. An initial review of the results suggests USAID's $8.4 million investment is creating over $17 million in net present value to the East African countries of Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.  A majority of this value addition comes from households spending less of their income on energy sources while enjoying additional hours of higher-quality lighting.
Take Advantage
The U.S. Department of State is launching Boldline, an accelerator for public-private partnerships. Boldline supports partnerships that address pressing global challenges and focuses on providing tools to scale their missions. The main goal of Boldline is to build and deploy strategic connections and collaborations aimed at: a) strengthening the global partnership-building ecosystem; b) promoting and facilitating connections between the private sector and governments; and c) fostering innovative partnership business models.
Patents for Humanity is an awards competition recognizing innovators who use game-changing technology to meet global humanitarian challenges. Winners receive an acceleration certificate to expedite select proceedings at the USPTO, as well as public recognition of their work. Submissions are evaluated on the effectiveness of their technology at addressing a humanitarian issue, the contributions made by applicants to increase use of their technology among the impoverished, and the impact those contributions have made to improve lives.
Apply Anytime
Open Road Alliance (ORA) is a private, philanthropic organization that provides fast and flexible contingency funding to non-profits and social enterprises. It makes one-time grants and loans to mid-implementation projects that encounter an unexpected external roadblock that requires a discrete injection of funds to solve the problem at hand. ORA can move from application to funding in just 3-6 weeks. ORA's core funding criteria are:
  • The project must be mid-implementation , meaning all of the funding had been raised and then the roadblock occurred
  • It must be unexpected - it cannot be an internal error but something external to the organization that has created the additional funding need
  • The problem must have a discrete , one-time funding solution that is not recurring
  • The organization's model must have the potential to be system-changing, either in design or scale, creating catalytic impact
ORA is open to any sector and geography. If you think your organization is facing a situation that may fit these criteria, reach out to ORA Portfolio Manager, Caroline Bressan, copying your DIV AOR.

UNICEF's Innovation Fund provides equity-free seed funding for start-ups in developing and emerging markets, that are developing open source solutions in frontier technology areas. It seeks open-source projects that have already been started and are showing some positive indicators but need funding to attract additional investment and funding by generating real data. The investment comes with support from UNICEF's Venture team and partners, providing mentoring on product development, creation of open source communities, profitable business strategy, and a network of funders and partnerships for scale. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis here. Check out the website or this info note for more details. 
The PeaceTech Accelerator is the first cloud innovation centre and scale-up program devoted to peace technology, launched by C5 Accelerate and PeaceTech Lab, with support from Amazon Web Services. The Accelerator runs eight-week programs of intensive mentorship and training to help for-profit and non-profit start-ups to scale up, with a focus on the use of cloud capabilities. The program culminates in a pitch day to potential investors. It is looking for start-ups that are designing, developing and using new and innovative technologies to help end violent conflict and promote sustainable peace. For more information, or to apply, go here.
The 11 Heads of Government and State and Special Adviser who make up the UN/World Bank  High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) launched this Challenge to improve access to information that is so crucial to ensuring that farmers thrive and that water resources are managed well. The Call for Innovations began on World Water Day (March 22, 2017) and has a rolling application process. Learn how to apply here. If you need help applying, email here with "Water Data Challenge" in the subject line.  
Gray Matters Capital coLABS is taking very early stage bets on the most promising entrepreneurial ideas with the potential to demonstrably improve the lives of women and/or girls. It is looking for innovations that are self-sustaining, innovative and disruptive, investment-ready, ready to pilot and rapidly prototype, and committed to scaling. It provides investment capital of USD 10,000-100,000, non-funding advisory support, and usually takes an advisory or board seat for up to 3 years. Pitch your idea here.  
Similar to DIV, the Global Innovation Fund, which USAID helped launch, invests in evidence-based social innovations that aim to improve the lives and opportunities of millions of people in the developing world. Through grants, equity investments, and debt, it supports breakthrough solutions with strong potential for social impact at a large scale. Financial support ranges from USD 50,000 to 15 million. GIF accepts applications on a rolling basis. Several DIV portfolio organizations, such as SafeBoda, DMI, and Simpa Networks, are also part of the GIF portfolio.  
The DRK Foundation is accepting applications from social enterprises that are between 1-3 years old, with scalable business models that work to affect policy, public opinion, and economies. DRK portfolio organizations receive USD 300,000. Applications are accepted year-round. Several DIV portfolio organizations, including Living Goods, Muso, and myAgro, are also part of the DRK portfolio.
Other Helpful Resources
Access FREE Investment Advisory Support
Oltac Unsal  recently joined the Global Development Lab as an "Investor in Residence" to help Lab-supported innovators, including DIV portfolio organizations, with their funding efforts. Oltac is a venture capitalist with over 50 investments, a Silicon Valley veteran entrepreneur, and led early-stage financing efforts of the World Bank. Get in touch with him , and copy your DIV Grant Manager/AOR, for an investment readiness assessment to see if he can help you with your financing objectives.
Tap Our Expert Network Resources for FREE!
Are you in need of market research, identification of potential partners, support on customer research, or legal advice? We've contracted two expert networks, OnFrontiers and Atheneum Partners , to provide DIV and our portfolio organizations FREE access to experts in every sector and country. To tap the networks at no cost to you, email your AOR with a few sentences about the type of support you're looking for and why, and they'll get back to you with next steps.
DIV portfolio organizations can access Digital Globe and Planet Lab imagery through the GeoCenter at USAID's Global Development Lab. To obtain imagery, submit a request through its portal. You will need to sign a user agreement, submit a request form, and send an email confirmation. If you are specifically seeking Planet Lab imagery, indicate this in the request form. If you have any questions, email your DIV Grant Manager/AOR and be sure to copy him/her on your confirmation email to the GeoCenter.
Get Engaged
  • If you're planning on attending GES 2017, or any other major events this upcoming year, give us a heads up.
  • Current DIV portfolio organizations: Renew your registration! Did you know that your registration has to be resubmitted annually or else it expires? If your registration expires, you will not be able to receive your milestone disbursements. Please check your status and ensure that you leave enough time (a few weeks is recommended) to complete all the renewal steps on to ensure you are continually compliant. Any questions on this can be directed to your AOR. Note, there are several companies that will offer to do this registration for you for a fee, but you can do it yourselves for free.
  • Take ownership of your innovation profile on DIV's online engagement community - - and keep it updated. To do so, you must first create an account on the Global Innovation Exchange(which powers the DIV online community). Remember to tag to your organization and list DIV as a "related program."
  • Help us help you promote your work and the impact you're having! Send us communications materials (photos, awards, achievements, newsletters, testimonials from customers and others impacted by your work, etc.) and we will be sure to spread the word through media engagement and social media!