Innovator Digest
January 24, 2018
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.
Featured Announcements
MIT Technology Review is seeking nominations for innovators working on software, artificial intelligence, computing, the Internet, energy, biotechnology, electronics, robotics, and nanomaterials. They are interested in a specific achievement -- what the innovation is, what has been achieved that hasn't been done before, and how the innovator is solving a major technology problem that could make a huge difference in people's lives.

Call for Applications: ASME Innovation Showcase (Deadline: February 1, 2018)
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is seeking applications for their innovation showcases in Kenya, India, and the U.S. The ASME Innovation Showcase (ISHOW) is a global competition for hardware-led ventures. The competition is open to individuals and organizations taking physical products to market that will have a social impact. Whether you are selling your product directly to customers or employing a service-model to drive accessibility, ISHOW wants to hear about your idea. Applicants should have an existing prototype and be interested in receiving financing, technical support and access to industry networks to assist in taking their product to market. Finalists have the opportunity to win travel grants to display their innovations at the nearest showcase - the United States, India, or Kenya; a share of $50,000 in prize money; expert review of their prototype by industry experts; and access to a global network of engineers, makers, dreamers, designers, investors, and entrepreneurs.
  Shout Outs
Muso and Living Goods were featured by Stanford Social Innovation Review for their leading approaches to primary health care delivery. Both innovators have reduced child mortality with demonstrated evidence of impact. In Uganda and Kenya, Living Goods creates Avon-like networks of women community health workers that sell health products door-to-door. In Mali, Muso has built a "proactive care" model that removes barriers between patients and community health workers and clinics, in order to promote early access to care.
Azuri Technologies was featured in The Guardian as an opportunity for social impact investors to receive a potential 5% return on a two-year bond. Azuri, a UK-based company, provides solar home systems with a pay-as-you-go business model to off-grid, rural customers in sub-Saharan Africa. With every £100 invested, Azuri can make a solar home system available to a rural family in Tanzania. Azuri has set an investment target of £200,000, and DFID will match £100,000 in additional aid.
Evidence Action pursues the biggest development impact at the lowest cost. All three of its programs (Deworm the World, No Lean Season, and Dispensers for Safe Water) are endorsed by GiveWell, a meta-charity that rigorously investigates nonprofits for impact per dollar spent. By testing and scaling interventions with evidence-proven impact and cost-effectiveness, Evidence Action has received "top charity" and "standout charity" designations from GiveWell as well as recommendations for further multi-million dollar grants.
Launched in 2015, FarmDrive is a digital recordkeeping platform in Kenya that enables bankers to establish credit ratings and determine which farmers are best suited for small loans. Hundreds of thousands are in FarmDrive's database, and about 830 have received financing. Banks then pay FarmDrive for functioning as a credit bureau for Kenya's large farming community.
Rainforest Connection, founded by an American engineer, was featured as a high-potential innovation that is reducing deforestation and illegal logging in Brazil, Indonesia, and Africa. Using cell phones, solar panels, and a computer cloud, Rainforest Connection sends real-time mobile alerts to forest rangers once its device picks up the sound of chainsaws or logging trucks over a one-square-mile perimeter.
  Read This
Last mile distributors face enormous challenges. The Global Distributors Collective is a new initiative by Practical Action aiming to support last mile distributors to overcome challenges and operate at scale. Their new report calls upon the development ecosystem to ramp up support for last mile distribution, and to join the Global Distributors Collective in the design and delivery of critical services.
Set Up to Scale: Catalyzing Financing for Off-Grid Companies in Africa
What will it take to electrify all the households in Africa? Scaling Off-Grid Energy tries to do more with its funds by exploring how grant capital can catalyze private investment. One approach they are testing is blending their funds with other types of capital, which allows them to mitigate some for traditional investors looking at the off-grid energy market. Learn more about their approach and how this helps them reach more companies faster.
USAID LEARN shared findings from a recent literature review on what typically happens - and how to better approach - evidence-based decision-making. This work is an output of the Lab's investments in Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting - the full literature review and other insights will be published soon! To learn more, contact Shannon Griswold ( in the Lab's Office of Evaluation and Impact Assessment.
Feed the Future project Naatal Mbay is helping farmers utilize digital tools and data collection methods to improve work across the agriculture value chain in Senegal. A new blog features one of a series of case studies by Digital Development for Feed the Future (D2FTF), which aims to highlight different approaches to digital tool adoption and show how these tools are impacting organizational culture, operations, and programming.

Take Advantage
Saving Lives at Birth (SL@B): A Grand Challenge for Development announced its eighth call for applications, focusing on the transition to scale for the most promising solutions to improve maternal and newborn health in poor, hard-to-reach communities worldwide. Round 8 seeks applicants with demonstrated impact on health outcomes, for award funding to scale up these interventions. Over the past seven years, SL@B has established an expansive pipeline of maternal and newborn health innovations, catalyzing progress and helping save lives. Many SL@B innovators are on the verge of scaling developments in the global health field that could save more than 150,000 lives by 2030. In this round, the SL@B partners seek to scale up groundbreaking prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in underserved communities around the time of birth.
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. 
PeaceTech Accelerator
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.
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.
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 any 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!