USAID U.S. Global Development Lab’s Center for Development Innovation (Lab/CDI)
The Kaizen Company, Moonshot Global, Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI)
August 2018 – September 2023
Around the world and across every major development challenge – from food security to women’s empowerment – open innovation is emerging as an important tool for sourcing and launching bold new solutions. In the USAID context, open innovation means competitions such as challenges, and prizes that identify and co-create promising new solutions to persistent and/or complex development problems.
Here’s how it (typically) works: Each open innovation competition outlines a broad – or sometimes very specific – problem, often drawing on human-centered design. This problem is then posed to the global community to crowdsource bright new ideas, tools, and approaches. Global and local entrepreneurs, academics, civil society organizations, businesses, and others – we’ll collectively call them “innovators” – are invited to apply by describing and proposing solutions and why they think their solutions will work. The best innovations with the most promising models for scale, impact, and sustainability are selected. Innovators receive funding, other incentives, and often technical assistance to accelerate their work and help them launch, pilot, prove, or scale their new solutions.
This is exciting territory, but it is also new. The development field is still learning how best to deploy open innovation for lasting impact.
Resonance leads the USAID Catalyst project to enhance and spread the use of open innovation across the Agency’s global portfolio. We are working with USAID to identify and implement best practices for finding innovators, evaluating their concepts and business models, and then financing and accelerating their impact. Open Innovation can also help USAID engage new private sector partners in its development activities around the world.
As the project enters Year 3, the Catalyst Team has:
For USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank, Catalyst is the primary implementing partner for the design and management of an innovation challenge to address the regional migration crisis resulting from the political and economic turmoil in Venezuela. In 2019, Catalyst designed and launched the Challenge. In 2020, Catalyst is managing a dynamic pipeline of innovations from across 10 countries in the region. Across this portfolio, Catalyst leads due-diligence and co-creation to build the strongest innovations possible, manages grant awards for innovators, leads communications to source innovations and tell innovator stories, performs innovator diagnostics to inform acceleration and technical assistance, and supports USAID and IDB through portfolio-level learning, and provides grantees with performance metric monitoring and applications to adapt their innovations and improve their impact. Catalyst will award and manage more than $5.5 million in innovation financing and acceleration.
For USAID’s Environment Gender Development team (E3/GenDev), Catalyst designed, launched, and managed the RISE challenge, seeking innovative solutions and models for preventing and responding to gender-based violence in environmental development programming. The RISE Challenge made seven awards – including funding innovations in Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Fiji. In 2020, based on the success of the first-round challenge, Catalyst launched a second-round competition, sourcing hundreds of unique, high-quality innovation applications from 49 countries. Catalyst is providing grantees organizational support, and Catalyst regularly convenes innovators for learning sessions to share their challenges and successes pursuing impact in the COVID-19 pandemic context. The RISE Challenge will award more than $1.2m in innovation financing.
Catalyst led the design of a unique hybrid open innovation competition with the Contraceptive Security and Logistics team at the USAID Bureau for Global Health and the USAID mission in Cote d’Ivoire. This competition is designed to inspire the development of advanced data methods for more accurate forecasting of contraceptives at the last mile of the health system. Competitors have submitted applications with advanced data models, demonstrating their capacity and experience in implementing supply chain strengthening activities in relevant operating contexts. In late 2020, Catalyst will lead a co-creation process to help modelers and field implementers partner to create the strongest application for selection and implementation in the Cote d’Ivoire health system.
The Catalyst project supported the design, planning, and execution of the Asia Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy (EDGE) Ag-Energy Prize which identified business owners and entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia with game-changing innovations operating at the nexus of renewable energy and agriculture. The prize competition identified 15 innovators who joined a week-long co-creation series, adapted for remote participation due to COVID-19, culminating in pitches before an expert investor panel. The competition awarded prizes to three innovators from Cambodia and Myanmar. Catalyst then designed a follow-on competition for the other short-listed competitors to provide multi-media marketing support to help them adapt and succeed as social enterprises in an evolving market landscape in the midst of a global pandemic.
For the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Kosovo team, Catalyst is supporting the design and launch of two Challenges intended to improve access to and use of open data in sectors key to the economy: the Kosovo Open Data Challenge on Air Quality and an Energy Use Prize. As of February 2020, the Air Quality Challenge is evaluating innovator applications and will make awards in the coming months. The Energy Use Prize began design processes in early 2020 and will launch later in the year.
Catalyst designed, launched, and managed the Inclusive Health Access Prize, in partnership with USAID’s Global Health Bureau’s Office of Health Systems Strengthening. We received 386 applications from innovators around the world, and USAID is now funding five promising new solutions, including an online blood bank in Cameroon, a health digital payments app in Senegal, and community outreach and telemedicine services for underserved populations in India.
Chief of Party, Catalyst
Program Director, Catalyst