Recap of USAID’s Inaugural Global Innovation Week Kickoff

(credit: USAID)

“Innovation is making the impossible, possible, the unsolvable, solvable. And of course, nowhere is this more true than in the area of international development, where technology and new thinking are enabling us to reinvent how we go about fulfilling our mission.”

These remarks, delivered by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, Mark Green, kicked off and set the tone for the inaugural Global Innovation Week (GIW) Conference hosted by USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, Wellcome Trust and other partners.

Global Innovation Week: Solutions for a Better Tomorrow

Highlighting the role of partnership and innovation that empower people and governments to move beyond the need for development assistance, GIW announced key ways USAID seeks to work with partners to enable an environment for more creative solutions that address critical challenges globally:

  • Humanitarian Assistance Grand Challenge — In early 2018, USAID will launch its 10th Grand Challenge, in response to the displacement and conflict occurring around the world.
  • BAA & co-creation —  USAID seeks partners to research, design, develop, test and evaluate approaches for quickly and efficiently providing the development community and investors with access to the diverse range of expertise or partnerships (investor and/or implementer) required to design, deploy, and evaluate appropriate blended capital approaches and/or product given a specific challenge or opportunity identified across the different regions and sectors in which USAID operates
  • Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) Initiative — PACE aims to catalyze private-sector investment into early-stage enterprises and identify innovative models or approaches that help entrepreneurs bridge the pioneer gap – thus unlocking the potential of thousands of promising enterprises around the world. To better understand the impact and effectiveness of accelerators, USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) Initiative partnered with Omidyar Network, The Lemelson Foundation, and the Argidius Foundation to fund the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI), a collaboration between the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs and Emory University.
  • Digital Development Awards (Digis) — As part of the Catalyst Awards, USAID’s Global Development Lab sponsored the first-ever Digis. The Digis recognize USAID projects and activities that embrace best practices applying digital technologies and data-driven approaches to achieve their development objectives. Learn more about the winning projects online:

In addition to these announcements, GIW 2017 explored how the best ideas, innovations, and technologies are changing the way the U.S. Government, business and philanthropy work together. “Evidence and Innovation” Day kicked off GIW on Thursday, September 28, and showcased promising innovations that prove their impact, cost-effectiveness and potential to scale. It also featured new approaches to generating and utilizing results to increase development impact. The theme for Day 2 “Scale to Impact”  focused on what comes next. Day 2 highlighted the challenges innovators face and how their working to overcome these barriers. Additionally, innovators that have scaled-up successfully and increased their impact provided insights on their success and challenges.

Global Innovation Week Innovators Examples

  • PeaceTech Lab — PeaceTech Lab works to reduce violent conflict using technology, media, and data to accelerate and scale peacebuilding efforts. An independent nonprofit organization, the Lab brings together engineers and activists, MBAs and conflict experts, social scientists, data scientists, and other innovators to develop effective peacebuilding solutions.
  • HarvestPlus — HarvestPlus improves nutrition and public health by developing and promoting biofortified food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals, and providing global leadership on biofortification evidence and technology.
  • GroundTruth Project — GroundTruth is a nonprofit media organization which focuses on issues of social justice including human rights, freedom of expression, emerging democracies, the environment, religious affairs and global health. GroundTruth works to foster dialogue and engagement about these issues, with the aim of finding solutions as well as exposing injustice by helping to support a new generation of correspondents who can work together across different media platforms and cultural backgrounds.
  • SafeWater Network — Safe Water Network develops and implements sustainable, market-based solutions that provide safe, reliable water to populations in need. Safe Water Network accelerates the development of practical, affordable models, prove their sustainability, disseminate our best practices and work with partners to take viable solutions to scale.
  • EarthEnabler — EarthEnable provides Rwandans with healthier homes by training local masons to craft an affordable and durable earthen floor. The floor is composed of natural materials (gravel, clay, sand, and other additives) and sealed with a layer of proprietary drying oil that makes the floor impermeable, easy to clean, and polished. Dirt and mud floors are a major cause of infectious disease, respiratory illness, malnutrition, and vector-borne disease. And while a clean and dry floor made of concrete would cost a Rwandan family as much as $300 for a 20 square meter home, EarthEnable works to floor a home for 15% of the price.
  • GlobalMedic — GlobalMedic is the operational arm of the David McAntony Gibson Foundation (DMGF). GlobalMedic operates as a registered Canadian charity, and their mandate is to save lives by providing short-term, rapid response in the wake of disasters and crisis, both at home and abroad. GlobalMedic achieves this through their well-developed Emergency Programs and our internationally deployable Rapid Response Team (RRT).
  • We Care Solar — We Care Solar promotes safe motherhood and reduces maternal mortality in developing regions by providing health workers with reliable lighting, mobile communication, and medical devices using solar electricity.
  • SecondMuse — SecondMuse collaborates with organizations to bring new thinking and solutions to complex issues facing humanity. SecondMuse uses a network-centered innovation approach to understand, identify, develop and propel key innovations to unlock transformational change. Their work has been highlighted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the White House and has won the World Bank 2011 Sustainable Development project of the year.

Global Innovation Week and Beyond

GIW and its supporting events, highlights a culture of innovation being cultivated within USAID and the broader development community. Using innovation to achieve efficient and impactful development outcomes requires pairing smart risks with evidence-based investments.

In order to catalyze the next generation of breakthrough solutions that improve the quality of life and economic well-being of people worldwide, partnerships between innovators, industry experts, researchers, practitioners, scientists and others are critical for elevating the latest thinking around innovation in government, global health and international development. To build upon the momentum of GIW and dialogues explored at the conference, below is a list of  upcoming initiatives and forums:

  • Blockchain@State — Set for October 10, the The Blockchain@State Forum is a one-day discovery workshop for the U.S. Department of State and interagency partners to explore both the policy implications and potential applications of distributed ledger technologies advancing U.S. diplomacy and development goals.
  • Boldline Accelerator — The U.S. State Department launched Boldline, an accelerator for public-private partnerships (PPPs). One of the first programs of its kind, Boldline supports partnerships that address pressing global challenges and focuses on giving them tools to scale their missions. The accelerator will take place in Spring 2018 in Washington, DC and participation in the program will be highly competitive. Applications will become available Fall 2017.
  • Global Partnerships Week 2018 — Each year GPW features self-organized events around the world, from large-scale conferences and panels to intimate networking gatherings or webinars, that serve to illuminate existing collaborations, as well as potential partnership opportunities.

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About the Author
Mariel Kanene is Founder and Editor of and lead storyteller with a focus on people, place and purpose. His passion for storytelling was born in Kinshasa, Congo, groomed in Dallas, Texas, and cultivated in Washington, DC. Mariel now resides in Los Angeles, CA. By day, Mariel spends his days slowly trying to change the world—one meaningful interaction at a time. When Mariel is not in the office, he spends his free time in athletic pursuits from weightlifting to yoga, swimming, and the ocassional boxing class.  He loves good conversations over good coffee and even better rum. He hates talking about himself in third person. Thanks for stopping by. Always appreciated. Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin .

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