Written by DAI, September 26, 2016
In May 2016, DAI and its partners announced four winners in the Innovation into Action Challenge, a competition to identify and support products and services that will help people in developing nations tackle social and economic challenges.
The four winners and two subsequent awardees have deployed—or will soon deploy—to field-test their innovations through DAI projects and contacts, with a tailored package of mentoring and technical assistance. Below is a summary of what they have accomplished so far:
Laboratoria, an education and career development program that equips women from low-income backgrounds with data management and coding skills, visited the El Salvador Puentes par El Empleo (Bridges to Employment) project and met with private sector companies and organizations involved in workforce development and small business support. Based on positive reaction from the market, Laboratoria is now positioned to become the leading coding boot camp and a major tech player in El Salvador. The Puentes team and Laboratoria are discussing implementation strategy before seeking U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) approval to launch the service.
ClickMedix, whose mobile health platform allows local providers—including nurses, community health workers, and caregivers—to screen patients and tele-consult with doctors, travelled to DAI’s Jordan Competitiveness Program to assess the business viability of homecare management of cancer patients with the King Hussein Cancer Center. ClickMedix also evaluated insurance companies and clinical research organizations as partners, and developed a plan for launching its services in Jordan. The pilot conducted with the cancer center demonstrated a 42 percent time savings and an 18 percent increase in the number cancer patients that can be visited per day, plus quality of care and administrative benefits.
Promoted by DAI, ClickMedix utilized a human-centered design process to plan and conduct meetings with the cancer center, Jordan International Insurance (JIIG), and Triumpharma, a clinical research management firm.
Solar Sister, which generates livelihoods for women in rural Africa through a network selling renewable energy products such as solar lamps, is scheduled to visit Tanzania in mid-October to link with farmer associations. Solar Sister will test its hypothesis around building out a business model with the agricultural sector where they become distributors of Solar Sister products, and identify potential entrepreneurs. With DAI support, Solar Sister will establish selection and scale criteria for expansion to new partners and meet with select farmers associations or groups to find viable business channel partners.
ThinkMD, whose MEDSINC mobile application guides local health workers in remote areas without access to doctors (photo above and below), presented its plan to U.S. Embassy staff in Quito, Ecuador, to implement a national field test and design rollout with the Ministry of Health. The Innovation into Action Challenge is helping ThinkMD—which is now piloting its app—expand its existing network in Ecuador to include new potential funders, including the U.S. Government and the Pan American Health Organization.
“It has been a very positive progression in partnerships and work,” said Dr. Barry Finette, the founder of ThinkMD. “I know [DAI is] reviewing all options with a primary interest in establishing a long-term commitment that ultimately could lead to that ‘elusive’ successful scaling of MEDSINC and future derivative products.”
Mavuno Harvest, which was awarded a travel stipend from the Innovation into Action Challenge, works with smallholder farmers in East and West Africa to counter post-harvest loss and increase local incomes by introducing their dried fruit products to the U.S. market. Based on success in Uganda and Burkina Faso, the company hopes that DAI can help it identify more dried fruit suppliers in sub-Saharan Africa with the potential to make this leap in international markets. U.S. sales for Mavuno are on pace to triple in 2016.
Mavuno has certainly encountered some challenges—finding African dried fruit producers, ascertaining food quality and compliance with social standards, and communicating through email—but DAI support helped Mavuno locate potential new partners in Ghana and Zambia.
“Don Humpal has been a tremendous resource,” said Phil Hughes, founder of Mavuno Harvest. “I did not know it was possible to know that much about agriculture in Africa! Thank you DAI and USAID for the offer of financially assisting me with this trip. I think it will be very helpful to meet these potential suppliers in person.”
Speak Agent, whose platform is used by teachers to create custom English-Spanish, interactive language-learning materials, was also awarded a travel stipend and is working with DAI to identify a project suited to hosting a Speak Agent team.
Alexis Bonnell, head of the USAID Innovation Exchange, believes the Challenge has yielded great progress in socializing promising ideas and testing innovations in situ. “What has been most interesting to me is how incredibly well positioned the [chiefs of party] are to provide significant access to relationships, advice, and business support to these entrepreneurs and innovators,” Bonnell said. “We are finding great ways to leverage their in-country expertise in meaningful ways.”
DAI’s partners in the Innovation into Action Challenge are USAID, the Global Accelerator Network, and Montgomery County, Maryland.