Grand Challenges for Development Implementation Services

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched Grand Challenges for Development in early 2011 with two goals: entice a broad range of people to generate innovation and progress against critical problems through tools such as prizes and competitions; and intensify the role of science and technology in helping people in developing countries. This “call for ideas” is pushing USAID’s global development community to identify barriers to its success and recruit a community of innovators to help overcome those barriers. Since kickoff, USAID has received hundreds of submissions from around the world on ways to solve its first two Grand Challenges, titled “Saving Lives at Birth,” and “All Children Reading.” “Saving Lives at Birth” has already awarded a round of cash prizes that are helping fund top ideas or scale up ongoing, innovative programs that address mother and child mortality. In October 2011, USAID’s Office of Science and Technology hired DAI to support the Grand Challenges effort, with DAI helping lead the launch of “All Children Reading” and “Powering Agriculture.”

Sample Activities

  • Launch new Grand Challenges for Development.
  • Build communities of problem solvers around each Grand Challenge, using the internet and other platforms.
  • Enhance the Global Challenges for Development brand by sharing knowledge gained, validating the impact of projects being funded, and promoting USAID-wide uptake of the Grand Challenges for Development model.
  • Demonstrate validity of using prizes and other tools, including crowd-sourcing and collaboration platforms, to find solutions and incentivize innovators.
  • Support USAID champions in implementation of individual Grand Challenges with enhanced communication, marketing, and outreach.
  • Identify and support potential partners and collaborators.

Select Results

  • Launched and operating five Grand Challenges—Saving Lives at Birth All Children Reading (2011), Powering Agriculture (2012), Making All Voices Count (2012), Securing Water For Food (2013).
  • More than 2,000 applications with 84 awards (seed and transition grants ranging from $100,000 to $2 million) to new USAID partners.
  • Raised more than $124 million in external funding from bilateral partners, the private sector, and foundations.
  • Supported 50 innovators with ground-breaking, disruptive technologies.
  • Higher Education Solutions Network has funded a network of eight university consortiums (500+ applicants, 100 institutions, 38 countries) to source innovative, results-driven, cost effective, and rapidly accessed solutions to global development.

Client: U.S. Agency for International Development
Contract: 2011–2014