Press Release: The Next Big Thing: iDE Funds Innovation To Fight Poverty - 18 October 2021
iDE has announced the winners of the inaugural funding round from the “Ignite: Paul Polak Innovation Fund.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: KC Koch, iDE Vice President of Global Communications and Marketing
Denver, September 17, 2021 — Winners from our country offices in Cambodia, Nepal, Mozambique, and Nicaragua will each receive grants from the fund to implement innovative new development projects that could lead to the “Next Big Thing” in their respective countries.
Inspired by the legacy of iDE founder, Paul Polak, the fund has a mission: to unlock new opportunities for scale and impact. The fund provides pitch winners within iDE’s workforce with startup money and space to test strategic ideas that could be transformative for individual country offices, or iDE as a whole.
“iDE believes in fostering innovation as a way to solve endemic problems that confront the developing world,” says iDE CEO Elizabeth Ellis. “Under this new fund, our employees based in offices across the world will create innovative solutions that will ultimately power people to lift themselves out of poverty.”
The winning country offices were rewarded for the following pitches:
* 15K approved, and 85K provisionally approved subject to additional market and manufacturing process validation.
Without the constraints and pressures of traditional project funding, Ignite allows country offices to fail fast, to learn, and to pivot. The winners will now undertake strategic research or human-centered design (HCD) processes that will hopefully unlock new opportunities in our existing programming.
The fund has three buckets of grants: Fail Fast (up to $15,000), Spark (up to $100,000), and Ignite (up to $250,000). (None of the project pitches were considered for the Ignite grant in the inaugural round.)
The Fail Fast grant provides the space to explore promising ideas that might be the Next Big Thing for iDE, or might totally flop. The success of the idea itself is not an evaluation criterion for this grant. The Spark and Ignite grants provide the space to research, test and begin to scale ideas that already have some evidence to support their potential for success. Ignite grants weren’t available in the inaugural funding round, but will be available in subsequent rounds.
Country office staff were invited to pitch ideas aligned with iDE’s mission that may contribute to unlocking scale and impact. Staff were encouraged to think up ideas that might involve new products, services, delivery models, digital apps, measurement tools, or anything else. Ideas are allowed to involve direct piloting or initial market research to determine if they are worth testing in the first place.
Ignite was inspired by Polak’s legacy for finding practical, market-based solutions to combat global poverty. He was guided by the principle that you shouldn’t design anything until you had talked to at least 100 potential users. Polak was recognized by Scientific Americas as one of the world’s leading 50 contributors to science. His book, Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail, was described by Suresh Kumar, former senior commerce official with the Obama Administration, as a “pragmatic idealist’s view of how things can be done.”
iDE is a non-government organization dedicated to ending poverty. Based in Denver, Colorado, our work within agriculture, sanitation, climate change resilience, and gender equality, stands out in the international development sector because we don’t simply hand out money or commodities. Instead, iDE believes in powering small-scale entrepreneurs and building robust market ecosystems that are financially competitive, resilient to changing climates, and inclusive of marginalized people. iDE has 1,200 global staff and offices in 10 developing countries.