iDE Global

Locally-led innovation rewarded with new funds provided to iDE staff

Staff solve challenges to create impact in their community

Dealing with snails that wreak havoc in Nepal’s crop fields. Recording the journey of Honduran coffee beans on a blockchain. A Zambian business plan for submersible solar pumps. And improving food security in Cambodia by growing mushrooms.

These are some of the latest ideas being backed by the Paul Polak Innovation Fund. Established in 2021, the fund helps nurture and grow iDE’s proud culture of innovation, providing grants to test and implement our locally-led solutions.

“Coming up with powerful solutions to endemic problems, that prevent people in low-income communities from reaching their full potential, is what we do best,” says iDE CEO Lizz Ellis. “Put simply, innovating and ideating helps us deliver lasting impact for the people we serve.”

Inspired by the legacy of iDE founder, Paul Polak, the fund aims to unlock new opportunities with the potential for scale and impact, with pitch winners within iDE’s workforce provided with startup money and the space to test entrepreneurial thinking.

A Moment of Change

“It was unbelievable. I honestly couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream,” says Mohammed Baba Najeeb from the Ghana country office, who was awarded a grant to road test a water harvesting project that is designed to empower women. “Tears started to roll down. I thought about how this was the moment I had been waiting for, a moment of change.”

3 2 Ppif Najeeb Call Out

Under the fund, staff with cutting edge ideas for new programs and interventions are invited to submit applications for funding. While dozens of transformational ideas have been received during four submittal rounds so far, judges have had to make difficult decisions, selecting the best of the best. 

In the latest round of funding, we selected six ideas for “Fail Fast” grants of up to $15,000 and seven “Spark” grants, which can be as high as $100,000. So far no “Ignite” grants, which can reach up to $250,000 and must meet stringent requirements, have been awarded in any of the funding rounds.

Says Ellis, “We were delighted to provide funding to the latest batch of ideas which are characterized by exploration, collaboration, and potentially game-changing technologies, and the boldness to take on big challenges.”

Since the fund began, we've awarded 18 Fail Fast grants and 13 Spark grants, with another round to be announced in mid 2023

Check out the pitch videos of selected awardees

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