Worldwide—Center for Development Innovation Professional Management Services

Client: U.S. Agency for International Development

Duration: 2014-2018

Region: Worldwide

Country: Worldwide


The U.S. Global Development Lab serves as an innovation hub within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by bringing together diverse partners to develop and scale up innovations to improve lives and reduce poverty around the world. The Lab’s Center for Development Innovation (CDI) advances this culture of creative problem solving by supporting innovators, inventers, and entrepreneurs in tackling important global development challenges.

DAI provided professional management services to the CDI, supporting the utilization of three core principles across the Lab’s activities:

Design Thinking: DAI helps the Lab to reframe development challenges and engage local communities and partners more effectively through an iterative and collaborative approach to problem-solving.

Adaptive Learning: By using active listening, reflection, investigative analysis, and rapid feedback loops, USAID staff and partners are able to more effectively collaborate, refine their work, and adapt to changing conditions.

Operational Innovation: The DAI team assists the CDI in continually developing and testing new business processes that give the Lab greater flexibility and the responsiveness to quickly shift program priorities, deliverables, and timetables.

Sample Activities

  • Design innovation competitions to help the Lab identify and test promising new solutions to development challenges submitted by individuals from around the world.
  • Facilitate co-creation workshops that bring together a variety of partners to help the Lab explore new approaches, challenge assumptions, and ensure the inclusion of diverse viewpoints.
  • Design and implement outreach campaigns about Lab initiatives to attract submissions for design competitions and establish the Lab as a leader in global development innovation.

Select Results

  • Assisted 24 USAID operating units worldwide to create more inclusive workstreams, including by recruiting new partners into these workstreams.
  • Supported 63 firms to engage with USAID—many for the first time—and contribute to the agency’s programming and scaling opportunities.
  • Supported 12 challenge initiatives, which attracted thousands of entrants globally with proposals to address literacy, maternal health, off-grid energy, and other needs.
  • Assisted the U.S. Global Development Lab to accelerate the work of 26 innovators whose products and services were identified by USAID as promising.
  • Designed and implemented the Family Care First co-creation workshop, which brought together more than 30 organizations in Cambodia to generate 800 initial ideas and nine finalist concepts for collaborative approaches to preventing child-family separation.
  • Used design-thinking principles to capture lessons learned by the Civil Society Innovation Initiative (CSİI), a global network for civil society organizations, and build an interactive learning module that helped CSİI to become a model for collaboration between donors and partner organizations.
  • Supported the design and implementation of the Data-Driven Farming Prize in Nepal, which seeks to collect and communicate insights from data to help smallholder farmers improve their productivity, bringing in 143 submissions from 29 countries.
  • Co-implemented Smallholders Advancing with Innovation and Technology (SAWIT), an initiative to help smallholder farmers in Indonesia sustainably produce palm oil. DAI led an international communications and marketing campaign that brought in 72 applications from 23 countries and placed 14 positive news articles about the SAWIT innovation competition.


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