Worldwide—Grand Challenges for Development Implementation Services

Client: U.S. Agency for International Development

Duration: 2011-2014

Region: Worldwide

Country: Worldwide

Solutions: Economic Growth Environment Governance Global Health Fragile States

Grand Challenges for Development gave people around the world a way to apply their scientific and technological know-how to solving global development problems in areas such as hunger, water, and literacy. In this new approach, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) articulated a specific problem and invited a broad range of actors—including foundations, corporations, groups, and individuals—to engage in solving it. For example, the first Grand Challenge for Development called Savings Lives at Birth, attracted nearly 500 submissions on how to help mothers and newborns in poor countries during their most vulnerable hours. An invention submitted by a car mechanic in Argentina—a device to extract babies during difficult childbirths—is now being developed by a major American medical supply company.

USAID believes that by focusing global attention, stimulating broad participation, and connecting communities and networks, solutions can be discovered and brought to scale. Other challenges issued included All Children Reading, Powering Agriculture, Making All Voices Count, and Securing Water for Food. To support this initiative, USAID’s Office of Science and Technology in October 2011 awarded DAI the Grand Challenges for Development Implementation Services contract. USAID received 2,500 innovator applications, supported 104 awards of $100,000 to $2 million, and leveraged $124 million in external funding.

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 the 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 4,000 applications with 185 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 groundbreaking, 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.


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