Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Devex Innovators Forum at the House of Sweden here in D.C. The forum was held to celebrate innovation in global development and congratulate the recently announced Top 40 Development Innovators.
It’s clear that solving global poverty is no easy task, to say the least. So, what’s to be done, and who’s getting it right?
Identified in a poll by Devex of thousands of global aid and international development professionals, the Top 40 Development Innovators recognizes the leading development organizations that have been the most innovative in finding solutions for the global challenges of the developing world. These innovators included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, William J. Clinton Foundation, International Rescue Committee and Amnesty International, just to name a few.
Among the recipients was International Rescue Committee, who’s building platforms that other NGOs can use to up their efficiency, like the Emergency Market Mapping Analysis (EMMA). EMMA allows humanitarian staff to track and use local market systems even during emergencies so that aid agency’s emergency responses can meet immediate survival needs and also plan for economic viability down the road, according to GOOD, the media sponsor of the effort.
The forum brought up a series of interesting discussions, including panelist Sonal Shah, Director of White House Social Innovation, stating, “It’s the system of innovation that needs to change. The focus is often on the shiny, new piece of technology and not how to change and improve the system.” Rather than finding and funding new, expensive technologies, more impact can be made by realizing what systems of innovation are working and scaling them accordingly.
An interesting conversation that was also brought up was the issue of power players shelving self-sustaining innovations in an effort to bring in more revenue for themselves. It’s proven that chaos puts dollars in these corporation’s pockets. Finding ways around this, whether it be designing systems before the customer can be compromised, then becomes crucial; maintaining intellectual honesty even when dollars are scarce is key.