Grand Challenges & Prizes

The international development landscape is changing to include many more participants, “solution holders,” and willing collaborators than ever before.  USAID is seeing its role increasingly as a thought leader and facilitator of global efforts to address development challenges. 

USAID is exploring how to use prizes to access untapped solutions and solvers for specific development problems.  Through a variety of initiatives, USAID challenges the world to find solutions to the largest solvable problems that are holding back progress for individuals and communities in the developing world. 

The Grand Challenges for Development (GCD) initiative is rooted in two fundamental beliefs about international development:

  1. Science and technology, when applied appropriately, can have transformational effects.
  2. Engaging the world in the quest for solutions is critical to instigating breakthrough progress.

 Under the GCD initiative, the Agency will focus on defining problems, identifying constraints, and providing evidence-based analysis.

Through GCD, USAID aims to achieve development results that:

  • Achieve Scale:   "Moving the needle" in development requires solutions that can be scaled and the mechanisms and incentives to achieve impact at scale.  Billions of people can benefit from development solutions that scale.  In order to effectively achieve that potential, solutions must start with the goal of reaching millions and then expand from there. 
  • Are Adoptable:  The most important stakeholders of the Grand Challenges for Development are individuals, families, and organizations within developing communities.  Successful contributions start with understanding the needs and desires of the end user, not those of the donor community.  Adoptable products and services meet end-user needs, are locally owned, and continuously adapt to the changing needs and desires of the people they serve. 
  • Are Sustainable:  Success requires that the scaled solutions be sustainable.  USAID’s vision of sustainability defines one of the primary differences between ongoing assistance and effective development.  Because broad-based economic growth depends on productive collaboration among the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, sustainable development must contribute to the dynamism and accountability of local institutions in all three sectors.  Sustainable solutions eventually require no outside assistance.  
  • Utilize 21st century infrastructure:  Solutions to global development challenges will often not be achieved by replicating developed-country models in developing countries.  USAID promotes solutions that are based on 21st century infrastructure, focus on removing critical barriers to development progress and facilitate innovative approaches, particularly those based in science and technology.

Addressing development challenges requires the creation and support of self-perpetuating systems rather than one-off inventions or interventions, from fields as diverse as immunology, urban planning, social marketing, information technology, and behavioral economics.

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Last updated: March 19, 2013

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