USAID Catalyst Award: Innovation to Action Award

Innovation to Action Award

USAID is pleased to announce the winners of the Innovation to Action award for 2017, which represent individuals and teams who were willing to think outside of the box, recognize a promising innovation and navigate the barriers to adopt that innovation in their day-to-day work.

Grand Prize Winners:

Africare Tanzania/Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program (Brian Grant, Dr. Vedasto Rutachokozibwa, Winfrida Mayilla Mollel, Glory Mhalu, Aliza Hasham): This team used a low cost mobile phone app called the HB meter as a non-invasive, low-cost method of annually testing individual hemoglobin levels and anemia. Each test only costs about one cent versus 64 cents for the previous testing method, and only takes 10 seconds. The new, non-invasive test addressed patient fear of needle pricks, and reduced the risk of infection from such invasive tests. 

Helen Keller International used Dimagi & CommCare (Pooja Pandey, Gayatri Jayal): Hellen Keller International adopted two technological innovations with the goal of improving quality program monitoring data to advance outcomes in Nepal. These two innovations improved the consistency and timeliness of data collection, transfer, and usability across almost half the country. The Nepali government also uses DHIS2 as a platform for health information, which will ease the future transfer of local adoption and ownership.

Abt Associates, Inc. (Peter Chandonait, Allison Belemvire, Eugene Kiti, Tahini Masihelison, David Mitchell): This team used a mobile soak pit (MSP), which is an innovative bucket-sized filter that can be installed in the ground in about 20 minutes to help remove pesticides and control post spray clean-up without polluting the environment or creating health hazards. This was piloted in Madagascar and Mali, further refined, and rapidly expanded to 200 trials in nine African countries. Some governments have adopted the technology to use in their own spray operations. The MSP represents a 76% reduction in cost compared to a fixed model.

USAID's Office of Global Climate Change (Director, Allen Eisendrath, and Jeff Haeni, Jennifer Leisch Sarah Lawson, Donald McCubbin, Mark Newton, Anurag Mishra, Monali Hazra, and Eric Pulliam): Under the Director's leadership, USAID's Office of Global Climate Change and other Bureau and Agency colleagues identified critical "building blocks" to adopting and scaling clean energy in high energy-use countries. After identifying six major building blocks -- strategic energy planning, smart incentives, grid integration, competitive procurement, renewable energy zones, and finance -- the Office integrated this approach into USAID’s worldwide clean energy work. The use of these building blocks was associated with the installation of 70,000 megawatts of clean energy from 2010-2016, enough to power 17 million homes in the United States. The methodology has been shared with stakeholders and donors through public forums, direct technical assistance, written summaries, and word of mouth.


 View the list of Innovation to Action Honorees, which recognizies USAID staff and implementing partners who have demonstrated exceptional leadership in testing innovative approaches in USAID projects/programs to increase their impact in a particular field.

What is the Innovation to Action Award?

The Innovation to Action Award, a USAID Catalyst Award, recognizes USAID staff and implementing partners who have demonstrated exceptional leadership in motivating teams to test or implement innovative approaches through active or recently closed (in 2016) USAID projects/programs to increase program impact. This may also include leadership on projects that are currently in the process of pivoting to incorporate an innovative approach that was not included in the original design.

How are we defining innovation?

An innovation is a new solution or approach that accelerates impact. Innovations include new technologies, approaches, processes, distribution methods, unusual partnerships, or creative uses of existing technology that address development challenges. Innovations can be iterative or transformational. Innovations can be from any sector and at early stages to scale. At minimum an innovation for the purposes of this award must have been in actual use and trial (not an idea only). We ideally hope to see submissions where there are clear partnerships between innovators, development experts, program managers, external partners, and/or policymakers.

What did we look for in an application?

Successful applications made the case for an individual who provided leadership or served as the catalyst for a USAID-funded project team to test and incorporate an innovation into its approach that resulted in one or more of the following:

  • Greater scale of impact of the project or activity outcomes than had the innovation not been adopted (i.e. innovation reached more or new customers, benefited more people, made the project or activity financially sustainable, etc.).  

  • Use of the innovation contributed in a measurable way to meeting the development objectives of the project or activity.

  • Use of the innovation helped the innovator and/or project/activity gather necessary information to be more effective in future endeavors.

  • The individual (via the project/activity or direct intervention) addressed a barrier to growth for the innovation, which helped accelerate its impact on the project/activity outcome.

  • The innovation created an new element of the project/activity, allowing it to exceed the intended positive outputs or outcomes of the project/activity’s original design or perceived impact.

  • The innovation continues to be used by the customer or partner post project/activity conclusion.

  • The project/activity design incorporated innovative programming mechanisms (such as RFA/RFP language)

  • Bonus for applications that include: lear evaluation data on the effectiveness of the innovation (either positive or negative).


All USAID staff (of any hiring mechanism) and implementing partner staff were eligible for this award.



Last updated: March 16, 2018

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