About Development Innovation Ventures (DIV)

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Open innovation inspires new solutions to the critical challenges affecting millions of people around the world. It also means that game-changing ideas and solutions can come from anyone, anywhere, and at any time. That is why DIV is open year-round, reviews applications on a rolling basis, and funds innovations in any sector and in any country where USAID operates. Whether you are a local problem solver, a passionate American entrepreneur, or a university lab, we want to hear from you.

The DIV Difference

DIV is committed to a “start-up” style of iteration and improvement, which means we provide the flexibility to test and adapt as our innovators learn and grow. We also help bridge the innovation funding gap by providing early seed funding to high-risk solutions that would normally lack access to early financing. This funding helps early stage innovations demonstrate their impact and viability so that others will further invest in and scale these solutions.

DIV recognizes that innovative solutions can come in the form of a product, technology, service, or application of a creative business and delivery model. Whatever form your innovative solution takes, DIV offers support for your groundbreaking ideas that will transform lives and maximize USAID’s impact per dollar. We take strategic risks to build the best solutions and advance what works while avoiding long-term investments in what does not. Turning bright ideas into global solutions.

The DIV Model

Stool representing scale, cost-effectiveness, and rigorous testing

DIV emphasizes three “legs of a stool” to minimize risk and maximize impact.

  • Rigorous Evidence - DIV values rigorous testing methods such as impact evaluations or robust market tests to measure the impact of our innovations. Evidence of clear and measurable outcomes helps demonstrate what is working and what is not. Solutions that demonstrate rigorous evidence of impact can then be scaled to other contexts.
  • Cost-Effectiveness - DIV invests in solutions that provide the greatest impact for every dollar spent. To DIV, an innovation's competitive landscape encompasses not only other types of the same product or service, but also any alternatives targeting the same development outcomes. A cost-effective solution is better, faster, or cheaper than its alternatives.
  • Pathways to Scale - DIV is ultimately committed to achieving maximum impact. After DIV funding ends, solutions are expected to continue expanding through partnerships and adoption.
    • For scale through the public sector, the organization is expected to partner with host-country governments, multilateral donors, or other public sector players.
    • For scale through the private sector, the organization is expected to demonstrate commercial viability or partner with other businesses.

Tiered Funding & Evidence Grants

DIV uses a tiered funding model with three stages to maximize impact per dollar spent. This funding enables grantees to adapt and grow under changing circumstances because the focus is on outcomes rather than strict deliverables or project plans.

  • Stage 1: Proof of Concept (Up to $200,000)
    • Stage 1 grants test a solution’s feasibility in a developing country context. Innovations at this stage are early in their implementation and require testing to understand user interest, willingness to pay, impact, and financial viability. Innovations at this stage must be in a post-prototype or ideation phase.
  • Stage 2: Testing and Positioning for Scale ($200,000 to $1,500,000)
    • Stage 2 grants test and strengthen a solution’s business or delivery model. Innovations at this stage should demonstrate rigorous evidence of causal positive impact or use the funding to build such evidence from a randomized controlled trial or a quasi-experimental evaluation method. Funds must leverage additional external funding or partnerships.
  • Stage 3: Transitioning Proven Solutions to Scale ($1,500,000 to $5,000,000)
    • Stage 3 grants support partnerships to demonstrate the potential for solutions to be replicated or to scale the innovation to a new context. The funds must leverage additional external funding or partnership.
  • Evidence Grants: (Up to $1,500,000)
    • DIV also provides evidence grants to support research and evaluations that generate evidence of an innovation’s impact per dollar and potential for expansion. These evidence grants support impact evaluations, including randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental methods, as well as other methods of assessing impact.

History of DIV

DIV was co-founded in 2010 by Michael Kremer, a Harvard development economics professor, and Maura O'Neill, USAID's former Chief Innovation Officer. Leveraging their expertise in development economics, venture capital, and innovation, they created a new approach for testing and scaling evidence-based development solutions for the world.

This video offers highlights from “A Conversation with Nobel Laureate Dr. Michael Kremer, Co-Founder and Scientific Director of USAID's Development Innovation Ventures” at the Ronald Reagan Building on February 3, 2020.

Last updated: November 18, 2020

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