Tips for Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) Applicants

What Are We Looking For?

DIV funds development innovations, which, among other possibilities, can include:

  • New technologies or products.
  • New ways of delivering or financing goods and services.
  • More cost-effective adaptations to existing solutions.
  • New ways of increasing uptake of existing proven solutions.
  • Policy changes, shifts, or nudges based on insights from behavioral economics.
  • Social or behavioral innovations. 

Other elements DIV is looking for in applications include:

Evidence-Based Innovations

Innovations are not required to be technology-based, but they should be evidence-informed. Evidence-informed means that they take into consideration existing academic and other evidence on what has and has not worked for impacting a given development outcome and the reasons for success or failure. Applicants may want to spend time researching what has and hasn’t worked, based on evidence from evaluations on Google or Google Scholar.

A Clear Theory of Change

A theory of change describes the causal logic of how a given project, program, or policy will achieve intended outcomes. They generally identify the inputs and activities that go into implementing an intervention, the resulting outputs, and the outcomes and final impacts stemming from successful implementation of activities and outputs.

DIV wants to clearly understand what development impacts the solution will achieve, such as higher income or lower mortality rates, as well as how said impacts will be achieved (e.g., increasing access to clean water will result in reduced water-borne illness incidence). Even early-stage innovations should have an evidence-informed theory of change.

A Long-Term Plan

DIV cares about pathways to scale and sustainability. The strongest applications lay out a roadmap for how a given solution will reach the maximum number of people affected by a problem and continue to benefit those people beyond DIV support. This roadmap includes not only how the solution will be funded in the long-term through revenue generation or public-sector support (like a developing country government), but also how the organization and its operations will evolve to sustain the solution at scale.

A Thoughtful, Honest Analysis of the Competitive Landscape

DIV is looking for an honest assessment of what makes your solution better and more cost-effective than alternatives. You should consider all products, services, and approaches that can achieve the development outcome you care about as competition, even if the product, service, or approach is unlike yours. There are alternative solutions for achieving most development objectives. The best DIV applications demonstrate that they have researched other solutions for achieving the same outcomes and demonstrate how their innovation achieves outcomes faster, cheaper, or with larger impacts than alternative solutions.

Specificity and Detail About the Problem and the Solution

While a broad understanding of the problem you will address is great, an understanding of the potential impact on the specific setting of the proposed activities (or the smallest unit of analysis that includes that setting) is better.

Information about the Costs to Deliver the Solution

We cannot think about unit economics and cost-effectiveness without understanding costs. Strong applicants include all costs, from production to implementation. If you do not know how much it costs, you should estimate and be clear about what assumptions helped form that estimate.

What Are We Not Looking For?

  • Development interventions that have limited potential to scale and/or minimal demonstration of cost-effectiveness and impact (e.g., building schools).
  • Innovations on a private sector path to scale that lack a “base-of-the-pyramid” customer focus and are unlikely to lead to significant development impacts for the poor.
  • Intermediaries (e.g., incubators, accelerators, conveners).
  • Basic scientific research (e.g., laboratory research of a prototype with no field testing; pharmaceutical testing before full regulatory approvals).
  • Planning or diagnostic tools that are difficult to tie directly to measurable development impacts.
  • Innovations with limited application to other contexts.
  • Innovations with an unclear theory of change.

Last updated: September 20, 2019

Share This Page