What We Fund:
- Innovations that clearly demonstrate cost-effectiveness, evidence of impact, and potential to scale
- Ideas in any sector and country in which USAID works
- Any type of organization, including: for-profit companies, social enterprises, non-profits, NGOs, academic and research institutions, and individuals - only exception is government
What We Don't Fund:
- Development interventions with limited potential to scale, demonstration of cost-effectiveness and impact (e.g., building schools)
- Innovations that lack a base-of-the-pyramid focus
- Intermediaries (e.g., incubators, accelerators, conveners)
- Basic scientific research
- Planning or diagnostic tools that are hard to tie directly to measurable development impacts
- Innovations with limited generalizability to other contexts
- Innovations with difficult-to-disentangle theory of change
Tips for Applicants
Present a well-articulated theory of change
We take evidence seriously. DIV wants to understand very clearly what development impacts the applicant plans to produce (e.g., higher income, reduced incidence of disease) and how their proposed activities will create those impacts. We expect our applicants to articulate the assumptions that underpin this connection. Some assumptions may be grounded in existing evidence or research. Some assumptions may need to be tested. The strongest applications convey an understanding of the difference between the two and propose sound tests of unproven assumptions. Even early-stage, relatively untested innovations should have an evidence-informed theory of change.
Tell us the end-game for your solution
We care about scale path and sustainability (commercial or government adoption). The strongest applications lay out a roadmap for how their solution will reach the maximum number of people affected by a problem and continue to serve these people in the absence of funding support from DIV. This roadmap includes not just 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.
Provide a thoughtful, honest analysis of the competitive landscape
In most cases there are nearly identical products or services out there. We look for an honest assessment of what makes yours better and more cost-effective than alternatives. The point of comparison is any alternative ways of achieving the development outcomes you claim; this means you should be thinking of your competition as all the products, services, and approaches that can achieve the development outcome you care about, even if the product, service, or approach is very dissimilar to yours. If you think you have no competition, you don’t fully understand your customers or beneficiaries and/or don’t fully understand your market. We frequently hear innovators say their innovation “has no equivalent” and is “entirely unique.” Sure, we all want to think our idea is entirely novel. But this framing will do you a disservice in the application process. With very few exceptions, most development innovations are not radically new technologies with no equal; often, innovation is a demonstrable step-forward, building on the lessons learned from other attempts.
Be specific and detailed about the problem and the solution
A broad understanding of the problem you plan to address is great. Even better is an understanding of the potential impact on the specific setting of the proposed activities (or the smallest unit of analysis that includes that setting).
Tell us what it costs to deliver on your solution
We can’t think about unit economics and cost-effectiveness without understanding costs. Strong applicants include all costs, from production to implementation. If you don’t know how much it costs, estimate and be clear about the assumptions that underpin your estimate.