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Looking Down Supply Chains to Counter Human Trafficking

Senior Counter-Trafficking in Persons Fellow Marina Colby for DCHA/DRG presents at the Regional Conference on Information Communication Technology to Combat Human Trafficking in Bangkok. / @USAIDAsia Twitter

Senior Counter-Trafficking in Persons Fellow Marina Colby for DCHA/DRG presents at the Regional Conference on Information Communication Technology to Combat Human Trafficking in Bangkok. / @USAIDAsia Twitter

For a Cambodian man living in a rural village with few job opportunities, the promise of a $220 monthly salary to work on a fishing boat in Japan for two years was too good to pass up. He accepted the job offer immediately — without signing a contract.

Next thing the man knew, he was flown to South Africa, had his passport confiscated, and was then forced to work — repairing fishing nets and cleaning the boat — 14 hours a day without pay. He slept in a narrow room with three other workers in bunk beds made of iron and endured the bullying of another crew member.

Unfortunately, reports of migrant workers deceived to work on fishing vessels are far too common. Nearly 21 million people are being forced to work under slave-like conditions, feeding a $21 billion human trafficking industry, according to estimates from the International Labor Organization. Last year, a U.S. Labor Department report on goods produced by child labor or forced labor lists 136 products from 74 countries — from carpets in Nepal to fish in Thailand.

Human trafficking is a global human rights challenge that preys upon the vulnerable, breaks down the rule of law and corrupts global commerce. Much more needs to be done to curb these crimes. But given these daunting figures and the well-established illicit networks benefiting across the globe, where does one begin to intervene?

As the development agency of the U.S. government, USAID sees human trafficking as a fundamental obstacle to our mission, as it impedes health, economic growth, rule of law, women’s empowerment, and lifetime prospects for youth. It undermines the development objectives we hope to accomplish through our programming.

A village committee in Nepal discusses safe migration to counter human trafficking. / Marina Colby, USAID

A village committee in Nepal discusses safe migration to counter human trafficking. / Marina Colby, USAID

To fight back, USAID is pioneering a global supply chain approach to better identify and counter human trafficking in sectors rife with these forms of exploitation and abuse. We call this initiative “Supply Unchained” and recently put out a call for ideas via the Global Development Lab’s new Development Innovation Accelerator.

At USAID, we are committed to using our comparative advantage as a development agency at the source of these supply chains by using this new model of development to leverage technology and partnerships to connect individuals and communities in sectors at risk with stakeholders along the supply chain. The ultimate goal of Supply Unchained is to better identify human trafficking risks in order to prevent new cases.

President Obama proclaimed that “our fight against human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights causes of our time” and that human trafficking has no place in our business, at home or abroad.

None of the products we consume on a daily basis should be made by an adult who is forced to produce them, or by a child working under conditions that violate international law. USAID’s Supply Unchained initiative also aligns with an executive order Obama issued in 2012 to ensure that supplies and services obtained through federal contracts are free from practices involving human trafficking.

This map illustrates the journeys of Cambodian fisherman who became victims of human trafficking. Their stories were documented in a report. / Winrock International

This map illustrates the journeys of Cambodian fisherman who became victims of human trafficking. Their stories were documented in a report. / Winrock International

The story of the Cambodian man who was tricked into working on a fishing boat without pay was documented in a report by USAID’s partner Winrock International, along with several other victims of human trafficking; that report ultimately led to a complaint against Giant Ocean International Fishery Company in Cambodia for exploitative recruitment practices.

The man had managed to contact his father back in Cambodia to seek help. His father then reached out to the team working with a USAID-funded program, who got the man repatriated home, provided him with free legal support for his case at Phnom Penh municipal court, and referred him to an NGO for vocational training in motor repair. The man now runs his own shop.

On this World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, we hope to prevent more people from experiencing the nightmare that this Cambodian man endured. We are excited to be engaging with innovative solvers around the globe to create solutions to counter human trafficking in some of the most troubled sectors.

We look forward to bringing in new partners, meeting with interested companies, and continuing to provide a platform for innovation and partnerships. Looking down supply chains, we can now begin to envision a world that is free from slavery.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marina Colby is the Senior Counter-Trafficking in Persons Fellow in USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance. Follow her @marinacolby.

USAID Seeds Innovation: 15 Social Entrepreneurs Making a Difference

Mathew, a field engineer, stress tests the Smart Tractor at a test farm in Kaduna as kids from a nearby village watch. / Jehiel Oliver.

Mathew, a field engineer, stress tests the Smart Tractor at a test farm in Kaduna as kids from a nearby village watch. / Jehiel Oliver

Picture this: A farmer in Nigeria needs to plow her field, but does not have laborers to do it. Using her mobile phone, she sends an SMS message, and within days, a tractor arrives. She can now plow her field 40 times faster than manual labor, and at one third of the cost. And the tractor owner earns a profit as well.

This “sharing economy” platform is more than a great idea; it is a startup called Hello Tractor, founded by Jehiel Oliver – a recipient of a global fellowship from Echoing Green, sponsored by USAID’s U.S. Global Development Lab.

Through a partnership, the Lab has funded two classes of Echoing Green’s Global Fellows. The goal is to “prime the pump” for global social entrepreneurship by supporting individual entrepreneurs working in developing countries.

Over two years, fellows receive up to $90,000 in funding to realize and advance their innovations. Fellows also participate in leadership development events and receive mentoring from leading business professionals. To date, the Lab has supported more than 29 Global Fellows from 20 organizations.

With interests that range from “Uber for tractors” to rights for the visually impaired, the innovations from this year’s Echoing Green Global Fellows provide essential services, create jobs and reduce poverty — often through market-based solutions.

I recently spent time with a number of fellows at a retreat, listening to their stories about the inspiring work they engage in around the world.

Wendell and Etienne

Global Fellows Etienne Mashuli and Wendell Adjetety used their personal experiences as motivation to help post-conflict African youth through the Tujenge Africa Foundation they established in Burundi.

Female farmers are trained on the Smart Tractor at a farm settlement in Federal Capital territory. / Jehiel Oliver

Female farmers are trained on the Smart Tractor at a farm settlement in Federal Capital territory. / Jehiel Oliver

Having survived the Rwandan civil war and genocide, Etienne escaped a cycle of poverty thanks to quality education later in life. “I remember the first time I did really well in school,” Etienne said. “My father was so proud, he gave me a loaf of bread.”

But school became struggle for Etienne after his uncle was shot. He managed to overcome this setback, getting a full ride to a college in Illinois and later earning a master’s degree from Yale.

To help other youth in similar situations, Wendell and Etienne began the foundation to strengthen education, leadership and peacebuilding in Burundi, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Afzal and Sabrina

After seeing the dire conditions in the informal baby care centers of Nairobi’s slums, Sabrina Premji established Kidogo with Afzal Habib.“The smell was the first thing I noticed,” said Sabrina. “As I walked forward into a dark room, I felt something brush my foot, and when I reached down, I saw it was an infant. There were at least a dozen infants in one small room.”

Faith, 11 years old, carries baby Richard to a Kidogo Center in Kangemi enabling her to go to school / Sabrina Premji, Kidogo

Faith, 11 years old, carries baby Richard to a Kidogo Center in Kangemi enabling her to go to school / Sabrina Premji, Kidogo

The experience drove her to find a way to provide high-quality and affordable early childhood care. She teamed up with Afzal, who applies his background in management consulting to lead the organization’s strategy and finances.

Afzal and Sabrina launched Kidogo last year to transform the trajectory of children living in urban slums by providing care and education.

This year, USAID is funding 15 Global Fellows who are sparking change in communities around the world. Other fellows include:

  • Aleem AhmedLove Grain—connects Ethiopian teff farmers with international markets by building partnerships with farmer cooperatives and supporting supply chains.
  • Katy Ashe and Edith ElliottNoora Health—trains and educates marginalized families in India with simple, low-risk health skills to improve clinical outcomes, provide care and save lives.
  • Sara Leedom and Julienne OylerAfrican Entrepreneur Collective—works with incubators, accelerators and investment funds to support young entrepreneurs in Africa by providing capacity building, mentorship and direct financing to grow their enterprises.
  • Mohammed Dalwai and Yaseen KhanThe Open Medicine Project—saves lives in under-resourced communities in South Africa, India and Pakistan by providing healthcare workers with free and open access to critical health information using mobile technology.
  • Sara MinkaraEmpowerment Through Integration—empowers blind youth in Lebanon and Nicaragua by providing life skills and emotional support through inclusive education and recreational programs.
  • Matt AlexanderSuyo—unlocks the transformational impact of secure property rights by making it easier and more affordable for low-income families in Latin America to formally register their property.
  • Pranav BudhathokiLocal Interventions Group—creates efficient feedback loops between governments in South Asia and citizens demanding better services.

Within the Lab, we believe good ideas can come from anywhere, but innovators need the resources and opportunities to thrive. There is no doubt that social entrepreneurs will continue to change communities, economies and nations for the better, and we are committed to enabling promising ideas worldwide.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tahalia Barrett is a global partnerships advisor in the Center for Transformational Partnerships within the U.S. Global Development Lab at USAID, working on entrepreneurship and diaspora engagement.

Q&A: How Technology is Transforming Ebola Response Efforts

In a new Q&A series, we are profiling the experts who have worked tirelessly to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa and are helping societies rebuild and strengthen health systems in the aftermath of the outbreak.

Eric King holds up a handprint to echo the wall of handprints from Ebola survivors at the Bong County Treatment Unit in Liberia.  Eric King worked to coordinate the flow of data for the international humanitarian response in Liberia for two months last Winter. / Ellie Van Houtte, USAID

Eric King holds up a handprint to echo the wall of handprints from Ebola survivors at the Bong County Treatment Unit in Liberia. Eric King worked to coordinate the flow of data for the international humanitarian response in Liberia for two months last Winter. / Ellie Van Houtte, USAID

Eric King, an innovation specialist with the Digital Development Team in the Global Development Lab, worked on USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) in Liberia for two months in 2015, working to coordinate the flow of critical data. He came to USAID in September 2013 with a doctorate in Planetary Physics. Follow him @eric_m_king.

What innovations have been developed to combat Ebola?

Almost every aspect of the Ebola response has been innovative. We have never before fought a disease this deadly on this kind of scale. Response teams have had to educate remote communities, meticulously seek out new Ebola cases, provide new facilities for isolating and treating patients, safely bury infected bodies while observing local customs, and all on a massive scale and with no time to lose.

All of these efforts are critical to preventing further spread of the disease. To be successful, trust and solidarity must be created between responders and the communities they work in. Those relationships are fostered by weaving strong communication lines – including feedback loops – into the response network, often helped by harnessing existing technologies like radio and mobile phones.

How will the role that science and technology played in this response affect the way we approach future emergencies?

Among the technological tools that have amplified the Ebola response, arguably none has been more helpful than the mobile phone.

A decade ago, a small percentage of West Africans had access to cellphones. Now, mobile phones allow us to connect those in need with those who can help. Families of the sick can call emergency Ebola hotlines, social mobilizers can share tips for community engagement, individuals can resolve Ebola rumors by texting local radio stations, health workers can be paid electronically, and clinics can flag when they’re low on supplies.

The unique communications needs of the Ebola response have tested and ultimately strengthened the connections between all the many people and organizations that come together in times of emergency.

Technology is a key component of  managing information on the Ebola virus. A local dispatcher records 115 Ebola hotline responses at a community health office in Guinea, above left. Contract tracers also use mobile phones in the field to collect data for reporting, above right. / Eric King, USAID

Technology is a key component of managing information on the Ebola virus. A local dispatcher records 115 Ebola hotline responses at a community health office in Guinea, above left. Contract tracers also use mobile phones in the field to collect data for reporting, above right. / Eric King, USAID

In a crisis, efficiently managing the flow of information is key. How did USAID rapidly get things to where they were needed?

USAID’s logistics professionals have decades of experience managing supply chains in complex emergencies, ensuring that critical commodities like food, water, and medical supplies are available to those who need them, and they’re really good at it. Similarly, we recognize the importance of ensuring that actionable information is available when and where it’s needed.

For example, ambulance teams need to know where to find the sick as soon as they show symptoms so they can be quickly isolated and treated. Contact tracing teams need to know where to find those who have recently been in contact with confirmed Ebola patients so they can monitor them for symptoms. Food distribution teams need to know where to find at-risk households who have volunteered to stay at home to protect their neighbors so that they can deliver necessary supplies.

During the Ebola response, USAID deployed an information management advisor to work with local government and partners to coordinate the flow of information throughout the response network. These efforts are often amplified by integrating proven digital technologies and mobile data tools.

As a member of an Ebola case investigation team in Liberia, Justina M. Morris interviews people who may have been in contact new patients to control and monitor the disease. Information gathering is an important component of USAID’s Ebola fighting strategy. / Neil Brandvold, USAID

As a member of an Ebola case investigation team in Liberia, Justina M. Morris interviews people who may have been in contact new patients to control and monitor the disease. Information gathering is an important component of USAID’s Ebola fighting strategy. / Neil Brandvold, USAID

USAID believes in tapping the ingenuity of nontraditional sources. How did this play a role in the Ebola response?

USAID launched the Ebola Grand Challenge, the first-ever open innovation platform for a disaster response. Through the challenge, anyone anywhere could offer a solution for how to better fight Ebola. We received more than 1,500 applications from individuals and organizations from all over the world, many of whom had never worked with USAID. From all of these diverse, creative ideas, 15 innovations have been selected to receive support.

The porous nature of borders can make tracking and containing Ebola difficult. How did the international community work to counter this?

When Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced in February that the country’s land borders were reopening, response organizations worked with the Liberian government to quickly develop and deploy a set of best practices for border health security.

This involved two major components: border screening and community surveillance. People passing through official border crossings are screened for signs of Ebola in order to identify, isolate, test, and treat those who may be infected.

This is a vital first step, but we also recognize that there will inevitably be travellers that cross the border unofficially. So, we’ve also brought communities near the borders into the formal surveillance process — effectively crowdsourcing an Ebola alert system.

Furthermore, communities on either side of the border are working together to make sure that communication channels are available to alert one another.

Amid the Ebola crisis, many stories have emerged describing heroic aid efforts and acts of bravery. What stories touched you most?

I’ve found inspiration in the selfless dedication of the medical professionals who put themselves at risk and extreme discomfort to treat those in need. Working in full protective equipment in sweltering heat and humidity, they have been tirelessly and skillfully fighting to save as many lives as they can.

In some treatment units, some of the Ebola patients themselves began helping to provide care for the other patients who were suffering most. And some Ebola survivors, now immune, have organized themselves to work with health professionals to provide care to those in need. It inspires me to see such compassion and solidarity emerge from this unprecedented tragedy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clara Wagner was an intern for USAID’s Bureau of Legislative and Public Affairs working on content and public engagement.

Disruptive Innovations Bringing Nepal Closer to Ending Extreme Poverty

Nurses apply chlorhexidine to the umbilical cord of a newborn at Nepalganj Medical College & Teaching Hospital. USAID is helping Nepal bring the life-saving antiseptic gel to villages, communities and health centers across the country. / Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID

Nurses apply chlorhexidine to the umbilical cord of a newborn at Nepalganj Medical College & Teaching Hospital. USAID is helping Nepal bring the life-saving antiseptic gel to villages, communities and health centers across the country. / Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID

In the maternity ward of a USAID-supported hospital in Dhulikhel, a town on the eastern rim of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, I watched a nurse apply a disinfectant gel to the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. That tube of the antiseptic chlorhexidine — worth under 15 cents — has been shown in a randomized control trial, to reduce neonatal mortality by a remarkable 34 percent in Nepal.

All around the country, more than 50,000 female community health volunteers  are sharing this innovation and saving thousands of lives in the process.

Thanks to simultaneous advances in health, education, nutrition and access to energy, Nepal stands at the edge of its prosperity. On the path to overcoming the remnants of internal conflict and transitioning to democracy, the Nepalese have cut extreme poverty by 50 percentage points in the last two decades.

Gita, a female community health worker, visits a pregnant woman and her family to show them how to use the chlorhexidine antiseptic gel and how to apply it to the umbilical cords of newborns.   / Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID

Gita, a female community health worker, visits a pregnant woman and her family to show them how to use the chlorhexidine antiseptic gel and how to apply it to the umbilical cords of newborns. / Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID

Innovative programming like chlorhexidine application is growing more common in Nepal and around the world. USAID is also supporting creative community-based approaches to countering human trafficking, including a novel effort to criminalize organ sales that has won landmark court cases, setting new precedent in Nepalese law for holding traffickers accountable.

Suaahara, a comprehensive nutrition program  that translates to “good nutrition,” teaches skills for nutrient-rich backyard vegetable farming, raising poultry, improving sanitation and hygiene, and controlling pests through demonstration farms and new mothers’ discussion groups.

A focused effort to improve early-grade reading is supporting the Ministry of Education’s School Sector Reform Plan by strengthening curricula and training teachers, school committee members, parents and technical support staff in more than 27,000 Early Childhood Education Development centers across the country. Just a 10 percent increase in the share of students with basic literacy skills can boost a country’s economic growth by 0.3 percentage points, while laying the foundation for their later learning.

We need these kinds of disruptive innovations to help bend the curve toward increased child survival, better access to justice, lower malnutrition, greater literacy and skills, and, ultimately, the end of extreme poverty. Solutions like these will drive broader development progress and elevate our efforts to realize transformative change, and now, 2015, is the time to do it.

This year will be a pivotal year for international development. In Addis Ababa this summer, leaders will come together at the third Financing for Development conference to agree on a new compact for global partnership.

In the fall at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, heads of states will ratify a post-2015 development agenda, a universal, more comprehensive, more ambitious follow-on to the Millennium Development Goals, outlining a vision for the next 15 years of development progress. And in Paris next December, member states will adopt a new agreement to combat global warming at the 21st Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Substantial challenges lie ahead for Nepal. Tensions from the recent conflict remain, simmering below the surface. The government has set a January 2015 deadline to approve a constitution – after a failed attempt in 2012 – to be followed by local elections, which haven’t been held in 16 years. And a quarter of Nepal’s population still lives on less than $1.25 a day.

Based on current projections, Nepal is likely to eradicate extreme poverty before 2030. If Nepal can navigate the pitfalls ahead, it is well-positioned to see long-term, sustainable growth by developing its immense hydropower potential, exploiting its unparalleled tourist draw, and producing goods and services for the growing middle class on its doorstep – the belt from eastern Pakistan through northern India to Bangladesh that constitutes the most densely populated area on earth.

A worker for Lomus Pharmaceutical packs tubes of a chlorhexidine antiseptic gel that is one of Nepal’s great innovations and success stories in global health. The gel, when applied to the cut umbilical cord stumps of newborns, instead of traditional substances like oil, curry powder or ash, can reduce the risk of infant death by up to a third.  / Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID

A worker for Lomus Pharmaceutical packs tubes of a chlorhexidine antiseptic gel that is one of Nepal’s great innovations and success stories in global health. The gel, when applied to the cut umbilical cord stumps of newborns, instead of traditional substances like oil, curry powder or ash, can reduce the risk of infant death by up to a third. / Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID

While the solution to a vexing challenge like neonatal mortality may seem as simple as applying a bit of antiseptic ointment at the right time, this breakthrough came only after a dedicated and concerted effort to hammer away at the problem. USAID worked in partnership with academic researchers, government service providers, community extension workers, private-sector drug manufacturers and others to rigorously pilot, test and scale the Chlorhexidine project.

One particular obstacle, for instance, was that in much of Nepal mothers traditionally rub substances like cooking oil, ash, or even cow dung, on their babies’ umbilical stumps. For widespread adoption to be viable, USAID and its partners had to develop a gel that could be applied similarly to traditional salves, and spend as much effort on behavior change and institutional strengthening as on the technology.

By focusing our efforts on disruptive innovations such as Nepal’s successful chlorhexidine project and using the U.S. Global Development Lab to design, test and scale similar interventions around the world, USAID will help bend the curve towards the end of extreme poverty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Thier is the Assistant to the Administrator in the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning. He tweets from @Thieristan

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Why Strengthening Civil Society Matters + Co-Creating Solutions Rocks

A team focused on the Middle East and North Africa collaborates on challenges facing civil society at the Civil Society İnnovation initiative workshop in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 6, 2014. / Joshua Haynes, USAID

A team focused on the Middle East and North Africa collaborates on challenges facing civil society at the Civil Society İnnovation initiative workshop in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 6, 2014. / Joshua Haynes, USAID

USAID is facing a development challenge that is not discussed as much as higher profile threats like Ebola, climate change or extreme poverty, but one that threatens to exacerbate all of those crises and impede the world’s ability to ameliorate them. It’s the growing restrictions against freedom of association, assembly and expression.

In the past two years, over 50 laws limiting civil society space have been proposed or enacted by governments around the world trying to tame the power of citizens to meet, organize, write and inspire, according to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, a USAID partner.

For example, in Kyrgyzstan, the government is considering a law that would echo the draconian stifling of dissent in Russia. In Kenya, the government is again floating a law that would restrict civil society organizations (CSOs) from accessing foreign funding. Again and again, we are seeing these restrictions in an increasing number of countries around the world, even those with democratically elected governments.

As a small aid agency, USAID relies on international and local CSOs that do the work of development. We also support the development of vibrant civil society sectors where we work because we know that civil society is necessary for the growth of democracy, which is in turn necessary to sustain development outcomes.

Workshop participant Josh Machleder of Internews uses a creative prop during the “product in a box” exercise explaining how to nurture civil society activism under restrictive conditions. / Reboot

Workshop participant Josh Machleder of Internews uses a creative prop during the “product in a box” exercise explaining how to nurture civil society activism under restrictive conditions. / Reboot

So this backlash against civil society affects not only USAID’s democracy work, but its work in all sectors, including health, humanitarian assistance, the environment, education and economic growth.

In response to these headwinds, President Obama launched the Stand with Civil Society initiative in 2013, where he called on governments, multilaterals and private philanthropy to explore innovative ways to support civil society. USAID took up that challenge. At the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2014, the president announced the Civil Society İnnovation Initiative (CSİI): USAID, together with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Aga Khan Development Network and other partners, will develop up to six regional civil society innovation hubs that will connect CSOs to each other through peer-to-peer learning and to tools (technological and otherwise) to support their work and amplify the voice of civil society.

But how can USAID launch a new program designed to support civil society and protect its space without input from civil society? More than soliciting input, USAID wanted to create a process that would allow civil society to co-design the CSI with us.

That’s where the Global Development Lab came in. The Lab is not only fostering innovative solutions to development problems, it is also exploring process innovations to make USAID a more nimble, smarter donor. The Development Innovation Accelerator is a new instrument that lets USAID co-create a program with its partners to allow more dialogue and input from many more stakeholders and create a more transparent process for project design.

USAID’s Swedish colleagues were along for every step of the way and, in July, we put out a call for expressions of interest for the CSI. We received over 300 responses from 85 countries around the world. Then we invited 45 of the applicants to a three-day co-creation workshop in Istanbul in early November.

I took a number of lessons away from the workshop.

First, the co-creation process generates a better outcome than the more traditional donor-led method of project design. One CSO called it an actual “consultation” and not an “insultation,” where civil society has two minutes to speak in front of a government/donor entity.

Second, expert facilitation is key. We had an incredibly diverse group of CSOs (international, regional, national, grassroots), representing many sectors (human rights, democracy, health, environment, humanitarian assistance). The more diverse the group, the more time needs to be spent on getting everyone on the same page.

Third, co-creation is complicated, but it’s worth the extra investment of time. It was clear that this global workshop will need to be followed by workshops at the regional level to bring in more regional, national and grassroots voices.

Only the energy, creativity and courage of civil society will stop the trend of governments to restrict citizens’ voices and assembly. The challenges are daunting and dangerous. But CSOs are not alone in fighting against the obstacles. USAID, Sida and the global civil society sector support them.

And that’s why co-creation rocks: It enables USAID to be a more open donor, one that is not only listening to civil society, but is also encouraging it to help solve development challenges. This was USAID’s most ambitious co-creation to date. It took a lot to bring it about, but it was worth the investment if it shifted the USAID-civil society relationship a step closer to true partnership.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire Ehmann is Civil Society and Media Division Leader for USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

A New Leader for the U.S. Global Development Lab

Since launching eight months ago, the U.S. Global Development Lab has rallied a global community of innovators around our shared goal of ending extreme poverty. Less than a year in, it is pursuing a diverse array of projects—like seeding start-ups through the Global Innovation Fund, preserving biodiversity in Brazil by harnessing advanced data analytics, and reducing child mortality in India through our new Urban Sanitation effort.

At the core of these efforts is a focus on working hand-in-hand with both global and local partners—enabling us to make an impact faster, cheaper, and more sustainably.

But in doing so, our Agency is focusing on doing business differently.

We are deepening our engagement with innovators—including co-creating through the new Development Innovation Accelerator, and hiring technical experts through flexible personnel authorities.

We are approaching challenges in new ways—crafting a statement of the problem, and then opening it up to the brightest minds around the world to solve. Using this public-facing approach, our new Ebola Grand Challenge generated more than 1,300 innovative proposals in one month alone.

We are broadening the scope of the partners we work with—like our Frontiers in Development innovation marketplace and the Higher Education Solutions Network TechCon, which brought together universities, corporations, and governments to share their best ideas in development.

We are embracing smart risk, iterating quickly, and learning from failure.And we are working to scale innovations with immense potential—likeelectronic payment systems—to millions of people in the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Today, we are thrilled to announce steps to take these efforts to a new level—as next month, the Lab will welcome Ann Mei Chang as its first Executive Director. With extensive experience in the technology industry, a commitment to public service, and a depth of expertise in development, Ann Mei will accelerate our Agency’s commitment to harnessing science, technology, innovation, and partnerships in every place we work.

Prior to USAID, Ann Mei served as the Chief Innovation Officer at Mercy Corps, where she focused on leveraging mobile technology to improve the lives of the poor. She also served as the Senior Advisor for Women and Technology at the U.S. Department of State—playing a key role in harnessing technology to improve the lives of women and girls in developing countries, and increase the representation of women in the technology sector. Throughout her career, Ann Mei has worked closely with USAID—including through the launch of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, a public-private partnership that aims to expand Internet access to one billion people.

Ann Mei has more than twenty years of engineering and leadership experience in Silicon Valley, including serving for eight years as a Senior Engineering Director at Google. At Google, she also led the product development team for Emerging Markets, with a mission to bring relevant mobile and Internet services to the two-thirds of the world’s population that is not yet online. In addition, Ann Mei has held leadership roles at several leading companies including Apple,Intuit, SGI, and several startups.

Under Ann Mei’s leadership, the Global Development Lab will continue to focus the world’s brightest minds on our biggest shared challenges—lifting millions out of the tragic cycle of extreme poverty.

Please join us in welcoming Ann Mei to our USAID family. 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

The authors both served as Acting Executive Directors of the Lab. 

The Digital Development Opportunity

Bangladeshi farmer Jalal Kha talks over a mobile phone as he works in his paddy field. / AFP, Farjana K. Godhuly

Bangladeshi farmer Jalal Kha talks over a mobile phone as he works in his paddy field. / AFP, Farjana K. Godhuly

At last month’s Frontiers in Development Forum, we welcomed some of the world’s brightest minds and boldest leaders to discuss how to best partner to end extreme poverty. We not only heard from leaders like Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and Secretary of State John Kerry, but also from innovators who are creating mobile apps to fight human trafficking and using 3-D printers to build prosthetic hands in the field. It was a recognition that we live in a unique moment, one where new technologies and partnerships are redefining what is possible.

Above all, the Forum was a reminder that—as we near the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals—we must accelerate progress. For our Agency, new technologies and partnerships have created unprecedented opportunities to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies.

From GPS to Skype to e-tablets, new innovations are fundamentally changing the way we communicate, work, learn, share and interact. Almost two decades ago, we launched the Leland Initiative, an effort to expand access to information and communication technology in more than 20 African countries. To build on this legacy, we teamed up with the U.K., Google.org, and the Omidyar Network to establish the Alliance for Affordable Internet. Since then, the Alliance has grown to more than 65 members, from Facebook to the Government of Mozambique. Together, they are building global consensus around a set of policy and regulatory recommendations that will lower the cost of internet access—unlocking new opportunities for doctors, entrepreneurs, and local leaders across the developing world.

Much of this progress won’t happen at a desktop; it’ll happen in the palms of billions of hands. Today, farmers are using mobile payments apps to send payments and receive loans; entrepreneurs are selling their goods on the global marketplace; and health workers are treating more patients, at less cost, and without expensive equipment.

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A mobile money user in the Philippines checks her balance on her phone. / USAID, Brooke Patterson

We’re also tapping into affordable, game-changing technologies with the potential to transform the way we work. In Uganda, we’re using mTrac, a tool that enables local health workers to send the government reports via SMS. Recently, the Ministry of Health used mTrac to survey 10,000 health workers on whether their health unit had a fridge that kept perishable drugs and vaccines cold.

The survey cost just $150 and took less than three days—providing the Ministry of Health with information from 1,862 health facilities. As a result, we learned that only about 70 percent of them have working fridges to store life-saving treatments. As Uganda ramped up its national campaign to eradicate polio, it used this information to target the most vulnerable populations and protect more children.

Technology we often take for granted is creating monumental changes in developing economies. In Senegal, rice millers buy expensive Asian imports, while local rice farmers are unable to sell their crops. To build up local supply chains and improve the quality of harvests, we are helping farmers share information through Excel and Dropbox. With this information in hand, rice millers can monitor local crops, schedule shipments in advance, and collect payments online. With 30 farming networks involved to date, this project is helping tens of thousands of smallholder farmers boost their sales and reach new customers.

We’re not creating technology for technology’s sake. There are too many apps that might look sleek, but are not transformative for the people who use them. That’s why we have helped publish a set of guidelines on best practices for development programs that utilize technology.

We call these principles the Greentree Consensus, and they are built on earlier sets of principles that draw on the insight of more than 300 NGOs with expertise in the field. Representing our commitment not only to innovation, but sustainable results, we’re thrilled to be launching these principles in partnership with over a dozen donors and multilaterals, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the United Nations Development Program and the World Food Program.

This is just the beginning of a conversation. We must do more to take these insights into action.  Over the next year, we want to hear from the development community about your experiences in bringing technology to tackle development challenges—from promoting media freedom to solving water shortages. With our Agency’s new U.S. Global Development Lab at the center of this effort, we’ll be able to create, test, and scale breakthrough solutions like never before. In doing so, we can make strides towards a day when extreme poverty—like cassette tapes and dial-up internet—is a thing of the past.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Rajiv Shah is USAID Administrator. He tweets from @rajshah

Diaspora Businesses Find Success in Africa and Beyond

Want to build a global business? Start it in Africa.

The African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM) encourages promising diaspora entrepreneurs to do just that.

The partnership between USAID’s Global Development LabWestern Union, and Western Union Foundation provides seed funding, expertise, and networking opportunities for a talented group of entrepreneurs to create new opportunities in and outside the continent.

We  recently caught up with a few of ADM’s entrepreneurs to discuss their progress, and what they like most about doing business in Africa.

U.S. based tech company, Sproxil created an efficient way to verify the authenticity of medicine and other  products for consumers in Africa and Asia.

U.S. based tech company, Sproxil created an efficient way to verify the authenticity of medicine and other products for consumers in Africa and Asia. / Sproxil

Protecting Consumers from Fake Drugs
Tech start-up and ADM grantee, Sproxil developed an anti-counterfeiting service for a range of products, including pharmaceuticals drugs. The firm’s Ghanaian founder first pioneered the SMS-based verification service in Nigeria and quickly scaled it to additional markets. In 2013, Fast Company magazine ranked Sproxil as seventh amongst the year’s 50 most innovative businesses along with Google and Nike.

“[ADM] was fundamental in accelerating our growth, enabling Sproxil to scale-up faster than we would have otherwise,” says Alden Zecha, Sproxil Chief Financial Officer and Strategist.

“Consumers, governments, and businesses are very receptive to technological innovations that enhance quality of life. Consequently, more startups and investments are focusing on countries across Africa,” said Zecha about the region’s tech sectors.

Today, Sproxil’s mobile phone based service has helped American, African, and Asian consumers verify the authenticity of more than 11 million medicines and other products.

Grown in Ghana, Ashanti Pineapples were able to sell their certified organic produce in Whole Foods Market grocery stores thanks in part to the ADM partnership.

Grown in Ghana, Ashanti Pineapples were able to sell their certified organic produce in Whole Foods Market grocery stores thanks in part to the ADM partnership. / Sardis Enterprises International

Going Organic Reaps Sweet Success
Sardis Enterprises International and its Ghanaian partners, grow organic fruits for export. By producing and selling organic fruits, Sardis is reaching higher-value markets. In January, its Ashanti brand pineapples began selling in Whole Foods grocery stores in the southeast United States.

With support from the ADM, farming cooperatives in Ghana that supply Sardis were able to become certified to sell organic produce in the U.S. and E.U. “That venue [ADM] was very good for a young entrepreneur that needs a platform to get exposure and assistance to expand,” says Michael Griffin, CEO of Sardis.

Griffin sees expanding opportunities for growing small businesses on the continent. “[Africa] gives the small guy a shot…the atmosphere is conducive for a smart entrepreneur to succeed.”

The company is now working on expanding its partnership with Whole Foods across America’s east coast.

Chinwe Ohajuruka, an American educated architect and business women is creating a model for green and affordable housing units in Nigeria.

Chinwe Ohajuruka, an American educated architect and business women is creating a model for green and affordable housing units in Nigeria. / CDS

Making Affordable Green Housing a Reality
In Nigeria, there is a need for more than 17 million houses. The nation also faces major challenges with reliable power, and access to clean water. Enter Comprehensive Design Services (CDS), a Diaspora founded and woman-owned business. CDS has designed and built a set of prototype housing units that provides dependable renewable energy and clean water for Nigerians of average incomes.

“The ADM grant provided much needed start-up financing,” said Chinwe Ohajuruka, head of CDC and a Nigerian-American Architect. ‘The partnership has increased [our] visibility, as we have been invited to South Africa, Japan, and even the White House to speak about our innovative and sustainable design solutions to the housing, renewable energy, clean water, and sanitation crisis.”

A resident of Columbus, Ohio, Ohajuruka says the ADM allows her to stay connected with the continent in a meaningful way.

Her ambitious goal is to eventually build 100 green and affordable residential buildings in each of the 774 local municipalities across Nigeria.

Thanks to the success of CDS, Sproxil, Sardis and other diaspora businesses supported by the ADM, it has been nominated as a finalist for the P3 Impact Awards.  The award showcases outstanding public-private partnership for their innovations and results.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Romi Bhatia is a Senior Advisor in the U.S. Global Development Lab (@romib15)
Jeffrey Jackson is a Senior Advisor in USAID’s Bureau for Africa (@USAIDAfrica)

Ending Extreme Poverty with a New Model of Development

Tonight, 860 million people will go to sleep hungry. This year, 6.6 million children will die before their 5th birthday. And every day, 1.1 billion people around the world—more than the population of North and South America combined—live in extreme poverty on just a dollar-and-a-quarter a day.

Paschali Axweso Amnaay, chairman of the Mahande Rice Irrigation Scheme

Paschali Axweso Amnaay, chairman of the Mahande Rice Irrigation Scheme in Tanzania, along with many agri-businesses in the country, benefit from initiatives like Power Africa. Photo by: CNFA

Even after adjusting for the relative price of local commodities, this is a desperately meager sum. With it, families must make daily choices among food, medicine, housing, and education.

We know it doesn’t have to be this way. For the first time in history, we stand within reach of a world that was simply once unimaginable: a world without extreme poverty.

From 1990 to 2010, the number of children in school rose to nearly 90 percent, and around two billion people gained access to clean water. Child mortality rates have fallen by 47 percent and poverty rates by 52 percent. In 2005, for the first time on record, poverty rates began falling in every region of the world, including Africa.

We now have a clear roadmap out of extreme poverty that is driven by broad-based economic growth and transparent democratic governance. With the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals drawing near—and conversations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda well underway—the global community has an opportunity to pioneer a new model of development and shape an inclusive, results-driven agenda that will end extreme poverty.

The Busan High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness has built a strong foundation for this effort—tapping into the capabilities of governments, foundations, companies, and civil society organisations to solve the world’s greatest development challenges.

Through this new model of development, USAID is forging high-impact partnerships to harness innovation and scale meaningful results to end extreme poverty. This month, we launched the U.S. Global Development Lab, a hub of creative design and high-impact collaboration that is setting a new standard for development. Together with 32 cornerstone partners, the Lab will bring innovators and entrepreneurs from across the public and private sectors to answer the world’s most pressing development challenges through science and technology.

On April 3, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah unveiled the U.S. Global Development Lab.

On April 3, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah unveiled the U.S. Global Development Lab. Photo credit: USAID

Earlier this year, through our Development Credit Authority, USAID partnered with GE and Kenya Commercial Bank to help health care providers buy life-saving healthcare equipment, including portable ultrasound devices and Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines. For the first time ever, our private sector partner is covering the cost of the loan guarantee—making this program virtually costless for the taxpayer.

President Obama’s Power Africa initiative is another great example.

For most of the world, electricity allows businesses to flourish, clinics to store vaccines, and students to study long after dark. But for more than 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, these opportunities simply do not exist. Power Africa encourages countries to make energy sector reforms—while connecting entrepreneurs to investment opportunities that are created by those reforms themselves.

Less than a year since launching, more than 5,500 mega-watts of power projects have been planned—putting us more than halfway towards the initiative’s goal of expanding electricity to 20 million homes and businesses. Just recently, we celebrated three local engineers who are lighting up Africa with solar-powered generators and pay-as-you-go power home meters.

Increasingly, the best ideas aren’t just coming from development professionals who have been in the field for three decades. They are also coming from scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs around the world. That is why we launched the Grand Challenges for Development and created the Development Innovation Ventures fund—to enable problem-solvers to test their game-changing idea, whether it’s a mobile technology that boosts hospital efficiency or a $10 device that prevents the leading cause of maternal mortality.

A few years ago, we were lucky if we got half-a-dozen proposals in response to our solicitations. So far, these new kinds of open competitions have received more than 6,000 applicants—each with the potential to transform development. Even better, 70 percent of proposals are from inventors who we’ve never worked with before.

We look forward to strengthening this new model of development at the first High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. Whether we work for a government agency or small local organisation, each of us can expand our emphasis on partnership and innovation. Each of us can deepen our focus on rigorous evaluation and scalable results. Working together, we can throw open the doors of development and engage millions of people in our mission to unlock a brighter future for all.


This post originally appeared on devex.com on April 11, 2014

U.S. Global Development Lab Launches to Develop and Scale Solutions to Global Challenges

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton & Dr. Rajiv Shah on April 3, 2014 at the New York launch of the Global Development Lab

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton & Dr. Rajiv Shah on April 3, 2014 at the New York launch of the Global Development Lab

Imagine a world in which diagnostics for diseases that are prevalent in developing countries are available at pennies per use, renewable off-grid energy services are affordable for households earning less than $2/day, and every family has enough healthy food to eat.  USAID is helping to turn these ideas into realities by launching the U.S. Global Development Lab. The Lab is a critical part of delivering on the President’s commitment to game-changing innovation in the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development.

The Lab’s creation is part of a strategic decision to emphasize innovation as one of the critical tools needed to end extreme poverty and achieve broad-based economic growth in light of a number of converging trends:

  • Recognition that quality of life and economic improvements in developing countries over the last few decades can be traced in large part to the use of scientific advances such as improved agricultural seeds and practices, oral rehydration therapy, vaccines, and the cell phone.
  • Emphasis on leveraging U.S. core competencies.  America is a global leader in innovation and invests $453 billion in public and private research and development annually.  It also has 17 of the top 20 research universities, and world-class innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley and Cambridge, MA.
  • The information economy is changing the way innovation occurs and is increasingly enabling people in even the most remote parts of the world to use mobile communications and data to learn, co-create, and deploy solutions locally and globally.
  • The emergence of new pathways to scale innovations via for-profit or social business models that are made possible by a surge in private sector investment in developing countries.  These pathways are critical since they exceed the level and reach of official assistance by the U.S. Government.
Farmers using a SuperMoneyMaker pump.

The U.S. Global Development Lab puts tools in place to create and scale solutions to global challenges in partnership with public and private innovators around the world, USAID Missions, and interagency colleagues.  The Lab has Centers that will focus on Data Analysis and Research (problem definition), Development Innovation (ideas), and Global Solutions (scale).  It will also have teams dedicated to private sector and Mission partnerships, and evaluation and impact.

The Lab brings together a number of existing programs from across the innovation pipeline: Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER), the Higher Education Solutions NetworkGrand Challenges for DevelopmentDevelopment Innovation VenturesMobile Solutions, and Global Development Alliances.

Students using mobile devices

We believe that the U.S. Global Development Lab can help lead the transformation of the U.S. development enterprise and strengthen critical initiatives including Power AfricaFeed the Future and Global Health by increasing USAID’s ability to:

  • Invest in breakthrough technologies;
  • Scale what works;
  • Attract scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to work at USAID, and harness the growing interest of young people in development;
  • Leverage America’s $453 billion investment in public and private R&D – which can often have significant benefits for the developing world;
  • Effectively partner with governments, the private sector, researchers, investors, and civil society – at home and abroad; and
  • Excel at using new approaches to solve hard development problems, including Grand Challenges, incentive prizes, and other “pull” mechanisms, crowdsourcing, impact investing in inclusive businesses, managing a “pipeline” of innovations, user-centered design, and the formation of global “communities of practice.”

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

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