Welcome to the Innovation Playbook
Innovation has the transformative ability to accelerate change, something that is more important now than ever. Two years into the United Nations “Decade of Action,” the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, economic and social inequity, and geopolitical instability present tremendous challenges to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. To secure a sustainable and equitable future for all, we must be bold innovators and disrupt the status quo. All of us in the global development community need to challenge one another to support the design and scale of locally led and commercially viable solutions. The world can no longer afford for these opportunities for innovation at scale to be reserved for a selective few.
To embrace this challenge, we have developed this Chemonics Innovation Playbook, a resource that will grow over time, to help broaden our collective understanding of when and how innovation happens within development, and, most importantly, what closes the gap between donor subsidization and the sustainability of critical solutions.
Innovation is dynamic. Yes, it can be designing what doesn’t yet exist but is also adapting what works into new contexts and exploring the adjacent possible within the environments where we work. From Ghana to Syria to Tajikistan, our work reflects nearly five decades of partnering with local and global organizations and experts to understand how to create the right conditions for innovation. When led by local voices, strategic partnerships, and capital, we know innovation can be scaled to achieve systems-level change.
Through this playbook, and our other efforts and collaborations in the development sector, our goal is to mobilize and equip innovators globally to solve the world’s challenges urgently, creatively, and sustainably. We hope to have the opportunity to collaborate with you in this incredibly important mission.
Dear Development Colleagues:
By Jamey Butcher, President and CEO, Chemonics
Jamey Butcher, President & CEO
THEORY OF INVENTIVE PROBLEM SOLVING
Using Data to Improve Classroom Outcomes
Chemonics is partnering with USAID, the Tajikistan Ministry of Education and Science, and One World Network of Schools in using data to correlate teaching practices with optimal student outcomes. By adapting the successful ‘Teach Like a Champion’ methodology, the USAID-funded Read with Me project uses hyper local data and one-on-one interactions between Tajik coaches and teachers to make the most informed decisions on how to improve learning. They are now working to scale this intervention from 6,000 to 30,000 teachers across the country.
PROJECT PROFILE: Tajikistan Read with Me
VIDEO: Design for Scale: Tajikistan Learn Together Activity
ARTICLE: Better Teachers for Better Education
NEWS STORY: Chemonics and One World Network of Schools Create Institutional Partnership
Providing Continuous Education in IDP Camps
The twin crises of ongoing conflict and COVID-19 left displaced Syrian children cut off from education. Using equipment available within IDP camps, Chemonics’ U.S. State Department-funded Injaz II program introduced an intranet to connect children to their teachers. This network allowed students to continue to learn remotely without internet access. The simple solution is easily replicable and is applicable to other fragile and challenging contexts in Syria and across the globe.
Every year, the UNLEASH Global Innovation Lab empowers thousands of youth to develop innovative solutions for a better and more sustainable world. As the Lab's lead scale partner, Chemonics supports the launch and acceleration of nearly 200 early stage social impact ventures in over 50 countries through UNLEASH's six-month incubator. UNLEASH connects them with resources, tools, and networks to accelerate change through design-thinking and co-creation activities.
PROJECT PROFILE: Strengthening Education for Youth in Syria
VIDEO: Devising New Ways to Learn Remotely: Intranet in an IDP Camp
BLOG: 3 Questions with Mohammad Youssef: COVID-19, Technology, and Innovation
PARTNERSHIP PROFILE: Chemonics’ Lead Scale Partnership
WEBSITE: UNLEASH Global Innovation Lab
VIDEO: Chemonics’ UNLEASH Partnership 2020
Innovation has been a core Chemonics value for nearly 50 years and is a lived experience of our global workforce every day. We define innovation as the process of creating value through solutions that have the transformative ability to accelerate change.
We innovate by designing what doesn’t yet exist, by adapting what we know works, and by working within the “adjacent possible.” These approaches and others all spark innovation, and every step toward action matters.
To enable innovation, Chemonics promotes community-led design and creative problem solving, and provides pathways to scale through partnerships, capital, and local ownership. By empowering local partners we help them affect necessary systems change.
Consumer and end user-centered approach to innovation integrating the needs of stakeholders, the possibilities of new solutions, and the requirements for success
Achieving innovation by using new combinations
of what is already available within a system
Adapting an existing solution — that was developed to solve an old problem — to a new, local context
THEORY OF INVENTIVE PROBLEM SOLVING
Chemonics’ approach to innovation engages local communities in defining problems and co-creating solutions through several methods, including:
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Without innovation, we cannot meet the challenges of our time.
Jamey Butcher, President and CEO, Chemonics
In this playbook, we explore how innovation isn’t just designing what doesn’t yet exist, but is also adapting what works in new contexts and exploring the adjacent possible within the environments where we serve.
Scale is the process of replicating, adapting, and sustaining innovation for transformative impact. While innovation disrupts the status quo by creating new value, innovation at scale
expands that value systematically across large populations and new geographies (Source: International Development Innovation Alliance).
Chemonics enables local innovators to scale by applying business rigor to validated solutions. By assessing and planning for commercial viability and long-term sustainability, we help ensure that each locally led solution has a greater chance at success.
Chemonics is a catalyst that facilitates linkages between market actors and strengthens local innovation ecosystems. We also mobilize the private sector to support scale by identifying shared value, encouraging multi-stakeholder partnerships, and accessing investment capital and blended finance mechanisms that lower the risk of innovation.
Empowering local actors to originate and drive development within their own communities
Developing and validating sustainable commercial models that are supported by paying customers or governments
Exploring a range of direct and blended options to reduce risk and secure investment
Brokering shared value to realize pathways to scale
Chemonics expands the reach and impact of innovative solutions by identifying pathways for scale through the following approaches:
With African farmers and consumers facing the threat of aflatoxins — cancer-causing fungi in crops — Chemonics worked with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Dalberg Advisors to protect value chains and ensure food safety. The Aflasafe Technology Transfer and Commercialization (ATTC) program commercialized an all-natural product, Aflasafe, in response. In partnership with two African firms that committed nearly $6 million, Chemonics supported the development, manufacturing, distribution, and marketing strategies that commercialized Aflasafe through ventures in 12 countries and scaled the product through regional licensing.
Protecting Agricultural Value Chains in Rural Africa
How does a country with a cash-based economy quickly provide subsidies during the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic? In the Philippines, the government and USAID E-PESO collaborated with the private sector to create an app that provides fast financial relief to millions of people. The E-PESO project convened Developers Connect Philippines, community members, and private sector partners like Amazon Web Services to develop and scale an electronic banking app, making it easier for residents to receive relief funds through a safe electronic payment system.
Digitizing Financial Relief in the Philippine Cash Economy
Uganda has the world’s second-youngest population, and an aging farmer demographic that lacks access to critical information and resources. On the Feed the Future Uganda Commodity Production and Marketing Activity, Chemonics supported the launch and scale of Akorion, an agriculture startup. Together, we designed and deployed the Ezy-Agric application that created more than 8,100 youth jobs, provided market access information to more than 400,000 farmers, and enabled 130,000 farmers access to more than $59 million in crop production loans.
Scaling Youth-Led Enterprises in Uganda
LOCALLY LED, COMMERCIALLY VALIDATED
PROJECT PROFILE: An Alternative to Cash in the Philippines
IMPACT STORY: Relief is Just an App Away
VIDEO: How do you design an app for COVID-19 financial relief?
PROJECT PROFILE: Uganda Commodity Production and Marketing Activity
VIDEO: Filling Market Gaps in Uganda
RESOURCE: Intermediary Business Models For Improved Market Systems Processes and Relationships
PROJECT PROFILE: Protecting Food Value Chains Across Africa
RESOURCE: From Science to Scale — Aflasafe
BRIEF: Lessons Learned on Scaling Aflasafe Through Commercialization in Sub-Saharan Africa
BRIEF: Our Journey from Incubation to Market
BLOG: Enhancing Africa’s Incomes, Trade, and Health
Samantha Power, USAID Administrator
The entire development community needs to interrogate the traditional power dynamics of donor-driven development and look for ways to amplify the local voices of those who too often have been left out of the conversation.