Blog Post

August 19, 2011 Krista Donaldson

Innovation in Development—Survivor Style

Jayanth being interviewed by USAID staff at the DevelopmentXChange Marketplace

Jayanth being interviewed by USAID staff at the DevelopmentXChange Marketplace.

D-Rev was one of 77 finalists for the Saving Lives at Birth DevelopmentXChange held in Washington D.C. from July 26th-28th. With partners at Stanford’s School of Medicine and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, we applied for a transition grant to support the accelerated scale up of Brilliance and Comet. Saving Lives at Birth was co-sponsored by USAID, Grand Challenges Canada, the Government of Norway, the Gates Foundation, and the World Bank—and was a radical shift in how quickly proposals could be evaluated and grants awarded by large funding organizations. The proposals announced March 9, were due on May 9; and we were invited to D.C. on July 1—but here’s the kicker: the “winners” were to be announced at the award ceremony the last day of the DevelopmentXChange.  Instead of being voted off the island, a sub-set of the finalists would be designated “apparent nominees” (that is USAID-speak for you will likely get a grant). The highlights:

  • The stats. 600 applicants total.  Of the 77 finalists invited to participate in the DevelopmentXChange: 58 seed grant applicants, 19 transition grant applicants; non-profits, for-profits, academic institutions—a range of players were represented.

  • Go across the country to meet your neighbors. Next to us at the DevelopmentXChange Marketplace were Michael Hsieh and Siddarth Satish of Stanford School of Medicine with a mobile platform to do real-time monitoring of blood loss.  Also from the Bay Area were Gobee Group proposing vouchers programs for safe births, as well as good friends (and fellow Rainer fellows) Arlene Samen of One Heart and Josh Nesbit of Medic Mobile addressing post-partum hemorrhages in Western Nepal.

  • The anti-climax.  The build-up: rapid design and preparation for the Marketplace event (D-Rev’s behind-the-scenes prep) and a whirlwind of events, including a 12-minute interview (questions known ahead of time, oddly). Then at the start of the final awards ceremony—an unexpected twist—transition finalists are told that nominees would be announced at a later date.

  • Innovation is great. Impact though is what we should be about. Among the finalists was much discussion of the “mosquito box with the dirty socks” presented by Grand Challenges Canada as an example of innovation to possibly eliminate malaria. Kevin Starr of Mulago Foundation was the only speaker who asked the hard questions about having impact—that is, saving maternal and newborn lives (full disclosure: we were already a Kevin-fan; see why here).  With the serious development firepower in attendance, we would have liked to see examples of maternal and neonatal health products that have large-scale social impact in low-resource areas.

  • The dialogue—continued? One of the goals of the Saving Lives at Birth DevelopmentXChange was to promote dialogue in the community.  That it did.  Our hope is that there will be mechanisms to not just track the success of finalists’ projects—but also continue discussions. For visuals from the event, see our Saving Lives at Birth photo album.

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