Photo credit: DFAT InnovationXchange

Photo credit: DFAT InnovationXchange

What is Innovation?

Innovation is critical for delivering sustained, scalable solutions to the world's complex problems.

From a development perspective, IDIA defines innovation is a new solution with the transformative ability to accelerate impact. Innovation can be fueled by science and technology, can entail improved ways of working with new and diverse partners, or can involve new social and business models or policy, creative financing mechanisms, or path-breaking improvements in delivering essential services and products.

Innovation thrives best when facilitated by a strong ecosystem of favourable enabling conditions, including better policy and regulatory frameworks, open data and standards, and expanded access for innovators to resources. More effectively tapping into capital flows through blended finance, for instance, will harness additional resources that far exceed the current capital available for poverty reduction. The same is true when the development of science, technology and innovation (STI) capabilities is promoted, by strengthening the regulatory, infrastructure, and human capacity foundations that support the growth of local STI ecosystems.


Photo credit: G3id

Photo credit: G3id

A Call for Innovation

Over the next 30 years, the global community has an extraordinary opportunity to eradicate extreme poverty.

That will not be easy, given a global context where: two billion more people will be added to today’s 7.3 billion; 90% of humanity will live in low and middle income countries; and crucial new disruptive influences and demands on natural resources and human capital will need to be confronted.

Our world has already been dramatically transformed by the life-saving and life-improving innovations of entrepreneurs from many years ago, who saw where inadequate practices were slowing progress, and who took action to create more effective approaches. With the progress in addressing many of today’s development challenges still lagging far behind our aspirations, finding and supporting innovative solutions in a more efficient manner has become a priority for the international development community in order to enable billions of people to overcome poverty.

An agenda of innovation will unleash the power of human enterprise to invent better futures. Innovations in health, agriculture, finance, and other sectors have been vital in the life-saving and life-improving breakthroughs of recent times. Where inadequate practices slow progress, more effective approaches will need to be found. The future depends on how well innovation can spur faster advances.

Photo credit: USAID

Photo credit: USAID

Principles for Innovation

In 2015, IDIA members articulated six principles they collectively agreed were important in facilitating innovation in international development.

These are:

  1. Invest in locally-driven solutions
  2. Take intelligent risks
  3. Use evidence to drive decision-making
  4. Fail fast and iterate
  5. Facilitate collaboration and co-creation across sectors
  6. Identify scalable solutions

These principles help inform the collaboration that innovation requires. Governments, the private sector, civil society, academia, development institutions, and donors need to work together more than ever before – crossing traditional boundaries -- to discover, fund, and scale new solutions and tap the energy of innovation needed to reduce poverty at scale. Action now can hasten the day when the Sustainable Development Goals will be met and billions of people will embrace each new day with opportunities not previously thought possible.