Criteria for Innovator Evaluation

GIF supports innovations that benefit people living on less than the equivalent of $5 per day (PPP) in developing countries, and is especially interested in innovations that impact people living on less than $2 per day (PPP). GIF also seeks innovations that benefit vulnerable groups such as women and girls, the disabled, minority or indigenous groups, refugees or displaced communities, or other vulnerable populations.

GIF defines “innovation” as any solution that has potential to improve the lives of the poor in developing countries more effectively than existing approaches. This includes new products or services, policy practices, business models, operational or production processes, behavioural insights, or ways of delivering products and services that benefit the poor, across all relevant sectors. These innovations could come from social enterprises, for-profit firms, non-profit organisations, researchers, academics, government agencies or any other relevant institution or individual.

GIF seeks to fill market gaps, and is especially interested in supporting promising innovations that may otherwise struggle to find appropriate forms of funding for objectives that align with GIF’s, e.g. piloting development innovations, gathering rigorous evidence of impact or achieving greater scale.

GIF’s Financing Stages

A stage is defined by how far an innovation is in its development and by the level of evidence that exists in support of its potential for success. Innovators may apply for whichever stage is appropriate for their level of development. GIF will encourage successful innovators to compete for the next stage of funding (e.g. to “graduate” from Pilot to “Test and Transition”) if additional GIF funding is needed. Innovators may also compete for additional tranches of funding within the same stage. For instance, an innovator who had previously received GIF pilot funding could compete for funding to pilot a new business model.

At the Pilot stage, GIF provides seed capital to field test and conduct small-scale pilots of development innovations in real-world contexts. This could include introducing an innovation to target customers, assessing user adoption rates and testing for technical, organisational, distributional, and financial viability. Key activities could include assessing user demand and willingness to pay for products and services, as well as documenting social outcomes and actual costs of spreading the innovation. GIF also welcomes applications to explore the viability of innovations that have been piloted but need further refinement.

At the Test & Transition stage, GIF funds innovations that have already shown promise of success at a small scale in order to facilitate further testing and to build a foundation to scale. Funding at this stage is intended for innovators that require support for continued growth and for assessing whether the innovation can achieve social impact – and market viability, for commercial innovations – at a larger scale. During this transition period, innovations that will rely on public resources to scale will conduct rigorous testing of impact and cost-effectiveness, such as through randomised control trials (RCTs) that evaluate the impact of a program or intervention against a comparison group not receiving the program (or through other methods, e.g. Regression Discontinuity methods). 

Funds may also be used to support operations and to build paths to sustainability and scale. GIF will allow innovators flexibility about how they use these transition-oriented funds. Activities might include: formulating implementation plans or building coalitions and partnerships, efforts to secure political buy-in for large-scale implementation of an innovation, building organisational capacity via implementation, or the provision of technical assistance to scaling partners (such as a developing country government ministry, to prepare implementation plans or design program activities). For innovations that are ready to scale commercially, funds could be used to expand the reach of the innovation and demonstrate that the innovator can pass a market test; i.e., that it can generate sufficient revenue to cover the costs of providing the innovation to the market or attracting growth capital at market rates. To facilitate the transition to scale for commercial entities, GIF may also consider supporting activities that help raise growth capital.

At the Scaling Up stage, which typically entails greater investments of GIF resources, GIF supports the expansion of innovations that have already demonstrated clear evidence of social impact and
cost- effectiveness. GIF financing at this stage provides substantial runway to support the transitioning of successful approaches to a large scale, usually with the goal of achieving widespread implementation throughout one or more developing countries. Activities GIF might consider funding at this stage include the adaption and implementation of innovations in different contexts or geographies, technical assistance to a scaling partner to support the roll out or implementation of a large-scale program, replication testing to measure whether the solution continues to deliver impact in new geographies or when implemented through government systems, assessing ways to drive cost-effectiveness as the scale continues to increase, and working with partners who will help scale the project beyond GIF support (e.g. investors, existing large commercial firms, developing country governments, etc.).

GIF will take a portfolio approach to investment and will aim to fund a diversified set of innovators that represent a wide range of risk profiles (across and within stages).

An overview of the criteria has been summarised below.

Pathways to Scale

GIF supports innovations with a range of potential pathways to scale including:

  • Commercial scaling through self-generated revenues and growth via injections of market-based capital
  • Public sector scaling through support from governments or non-profits/donor organisations
  • Hybrid scaling through a combination of support from both the private and public sectors

Core GIF criteria

When assessing proposals, GIF considers the following key criteria.

Innovation and Impact
  • Innovation has the potential have a greater impact on development challenge(s) than standard practice, be more cost-effective than alternatives, and to reach poor* and vulnerable groups. At later stages GIF requires greater evidence of impact, market fit, and implementation feasibility.
Potential to Scale
  • Innovation has the potential to be politically, logistically and financially viable at scale (to commercialise or to attract ongoing public support).
Measuring Success and Sharing Lessons Learned
  • Clear metrics to judge the innovation’s success (notably during, but not limited to, the period it receives and uses GIF funding). This should include assessing operational feasibility. In some instances (e.g., projects meant to scale with public or philanthropic support), it will be critical to rigorously and empirically test for social impact. In other instances, innovations will need to pass a market test to show that it can generate sufficient revenue to cover the costs of providing the innovation to the market or attracting growth capital at market rates.
  • Openness to sharing relevant lessons with GIF and external partners, especially if this is necessary to foster scale (e.g. if the team will not scale the innovation directly)
  • Team and any key partners should be capable and committed and demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the problem they are addressing and the context they are working in. This includes a clear understanding of the risks of their innovation and plans.
  • Team shows strong potential to drive the innovation forward (via their own venture, via partnerships, and/or by engaging others).

GIF does not fund religious activities (although religious organisations may apply), plans to expand private businesses in developing countries without demonstrable potential to achieve significant social impacts (e.g. reducing poverty), theoretical research, or purely lab based activities that are not linked to empirical testing in real-world contexts.

*Individuals who live on less than $5 a day and especially individuals who live on less than $2 a day.