GOOD

The World's Top 40 Development Innovators : Local, Tech Savvy May Be Key to Improving Aid Devex Top 40 Development Innovators Merge Local Partnerships, New Technology to Fight Old Intractable Problems

Thousands of aid workers and development professionals picked the 40 most innovative groups in their field. See who they left out.


It's not easy solving poverty, reducing global child mortality or achieving pretty much any of work international aid workers take on every day. Look at our lagging progress with the Millennium Development Goals for evidence of how much work lay ahead.

So what's to be done? Who's getting it right? Where's hope to be found?


Today we get a little evidence on what is working from the perspective of the people on the ground, involved day-to-day in fighting poverty around the world. Devex, the professional network of over 500,000 international development and aid workers asked members to vote for the Devex Top 40 Development Innovators who are doing the best job at taking on our planet's more pressing needs. GOOD is a media sponsor of the effort.

"To reach the Millennium Development Goals, we can’t be satisfied with doing things the way they used to be done," says Raj Kumar, President of Devex. "The mobile phone alone gives us the opportunity to reinvent the way education and health services are provided, especially in the most challenging environments like Haiti." The point of the Top 40 list, he says, is to push the culture in these global development organizations more towards real innovation.

More than two-thousands members responded to the survey, creating a list of winners that reads like a who's who of large development organizations. So it was all the more noticeable for the few major players that were left out, including the World Bank and regional development banks along with the U.S. Agency for International Development—USAID's counterparts in Australia and the U.K. both made the cut however.

The survey only included larger organizations, so it's not meant to find the tiny sparks of change that may come to disrupt the whole aid industry (more on overhauling aid for a new era coming in a guest post later this week from Raj Kumar the head of Devex).

Still, looking at the 40 peer-chosen picks, a pair of attributes leap forward as important for development innovation: a nimble incorporation of new technology, and respect for local partnerships!

On the tech front, several of the winners like International Rescue Committee are building platforms that other NGOs can also use to up their efficiency, like the Emergency Market Mapping Analysis (PDF). EMMA lets humanitarian staff track and use local market systems even during emergencies so that aid agencies’ emergency responses can meet immediate survival needs and also plan for economic viability down the road.

The survey doesn't say why a given group was voted up the list, but with Human Rights Watch it's easy to imagine it had something to do with the group's savvy adoption of new media in spotlighting rights abuses around the world, including a Webby-award winning video companion to the more traditional NGO report on maternal death. All together it helped persuade Indian officials in Utter Pradesh state to enact health-care reforms that HRW says save countless women's lives. You can expect them to tap into all kinds of mobile media to monitor human rights abuses as well as disseminate the findings.

Lack of local insight might be the single biggest historical cause of failed or misguided development efforts, so it's not surprising to see the groups on this Top 40 list consistently tout, and achieve, productive local partnerships. As CARE puts it, "The best innovations come from the women and men in the communities we work with. They trust our staff and partners—and together they find innovative ways to eradicate poverty." Ninety-seven percent of CARE's employees are citizens of the country where they work. No parachuting in with unfounded ideas from afar for CARE.

Another winner, Oxfam—it also helped build EMMA with the IRC—paired with local partners in Cambodia to build a new kind of mechanical weeder for rice cultivation. Then they combined that with the innovative System of Rice Intensification farming techniques to increase crop yields by more than 100 percent. This locally driven innovation let's farmers earn more money while using less water and fewer chemicals, good for the bottom line and the environment.

Find more stories like these, read the "innovation statements" along with the full list of the Top 40 Innovators at the Devex Facebook page. For background head to the Devex Innovators Blog.

Image: (cc) by Flickr user alancleaver_2000.

Articles

The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Screenshot via Sweden.se/Twitter (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet