Innovating in Development


Through our programmes, we are testing whether innovation in a broad sense, be it technology or creative ideas that improve public service delivery, can meet the world’s greatest development challenges.

We also embrace innovation in the way we work, by trialling new approaches to deliver better data and greater projects’ outcomes.


Innovation prizes for development

The DFID-funded Ideas to Impact programme runs five innovation prizes to stimulate solutions to challenges in climate change, water and sanitation, and energy access. 


'We see it as [energy access] as not primarily a technology issue, but about how we get existing technologies to people at a price they can afford.'

'Ghana is not doing well on the sanitation front and we identified that one key way of changing that is to change the behaviour of city managers.'


Prize competition for better sanitation in Ghana

The Sanitation Challenge for Ghana encourages local government municipalities to develop and deliver innovative urban sanitation plans. The prize has selected 17 local governments to implement the strategies they have proposed. These include land acquisition for liquid waste disposal and treatment, household toilets construction, and community mobilisation to reduce open defecation rates. Approximately three-quarters of Ghanaians lack access to adequate sanitary services, and almost 1,000 children under five die annually from poor water and sanitation.

The Sanitation Challenge for Ghana is expected to benefit over 1 million people by 2019.

This award is welcome news for us as a district. Joining the competition is an indication of our resolve to strategically deal with the sanitation menace. In fact, some amount of work has already been done to get 42% of the communities open defecation free. This actually spurred us on to be part of the competition and we have the commitment to implement our liquid waste strategy. We appreciate how far the competition has gone and we will use this challenge to solve our sanitation problems.
— The Hon. Killian A. Kwame of the Jasikan District Assembly, winner of the first stage of the Sanitation Challenge for Ghana
Jasikan District, 1st winner of Duapa Award, displays plaque and monetary prize (From left District Officer, Queen mother, District Chief Executive and other officials from the district including the District Environmental Health Officer at the end.)

Jasikan District, 1st winner of Duapa Award, displays plaque and monetary prize (From left District Officer, Queen mother, District Chief Executive and other officials from the district including the District Environmental Health Officer at the end.)

I personally wish all MMDAs [Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies] were on board to ensure that sustainable sanitation services are available and affordable for everyone living in Ghana. We will forge partnerships and work towards generating the needed resources to scale this initiative across the 216 MMDAs so as to make sanitation and the president’s toilet for all vision a reality.
— Hon. Kofi Adda, Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources


Within the Frontier Technology Livestreaming (FTL) programme, we have been helping DFID to identify, fund and disseminate technologies such as solar batteries in Zimbabwe and 3D printing in Nepal to tackle development challenges.

In rural Tanzania, over 50% of people do not have access to clean water due to lack of investment in infrastructure maintenance. One project selected by FTL, eWATER, has installed 24 taps in two rural villages with the programme’s £100,000 funding and strategic advice.


All villagers have an eWATER tag that they top up with mobile money or cash that is deducted when the tag is presented at a water tap.

Contactless payment makes cash unnecessary, which ensures transparent collection of fees. Moreover, a software application monitors live usage data and status of the eWATER taps, which allows district engineers to perform timely maintenance.

After only two and a half months, over 4,000 people are able to access 10 litres of clean water each per day. One hundred percent of the sales revenue has been collected, so at least three times more money can be spent on maintenance than before.

This is what our country has needed for ages.
— Assistant Director of Rural Water Supply at the Tanzanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MoWI) on his visit to the Endanachan village

credit: eWATER

It is great, I no longer have to stand on a tap and argue with people about how much water they get. The system makes it a lot fairer.
— eWATER user

We have been approached by many other parties interested in having eWATER taps installed in other districts in Tanzania such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Iringa, and further afield in Haiti, Nigeria and Kenya. 

In 2017, Frontier Technology Livestreaming received the UK Civil Service Award for Innovation.



In the Ahmara region of Ethiopia, we have assessed the impact of the DFID-funded End Child Marriage Programme, which has saved over 34,000 girls from this practice.

While young people are often consulted or work as peer researchers in programmes, they are generally not involved in analysis and decision-making around other youth’s rights and needs. The inclusion of local young evaluators in our team helped us to better understand the child marriage reality on the ground and its drivers and obtain good quality information during interviews with local children.

I am very happy that I participated in this programme because I interacted with people that were older than me, I interacted with very young children. When they share with us their experiences and themselves, it brings us so much joy.
— Young Evaluator Henok Getachew Haile