Exciting changes @ the Social Innovation Lab

Earlier this fall, we received the good news that the Gates Foundation will provide support for the BRAC innovation fund for digital financial services.  This initiative will enable the organization to leverage the potential of new mobile money technologies in poverty reduction.  Through an open, participatory competition, it will support a portfolio of pilots across BRAC to develop new products and service delivery models designed to scale across Bangladesh, while capturing knowledge to share with practitioners worldwide.  If you missed October’s Innovation Forum with Greg Chen (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) and surprise guest Kamal Quadir from bKash, watch for a summary soon on the blog.

The current phase of the Innovation Fund will focus on developing BRAC’s capacity and expertise on digital financial services from the exciting work that’s being done worldwide.  This will culminate with the 2014 Frugal Innovation Forum, when we’ll bring a number of leaders in the field to engage with BRAC’s leadership.  In May, 2014, we’ll select our first round of pilots to fund, through an open, participatory application process.  Over the next three years, we plan to support 8-10 pilots across BRAC and reach at least 50,000 households through digital financial services.

The most exciting part of this grant is that it creates a sizeable resource to support experimentation with mobile money tools throughout BRAC.As the Social Innovation Lab has grown and matured, this has increasingly been our priority.  We have begun to work with a few programs on pilot designs and redesigns of existing, scaled programs.

Our capacity for this type of work is greatly enhanced by our recent merging with Microfinance’s Research and Development Unit.  Started five years ago to ensure the programme’s capacity to adequately scope and test new products, the unit has developed significant operational ability while expanding into increasingly holistic and cross-programme activities. Combining offers both teams the opportunity to strengthen their work, as they work to develop new approaches to micro and macro challenges (see below for some examples).

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Questions? Ideas?  Post a comment here, or come visit us in our new space on the 9th floor!

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