Scaling Innovation. Lessons learned from partners.

Scaling Innovation. Lessons learned from partners.

Event – April 20th, 2018

To provide innovators with useful information and examples and to learn from one another, DCHI organized a Third Thursday meet-up in The Hague on scaling innovation. During the meetup on 19 April, the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), African Clean Energy (ACE), Akvo and World Startup Factory shared their lessons learned and advice.

Claire Dusonchet from the HIF explained what the HIF can do to help start-ups to scale. The mission of the HIF is to support innovations that improve humanitarian response. It has a  core grant program, 3 thematic funding initiatives ​and currently 140 innovations are funded​. Claire explained that according to the HIF, the definition of scale is: ‘building on demonstrated successes to ensure solutions reach more people while delivering intended impact, in a financially sustainable way.’ Creating a truly enabling environment for scale, she continued to explain, will require a collaborative effort across different actors in the sector. Other essential elements on the road to scale are: setting the trajectories and keep on learning and developing routines in your way of working.

Jeroen van der Sommen, Co-founder and director of Akvo, went through the changes Akvo has made to its internal organization, in order to keep up with the growing size of their activities and tools for data-driven development work. Akvo is a not-for-profit foundation that creates open source, internet and mobile software. Jeroens advice on how to manage growth: ​become predictable, so people know what to expect from you, and you know what to expect as the business grows​. This also extends to financial monthly figures, market sales pipelines​, billable hours, the IT development process​ and risk assessment.

Judith Joan Walker, Operations Director of ACE, explains that in order to make impact at scale, ACE is not just selling cook-stoves, but offering their clients in rural areas a complete package in line with their needs.​ The cook-stoves have the following benefits: health Improvement​, financial (​time-) savings, reduced fuel use​, CO2 reduction​ and reduced burn risk. So in fact, ACE sells a lot more than just a cook-stove. Essential on their road to scale was the use of smarter data​, customer-centric service​ and digital technologies​. By collecting data regarding the current situation of the target group and by organizing customer surveys, ACE could form a clear idea about the wants, needs and financial situation of their target group. This allowed them to develop a business model in line with the needs of the potential customers.

Gerrit Jan van ‘t Veen, Co-founder of World Startup Factory & Wunderpeople, provided the perspective of an investor and explained that when they assess if a start-up has got the potential to scale, predictability and good data are key. A financing model with multiple resources for funding can help to reduce the risk for each party involved. Gerrit Jan emphasized that working in teams is important to bring innovations to the next level. You can’t know everything, he explained, so you need to make sure you work together with people that bring together a diverse skillset.

During the discussion we defined some barriers to scale, lessons learned, and recommendations to keep in mind when you want to take your innovation to scale.


Lessons learned:


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Initiative: Energy

Access to Modern Energy is increasingly recognized as an area of humanitarian concern. If communities affected by crises go without proper access to energy, it becomes impossible for them to meet the basic needs of life. In fact, if humanitarian organisations do not adequately address access to energy in their programmes, they risk contributing to the very same problems they aim to solve.

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