The request was focused on “pull mechanisms” which can be a good way to attack an underdeveloped or inefficient market. They come in three forms:
- Market development: aggregated demand and advance market commitments (used with great success in promoting global health);
- Fast track: cutting through the bureaucracy with accelerated approvals and proactive incentives; and
- Inducement prizes: rewards for successfully meeting a breakthrough challenge.
Here’s a high level comparison of direct investment (push) versus pull mechanisms:
- Investment: up front vs. on success,
- Common mechanism: grant vs. inducement prize
- Solution: defined up front vs. determined/created by participants
- Mobilization: low, only selected participants vs. high, participants respond to incentives
- Leverage: little, secondary outcome vs. significant investment by participants
- Advocacy: traditional PR vs. competition drama with potential breakthrough
A couple months ago, I outlined four ways prizes could promote learning:
- Design Prizes: small prizes could be used to incentivize innovative designs for new schools, new school facilities, or new systems of education.
- Intervention Challenges : products, services, and strategies could be tested in comparable short cycle trails.
- Data Competitions: inviting data scientists globally to work on well defined problems.
- Geo-Competitions: invite districts, cities, or regions to compete on specific challenges over a specific period of time.
Good examples. Today USAID announced a second round of funding for All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (@ReadingGCD). “The global grant and prize competition seeks innovative ideas that leverage the transformative power of technology to leapfrog existing infrastructure challenges and empower children to read.”
Round 2 “seeks technology-based innovations that support improvements in basic reading skills with a focus on mother tongue instruction and reading materials, family and community engagement, and children with disabilities.”
A previous round of this program has already started to produce results:
- World Reader: San Francisco-based-company using e-readers in Ghanaian primary schools to improve child literacy and close the gender gap.
- Planet Read: The simple idea of subtitling content in the same language as the audio, whether on TV programs, film songs, music-videos, folk songs, and movies. They are currently implementing the project in India using Bollywood films.
- Sesame Workshop India : Elmo is helping kids to read in Bihar – one of the poorest areas in India. The program integrates proven multi-sensory approaches, Sesame Street content, and ultra-low cost tablets to improve reading skills in Hindi and English. The program also empowers teachers through useful training materials.
USAID is also awarding $100,000 prize “to the organization or individual that develops a software solution to help writers create reading materials in local languages for children in developing countries.”
Prizes can be a super efficient way to attack a problem. It’s good to see the White House and USAID making constructive use of pull mechanisms. Submit your comments by March 7 (or comment on this post and we’ll include them).
For more on prizes see the ASAP Case Study: Prizes Can Focus & Accelerate Innovation.