A unifying theme in the Rockefeller Foundations programming is helping poor and vulnerable populations benefit from globalization. One component of globalization has been a technology-facilitated expansion of inter-organizational collaboration and communication. After observing the success of these techniques to solve problems in the developed world and private sector, the Rockefeller Foundation created the Accelerating Innovation for Development (AID) program to adapt these tools to solve problems in international development.
AID has two goals: (1) identify and demonstrate that open and user-driven innovation models are effective and efficient processes for addressing the needs of the poor, and (2) significantly increase the application of these models to generating solutions in development. Specifically, AID promotes and supports four innovation models:
- Open Innovation (Crowdsourcing): Taking a job traditionally performed by an employee or contractor and outsourcing it to a wider audience in the form of a public request for solutions. Crowdsourcing can be competitive (money is awarded to whoever submits the best product) or noncompetitive (multiple individuals/organizations complete individual components of an overall project).
Sample grant: Rockefeller partnered with InnoCentive, a company that was already helping private sector clients utilize crowdsourcing. Nonprofit organizations working to address development problems apply to post their problem on InnoCentives website. Roughly 125,000 engineers, scientists, technologists, and entrepreneurs can view the problems on the Internet and then propose solutions. The nonprofit then determines the best solution.
- Cooperative Competition: As currently implemented by Rockefeller, cooperative competition (sometimes called coopetition) is similar to crowdsourcing in that a problem is presented and individuals and/or organizations are invited to suggest solutions via the Internet. However, in cooperative competition solutions are publicly viewable, enabling others to comment and suggest improvements.
Sample grant: In 2007, Rockefeller awarded a $2.5 million grant to Ashokas Changemakers, a cooperative competition program (www.changemakers.net/). Changemakers is an online forum that enables teams to develop and post solutions to selected social challenges. The solutions are open to the entire community, allowing the teams to benefit from new ideas, helpful questions, and connections to resources.
- User/Customer Centered Innovation: This technique incorporates the needs and input of the customer or user into the innovation process. Specifically, AID encourages industrial and product designers to consider social, environmental, and economic impacts, balancing individual user needs with the overall needs of a community.
Sample grant: Rockefeller has collaborated with IDEO, a product design firm, to create a how-to guide and workbook for firms interested in designing for social impacts (https://client.ideo.com/socialimpact/docs/IDEORFGuide.pdf).
- User-driven or User-generated Innovation: Within communities, individuals often solve problems through their own ideas and methods, which may be particularly well suited to the context and target population. This model involves recognizing solutions and then disseminating them to other users for replication. Rockefeller specifically supports an approach that identifies positive deviantsthose with attitudes, behaviors, and strategies enabling them to function more effectively than their peers. Encouraging imitation of a deviants approach can benefit the entire community.
Sample grant: Rockefeller has supported the Rural Innovations Network, a South Indian organization that identifies and assists local developers in the field, helping them bring rural innovations to the marketplace.
The Rockefeller Foundation has not yet approached USG regarding AID. However, future interaction may occur given that AID seeks to increase funder support and adoption of open and user-generated models. Some USG agencies like the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) have already successfully used open competitions to identify solutions to difficult problems in their areas.