Making All Voices Count is a Grand Challenge for development, committed to promoting transparency, fighting corruption, empowering marginalised citizens, and harnessing the power of new technologies to make government more effective and accountable. We work towards this by enabling citizen engagement and supporting open, responsive government in 12 countries across Africa and Asia.
What are Pitching Competitions?
One of the many ways that the programme nurtures innovative approaches to accountable governance is by Pitching Competitions, through which we find local innovators with early-stage tech for governance projects that we can incubate, improve and fund.
A potential winner first applies online, after which a select group of successful applicants are invited to pitch their ideas in front of experienced jurors, who can ask questions and provide guidance for the individuals and teams pitching. The jurors then choose the winners, who receive up to six months of incubation, culminating in an opportunity for funding from Making All Voices Count.
Why is Pitching a good way to get new ideas?
The countries that Making All Voices Count work in have strong storytelling cultures, where the spoken word is mostly the prefered communication style, and where written applications may not always fully reflect the innovation and knowledge of the applicant, and therefore puts them at a disadvantage during an online-only application process.
A Pitching Competition is therefore a powerful and context-appropriate tool in Making All Voices Count’s toolbox and enables us to meet potential grantees in a space they already exist and are comfortable in. Compared to the written application approach, pitching is more relevant and approachable for grassroots organisations, individuals and the private sector, who want to minimize the transaction cost and time of participation.
How do we support applicants to pitch?
For the past twelve months, we’ve partnered with Nesta on a pilot using the Development, Impact & You (DIY) toolkit. We have introduced the DIY toolkit to the successful online applicants so that they can apply the framework to their projects, improving them before making their pitch in front of the jurors.
The DIY Toolkit is a collection of 30 social innovation tools that are quick to use, out of which we have focused on five. These are designed to help busy people around the world create more impact with their work. The toolkit originated from the view that better innovation skills can help social sector organisations to solve problems more effectively and generate innovations that improve people’s lives.
The feedback from our finalists has been in resounding support for the DIY toolkit, prompting Making All Voices Count to think more widely about how we can support potential innovators who are applying to pitch.
In our survey with 25 of the finalists from the first four Pitching Competitions, the respondents on average rated the toolkit a 4.25 out of 5, with the Problem Definition and Business Model Canvas mentioned as their favourite tools. A majority of the respondents stated that it had deepened their conception and thinking and improved their projects and pitches. One stated that it “helped define the problem statement and how technology can be used to address and solve the problem” and another that it “provided a framework for thinking through the business beyond the idea”. All respondents surveyed stated that they would have wanted the DIY toolkit introduced earlier in the process.
Listening to feedback
The response from those who used the toolkit couldn’t be clearer. Making All Voices Count practises what it preaches, so let us state here in all transparency that we will be accountable to the feedback and shall scale this successful pilot and deepen our usage and support of Nesta’s DIY toolkit. It shall become an integral part of all future Pitching Competitions. Additionally, we will be piloting the use of the DIY toolkit for the next edition of our flagship event, the Global Innovation Competition.
Mathias Antonsson is the Programme Manager at Ushahidi on Making All Voices Count. He has worked with ICT through Communications and Project Management for both the UN and the Swedish Development and Cooperation Agency for over five years.
Photo credit: Making All Voices Count