Innovation at all scales: Connecting entrepreneurs to Governments at IFAD’s Governing Council

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Innovation at all scales: Connecting entrepreneurs to Governments at IFAD’s Governing Council

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IFAD/Michael Benanav

Today’s most pressing problems will need cross-sector collaboration and innovation at all scales. Solve is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused on driving social and environmental impact through open innovation and partnerships. We find social entrepreneurs from around the world and connect them to a network of people – including those here at MIT – who can help their impact scale up.

Each year, Solve runs four Challenges, on themes around learning, health, sustainability, and economic prosperity. We select eight promising solutions around each Challenge. These solutions are as diverse as the contexts they tackle – our 33 Solver teams from the 2018 Challenges are based in 15 different countries, are primarily led by women (61 per cent), and are a mix of non-profit, hybrid, and for-profit business models. Our themes frequently overlap with IFAD’s mandate around agriculture and rural development, whether in providing better information, inputs, and market access for farmers or ways to have healthcare and education reach every community.

This year Solve is collaborating with IFAD on an interactive session at the Governing Council because we care about the same issues and have a shared set of goals. IFAD is a leader in supporting large-scale approaches to rural development and connections between governments. Solve brings expertise in selecting the most promising entrepreneurial solutions to meet global challenges, and convening a diverse array of leaders from the private sector and civil society – large and small corporations, foundations, NGOs, investors, social enterprises, academic institutions – to mentor and support them.

The plenary session will introduce IFAD’s Governors to five impressive entrepreneurs, working on five very separate problems:

  • Dominic Wanjihia, founder of Biogas International, which enables farmers and communities to tackle myriad environmental challenges through locally-appropriate biodigesters and other products.
  • Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, founder of ColdHubs, which provides inexpensive, zero-carbon, off-grid cold storage for produce and fish to help farmers and fishers earn more from their livelihoods. Nnaemeka is also a Solver in our 2018 Coastal Communities Challenge.
  • Dulce Martinez, founder of Fabrica Social, which provides broader distribution and higher incomes for the highly-skilled apparel artisans of Mexico’s rural indigenous communities.
  • Anushka Ratnayake, founder of MyAgro, which enables farmers in Mali and beyond to better manage cash flows throughout the year to buy fertilizer and other inputs and increase yields.
  • Annan El Sherbiny, junior consultant at Yadawee, a network that provides fair trade opportunities for artisans around Egypt. Annan has focused on building market access for products from female refugees and vulnerable Egyptians.

By working together, Solve aims to help IFAD’s Member States understand how social entrepreneurs and small-scale innovators are tackling big problems in local contexts, how those solutions can support states’ large-scale goals, and how states and entrepreneurs can partner to drive change at scale. We’re excited to have these innovators tell their stories to a governmental audience, and to see what partnerships are created to inspire future innovators in all sectors and at all scales.