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Evaluating the value for money of Ideas to Impact’s innovation inducement prizes

From 2014 to 2019, the Ideas to Impact (I2I) action-research programme has been designing, implementing and testing a series of innovation inducement prizes to induce innovative solutions to development challenges in climate change adaptation (CCA), water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and energy access.

The programme was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented by a consortium led by IMC Worldwide. As the evaluation and learning partner for the programme, Itad is supporting I2I to understand if these prizes worked as intended, and when and where prizes could be useful as a funding mechanism for international development, compared to other forms of funding, such as grants.

This latter point is a particular point of interest for DFID. One of the key evaluation questions for the I2I prizes was: Does the prize offer value for money when compared to alternative funding modalities? To respond to this, we applied a value for money (VFM) assessment to several of I2I’s prizes, that explore the VFM against original expectations for the prizes, as well as against grant-based comparator projects.

The outcomes of these assessments provide insight into the VFM of the I2I prizes, and the reasons why funders may choose to run a prize as opposed to a grant-based research or technical assistance programme. By looking at the outcomes of the VFM assessments across several prizes, we find that prizes can offer particular benefits in engaging multiple participants to solve a given problem, often including actors who are new to the problem, to bring alternative approaches than might be surfaced through a grant-based intervention. In this way, the particular advantages of using prizes lie in maximising participation towards the funder’s aims and supporting open innovation. As such, the value of prizes to development can be heightened by ensuring broad engagement of a range of participants working towards a common goal. We have found that many of the I2I prizes have achieved this benefit.

This paper outlines our approach to the VFM assessments and consolidates the associated results. In doing so, it provides suggestions on the relative added value of using a prize. It is a companion piece to a research report that looks at the value and use of prizes to development more broadly, based on our evaluation findings across the I2I prizes and not just the VFM assessments (see Box 1). The target audience for this paper includes those interested in a synthesis of the VFM findings across the I2I prizes and those interested in lessons for establishing the VFM of future prizes for development