The finalists of the World Bank
‘s annual Development Marketplace
competition are presenting their winning projects this week in Washington, DC. Overall, 2,500 proposals were submitted on population, health, and nutrition, and the final 104 projects—hailing from 42 countries around the world—will be on display for all to see on May 22 and 23.
The Development Marketplace is sort of a micro-version of the Gates Foundation-sponsored Grand Challenge Initiative, in that it provides funding to non-traditional projects that would otherwise not be funded because they fall outside the development community’s comfort level. Innovative projects are something of a double-edged sword—funders tend to be turned off by their uniqueness; yet if successful, these projects could serve as useful models in other development settings.
The finalists’ projects range from selling soap to buy medicine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to using farm animals to distract malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the Philippines, to promoting healthy sexual behavior by teaching DJs to mix “Sounds of Life” samples into their performances.
I was thrilled to participate as a judge in this competition. It was exciting to see so many novel ideas, from creative recycling of garbage to board games used to teach reproductive health. Choosing certain projects to advance to the next round was difficult, given the wide array of problems they were addressing. In the end, the projects that made it to this last round share a few characteristics – creativity, small-scale, and potential for replication in a variety of settings. Hopefully these new, small, non-traditional projects will help us solve the old, large, traditional problems.
World Bank staff have created their own blog for the Development Marketplace. Judges, attendees, contestants—and interested readers—are encouraged to comment. They will be updating the blog with stories about the projects throughout the two day competition.