Language selection


Tip sheet 5.1 - Reporting on innovation in international assistance

Canada’s approach to innovation in international assistance includes tracking, measuring and communicating the results of innovative solutions. The goal is to:

  • generate knowledge
  • support evidence-based decision-making
  • adjust programming to achieve results

To find out how Global Affairs Canada (GAC)’s funded initiatives have helped implement innovative solutions, see the Government of Canada’s Open Government portal (data on the Global Affairs Canada’s Departmental Results Framework (DRF) Indicator 3.5.2).

For GAC, innovation in international assistance is a process, mindset and means to enable new or improved locally driven solutions for better results (outcomes)Footnote 1 and greater impact. The approach benefits and empowers the poorest and most vulnerable, including women and girls.

Innovative solutions can include:

  • business models
  • policy practices
  • approaches
  • partnerships
  • technologies
  • behavioural insights
  • ways of delivering products and services

An innovation is likely to create better results and greater impact for the intended beneficiariesFootnote 2 and intermediariesFootnote 3 if they are involved and play a decisive role in the innovation process. When women and girls are actively engaged in finding a solution to a problem that affects them, they will likely benefit more from it.

For an innovative solution to be successful, it must meet 3 conditions (see figure 1 below):

  1. It is implemented
  2. It contributes to or achieves better results or greater impact (generating more value by solving the problem)
  3. It is new or improved, when compared to existing solutions used in the implementing context

Reporting potential and unsuccessful innovative solutions is as useful as reporting successful projects. This provides learning opportunities. For potential solutions, focus on estimates of expected outcomes, indirect effects and/or impact. For unsuccessful solutions, focus on lessons learned. For an innovative solution previously reported to Global Affairs Canada, only report on updates or changes for specific elements. This is particularly important when reporting on a potential innovative solutions implemented over multiple years.

Projects with multiple innovations should report on the 3 conditions listed above for each one..

What to include in the report?

Note: Information from the categories 1) problem; 2) implementation; 5) value-added; 6) new or improved; and 7) locally driven might be published on the Open Government portal.

1) Problem: Brief description of the development problem that the innovative solution has solved or is trying to solve.

2) Implementation (description and context): Brief description of the innovative solution. As applicable, indicate change(s) since the previous reporting period or project start. Include updates on the context in which the innovative solution is being implemented, including:

  • adaptation measures or actions
  • variations in cost
  • testing conditions
  • enabling environment
  • social acceptability
  • ethical considerations

3) Type of innovation: Using the labels below, categorize the innovative solution. As needed, you can provide another type of innovation with description and justification.

Types of innovation in international assistance (proposed categories)

Research or knowledge innovation: New or improved applicable knowledge, evidence or technique, including behavioural insights

Organizational innovation: New or improved formal or informal organizational rules or tools, including business models, governance, planning, organizing, managing, controls, processes, information technologies, information management, organizational culture, evaluation and decision-making

Financial innovation: New or improved financial mechanism or instrument to fund development interventions or channel investments for development activities

Production or delivery innovation: New or improved production or delivery of development interventions, including networks, stakeholder ecosystems, approaches, technologies, partnerships, problem-solving techniques, formative evaluations

Product or service innovation: New or improved products or services that create value for the people affected by the problem

Policy innovation: New or improved public policy instrument to address a social problem, including laws, governance, implementation or policy-evaluation instrument

System innovation: New or improved system, or sub-system, that can be both a process and an outcome to solve a social problem that is systemic in nature, often involving a set of interconnected factors or elements (financial, organizational, production, delivery, products, services, etc.). Innovation can involve the emergence of new or improved system structures, with different interacting technological, economic, political and social elements in a system, including relationships and mindsets

4) Innovation stage: Indicate the stage(s) of the innovative solution:Footnote 4

  • ideation: defining and analyzing the development problem and generating potential solutions through horizon scanning of existing and new ideas
  • research and development: further developing a specific innovation that has potential to address the problem
  • proof of concept: field-testing the intellectual concept behind an innovation to gain an early, “real-world” assessment of its potential
  • transition to scale: developing innovations that have demonstrated small-scale success and attracting partners to move the innovation to scale
  • scaling: replicating and/or adapting an innovation for transformational impact
  • sustainable scale: adopting or operating an innovation on a wide scale at the desired level of scale, sustained by an ecosystem of actors

Note: An innovative solution may exist at more than one stage at a time. Example: you are adapting an innovative solution for a larger population. The solution can be at the scaling stage while some of its elements could be at the ideation and testing stages.

5) Value-added: Brief description of evidence of better results. The value-added can be multi-dimensional (see Figure 2). Notably, it can relate to:

  • magnitude (how much change was caused by the innovative solution)
  • variety (the diverse impacts)
  • sustainability (the prospects that the impacts will last)
  • equity (how fairly the impacts are distributed, ensuring no one is left behind)Footnote 5
  • co-benefits to society, the environment or the economy (or negative impacts)

How do the results achieved compare to other solutions in the same context? Example: a cost-per-outcome analysis can demonstrate the value for money of an innovative solution compared to another.

If applicable, report other positive or negative effects that are not part of the theory of change or logic model.

For a potential innovative solution, provide:

  • an estimate of the solution’s potential effects
  • an estimate of performance indicators
  • a description of how the estimate is made

For an unsuccessful innovation show:

  • why the solution did not add the expected value
  • whether the lessons helped meet the project’s learning objectives
  • how you will pass on these insights to relevant stakeholders

6) New or improved (if not included in #5, value-added): Brief description of how the innovative solution departs from existing solutions in the implementing context to solve the same problem.

7) Locally driven: Brief description of how the process ensured inclusion of diverse participants and perspectives. This includes women and girls, people with disabilities, and local organizations representing them in problem identification, solution design and implementation.

For example:

  • Is the solution informed by local knowledge? (Examples: Indigenous and traditional knowledge; local knowledge system; social and cultural traits)
  • Is the solution premised on local analysis? (Examples: local innovators; people affected by the problem; local gender analysis and use of gender-balanced incubators; local research teams; participatory approaches)
  • Is the solution locally designed? (Examples: design techniques directly involving people affected by the problem in the design of the solution, including the identification of outcomes, measurements/indicators, evaluation questions)
  • Is the solution implemented in part or in full by the people affected by the problem? (Examples: participatory/collaborative/empowering implementation and evaluations; women’s representation in pilots; joint decision-making; collective action)

8) Value to beneficiaries/agents (if not included in #5, value-added): Brief description of how the innovative solution is generating value for the poorest and most vulnerable. This includes impacts on ecosystems of actors, gender equality outcome(s) and adherence to the “do no harm” principle.

9)  Methodology and data: Brief description of methods and evidence to demonstrate the positive and negative impacts of the innovation. For potential innovative solutions, provide a description of the methods that are used to measure and assess the impact of the innovative solution.Footnote 6

Send questions or comments about this tip sheet to

Figure 1. Successful innovation in international assistance

Figure 1
Text version

Innovation in international assistance

For Global Affairs Canada, innovation in international assistance is a process, mindset and means to enable new or improved locally driven solutions for better results and greater impact. Innovation benefits and empowers the poorest and most vulnerable, including women and girls.

To achieve innovation in international assistance, solutions must meet these necessary conditions:

  • be implemented
  • add value
  • be new or improved

Best practices also require that solutions:

  • be locally driven
  • benefit the poorest and most vulnerable

Necessary conditions

The Solution is implemented

There must be an actual innovation. Potential solutions or ideas only become innovations when they are successfully tested or scaled. Evidence will show that the innovation produced results or impacts.

Innovation is about execution, not intention!

The solution generates a value-added

An innovative solution must contribute to or achieve better results and greater impact. This is the most important condition. You must provide evidence to show that the new solution is better than the existing one. The new solution has more value:

  • in solving the problem
  • in creating benefits for society and the planet
  • when using available resources

How much value? You need to prove that the value added is much greater than that provided by existing solutions. You must prove it by using the same variables applied to existing solutions, such as:

  • inputs
  • time
  • outcomes

You must also prove that designing, testing and putting in place the new solution is worth the investment, effort and risk.

Innovation is about creating more value with available resources.

The solution is new or improved

Measure and assess the degree of novelty or improvement of the innovative solution. Compare it to existing solutions. This assures that the solution is a clear and real departure—and not a small improvement of current best development solutions and practices.

Innovation is about big improvement, not small steps.

Innovation best practices

The solution is locally driven

Evidence shows that an innovation is likely to have a longer-lasting impact and generate higher values and benefits for the local population when the solution is:

  • informed by local knowledge
  • premised on local analysis
  • designed and implemented in full or in part by the people affected by the problem

Innovation is about local design and implementation.

The solution benefits and empowers the poorest and most vulnerable, including women and girls

The solution addresses challenges and barriers to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls better than existing practices. It improves the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable.

The solution should engage women and girls as people affected by the problem, set to benefit from the solution and innovators themselves—notably by supporting them with tools and resources.

The innovation process should be inclusive at every step. It should ensure that marginalized groups are not excluded from the benefits of or negatively affected by innovations.

Innovation is about unlocking the potential of women and adolescent girls.

Figure 2. Ways to measure the value-added of innovation in international assistance

This graph illustrates dimensions or metrics to see the value created by an intervention. It can be useful for stakeholders when discussing and assessing the success of an intervention or an innovative solution.

Figure 1

References: Sustainable Development Goals and Rockstrom & al.

Text version

A radar dial can be used to show the importance of an intervention’s different dimensions to see the value created by the intervention:

  • direct impact
  • performance
  • indirect impact through co-benefits (or not) to:
    • society
    • the environment

Examples of dimensions for the intervention’s direct impact:

  • magnitude
  • variety
  • equity
  • equality
  • sustainability
  • quality

Examples of metrics for the intervention’s performance (turning scarce resources into impact):

  • scalability
  • cost vs. benefits
  • time
  • efficiency
  • effectiveness

Examples of dimensions for the co-benefits, or not, to society (indirect impact):

  • gender equality
  • voice and participation
  • democracy
  • community and commons
  • security and peace
  • social equity
  • education
  • health care
  • income
  • food
  • housing

Examples of dimensions for co-benefits (or not) to the planet—environment (indirect impact):

  • land conservation
  • ocean conservation
  • air quality
  • ozone preservation
  • biodiversity
  • ecology
  • pollution reduction
  • freshwater preservation
Report a problem on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, please contact us.

Date Modified: