Innovation in international assistance
The Government of Canada defines innovation in international assistance as a process, mindset and means to enable new or improved locally driven solutions. The aim is to achieve better results and to have a greater impact. It benefits and empowers the poorest and most vulnerable, including women and girls.
Innovative solutions can include:
- business models
- policy practices
- behavioural insights
- financing mechanisms
- ways of delivering products and services
Innovation can be:
- transformational, such as:
- a brand new solution
- an approach to a problem
- incremental, such as:
- an adjustment to an existing solution to make it more effective and efficient
Innovation in international assistance finds and adopts more effective and efficient solutions than existing approaches. It can also address unmet needs.
These innovative solutions must create inclusive opportunities for those who are:
- the poorest
- the most vulnerable
For example, women and girls should play a role in the design, testing, learning and adoption of solutions. This can improve their lives and those of their families and communities.
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
In 2015, Canada and 192 other UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Agenda 2030 sets ambitious goals. It calls for bold and transformative action by the global community. It aims to eradicate extreme poverty.
We built on best practices and the progress made with the Millennium Development Goals. Agenda 2030 requires donors like Canada and our partners to think and act differently. We need to adapt, adjust and scale up existing solutions. We need to explore, support and develop new approaches to advance development. We need to strengthen existing partnerships and create new ones. Innovation is essential to finding ways of working that are more effective and efficient. It achieves better results and makes a greater impact.
What is Canada doing?
We held consultations about our international assistance in 2016. Canadians and partners in Canada and abroad encouraged us to be leaders in development innovation. We gained insights from stakeholders across the country and all around the world.
Canada commits to advancing development innovation in the 2017 Feminist International Assistance Policy. We aim to encourage a culture of innovation for our partners and ourselves. Canada is integrating innovation into its international assistance programming. We encourage greater experimentation and scaling up of new solutions to development challenges. We are building on aid effectiveness principles, good practices and lessons learned. This promotes close collaboration across sectors to achieve:
- a greater development impact
- a better response to constant changes in the development ecosystem
We are working to ensure that women and girls:
- are involved in the innovation process
- are beneficiaries and innovators in their own right
- identify the problem
- design, test and scale up innovative solutions
In 2018, Canada used its G7 presidency to advance innovation in international assistance among donor governments. G7 governments pledged to encourage innovative ideas and actions for inclusive and sustainable development that leaves no one behind. This includes innovations that can reinforce social and economic resilience for those in fragile states or at risk of natural hazards.
G7 governments want to accelerate inclusive, locally driven innovations for development impact. They agreed to work together to drive change in their own organizations and with partners. This supports pioneering solutions. Those solutions challenge traditional models, approaches and partnerships. They encourage new models and solutions that can deliver results. This will speed up change. It will help improve the lives and livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable people. Results will include reducing inequalities and empowering women and girls.
On June 2, 2018, the G7 ministers responsible for humanitarian action and development assistance endorsed the Whistler Principles to Accelerate Innovation for Development Impact.
In August 2019, the Government of Canada launched the Approach to Innovation in International Assistance guidance note. Its main objective is to encourage and guide efforts to develop, test and integrate innovations in Canada’s international assistance.
This note establishes a framework for the development of practical guidance and tools to empower staff and partners. It promotes systems to track and measure the impact of innovation. This creates learning and evidence in support of decision making. It benefits the poorest and most vulnerable, including women and girls.
Collaborating with partners
We work with Canadian and international partners to advance our commitment on development innovation. We do this by learning from our partners and other stakeholders and by supporting their innovations. We share experiences and insights on innovation in policy and programming practices. We do this across the Government of Canada. It helps find better ways to deliver on our mandates.
One of our key external engagements is with the International Development Innovation Alliance. Canada is a member of the alliance. It’s a forum that brings together government and private donors. It works to advance innovation in international assistance.
The Government of Canada engages in dialogue and learning with Canadian civil society partner organizations on innovation in international assistance. We all learn by embracing collective intelligence. We share good practice, lessons and tools on innovation in international assistance.
Canada collaborates with many programming partners to support innovation across sectors in international development.
- We have collaborated with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund. This collaboration addresses the critical challenge of global hunger. Through applied research in 25 countries, it supports partnerships between Canada and developing countries. They test and scale up practical solutions. This increases food production, raise income for farming families and improve nutrition throughout the Global South.
- We partner with Grand Challenges Canada to support new and innovative solutions to maternal and newborn health challenges.
- Our investments significantly contribute to innovative financing arrangements. This engages the private sector in development, leverages market forces and produces sustainable development results. We invest in:
- the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (in partnership with Sarona Asset Management)
- We launched the Small and Medium Organizations (SMOs) for Impact and Innovation Initiative. It supports SMOs to test ideas that resolve specific development challenges. The initiative will help provide useful evidence and learning. This will inform our collective development programming.
- Canada’s approach to innovation in international assistance
- 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- International Development Innovation Alliance
- International Development Research Centre
- Equality Fund
- Fund for Innovation and Transformation
- Grand Challenges Canada
- International human rights, inclusive governance and democracy
- Project Browser
- Canadian Trade Commissioner Service
- Tip sheet 5.1 - Reporting on innovation in international assistance
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