Top tips for GSMA Innovation Fund applicants

Submitting your pitch proposal for the GSMA Innovation Fund for Anticipatory Humanitarian Action – Tips and thoughts from previous grantees 

Applying for the GSMA Innovation Fund for Anticipatory Humanitarian Action requires submitting an application form, where several questions will be asked, in order for the reviewing team to better understand the organization and the innovative solution that is being pitched for funding. We sat down with previous grantees of the Innovation Fund whose projects used mobile technology to address humanitarian challenges; Solidarites International, EarthSpark and Sesame Workshop. They shared these top tips for submitting a strong application: 

  • Remember the Innovation Fund offers more than just financial support. 

“GSMA goes above and beyond to provide their partners with three critical paths of support: resources, insights, and connections. Their multi-faceted offerings help grantees to measure impact thoughtfully and deliver tools that advance their innovation well beyond the lifecycle of the Innovation Fund grant” said Sesame Workshop. 

  • Be ambitious but also be realistic. 

“Do not innovate for the sake of innovating. Do something that works and explore what has already worked with beneficiaries in the context you are aiming to work in. Also bear in mind that projects are not necessarily easily transferrable across different regions. So what works in location A may not work in location B. It is important to adapt to your context, to know your context and to be realistic” said Solidarites International. 

  • Look to other sectors to understand the competitive landscape.  

“The chatbot that we used was very new to the humanitarian sector when we started our project. We noticed other agencies and organisations were using chatbots but with very limited features. They were using chatbots to inform people about things but lacked dynamic two-way communication between the user and organization. What we have done was very new for the humanitarian world so we looked to the business sector which inspired some of our ideas for the chatbot” said Solidarites International. 

  • The application process helps to see your work through a humanitarian lens

The Innovation Fund is open to for-profit organisations, SMEs and startups as well as not-for-profits and humanitarian organisations. Even if humanitarian contexts are new for your organization, the application process can help clarify how your innovation will contribute to humanitarian solutions. “When you complete the application, follow the instructions and then use the language of the donor to describe your work. In doing that, there’s an opportunity to really authentically look at your own work through a new, humanitarian lens if that’s something you’re not already doing. This new perspective was embraced by our team; thinking about our work in new ways allowed us to have a deeper understanding of the many benefits of our project” said EarthSpark.  

  • Think about sustainability early on. 

“Partnerships and handovers to local organisations and groups is important to bear in mind. This is especially important not just for local ownership but for the eventuality that no more funding is secured, that there is a plan in place to ensure the project can carry on locally. This ensures project sustainability and safeguards long-term project impacts. Preparation for this can include identifying potential partners at an early stage” said Solidarites International.  

  • Partnering with a mobile operator is mutually beneficial

“When we applied to the Innovation Fund we had a mobile partner already who was Digicel in Haiti. They were hugely supportive with our GSMA application for funding and turned around our partnership agreement quickly. We enjoy a fantastically support relationship with Digicel. It’s clear that it is a mutually beneficial relationship. EarthSpark’s work in delivering electricity to the mobile towers is authentically helpful to Digicel, and for us they are a great customer. I think it is the best form of partnership where both sides are authentically benefiting. Digicel’s towers are reliably powered and our team has reliable connectivity – it’s very mutually beneficial” said EarthSpark. 

  • Multiple sources of funding are important if you are to remain sustainable.  

“Prior to applying to the Innovation Fund, we had a pilot of our chatbot that we developed and tested in a specific context using funding from another source. This separate funding stream allowed us to cover some of the development costs for the project alongside the GSMA Innovation Fund supported components. It is wise not to be fully dependent on GSMA so you know your department won’t crumble as soon as the funding comes to an end and to ensure your project is resilient” said Solidarites International.  

Apply to the GSMA Innovation Fund for Anticipatory Humanitarian Action

The latest round of the Fund is calling for solutions in anticipatory humanitarian action with a strong mobile technology component. The Fund is interested in solutions that:

  • Prevent and minimise the impact of humanitarian crises;  
  • Improve preparedness for sudden-onset crises;   
  • Enable dignified and inclusive communication and assistance; or  
  • Anticipate incidence and impacts of crises and enable earlier and more effective responses.   

To apply for funding or to find out more information, please follow the link below.

This initiative is currently funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and supported by the GSMA and its members.
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