In its annual innovation competition, the Society for International Development – Washington Chapter recognizes innovative products and services that are making a positive difference in communities around the world. Three of this year’s winning entries include Chemonics-implemented projects.

Two panels of development experts, along with attendees of last week’s Society for International Development – Washington Chapter’s (SID-W) Virtual Annual Conference, have recognized three Chemonics-implemented projects for their innovative approaches to development challenges. The awards were announced during the event as part of SID-W’s annual Innovation Competition.

This year, SID-W members entered their innovations into one of three categories: People (society), Planet (environment), or Prosperity (economy). Judges assessed the entries in two rounds, determining a list of finalists and the winning innovation in each category. Conference attendees selected the “Best in Show” from among the finalists. Chemonics projects came out on top in the People and Planet categories and snagged the “Best in Show” distinction.

“This recognition by our peers at SID-W is an honor, and we are so inspired by the innovations these teams are applying in their communities,” said Chemonics’ President and CEO Jamey Butcher. “Whether it’s coming up with a completely new idea or taking current solutions and adapting them in new ways, the development community must continue to innovate and push boundaries to have an impact and scale solutions for greater change. Now more than ever during COVID-19, we are seeing the greater urgency for innovation in our approaches, thinking, and practices.”

Conference attendees selected the Injaz program’s entry as the “Best in Show” for its development of an intranet system within an internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camp in Syria. The system enables 1,200 displaced Syrian children to continue learning while practicing social distancing. The children can connect their devices, typically a smartphone, into the closed Wi-Fi network to access lessons and materials. They can also communicate with their teachers and peers through a dedicated chat and voice call app without an internet connection.

“It is really rewarding to know that a relatively low-tech innovation can have such a positive impact on learners in difficult circumstances. This recognition by the industry makes our work all the more worthwhile,” said Program Director Mohammad Youssef.

Injaz’s intranet system currently uses an old laptop as a server, making the system inexpensive and easy to replicate. The network’s communication software and operating system are free and open source.

Presented at the 2020 SID-W Annual Conference, the video above describes the Injaz program’s development of an intranet system within an IDP camp in Syria.

In the Planet category, the USAID Agriculture Growing Rural Opportunities Activity in Ukraine won for its entry, which highlighted the use of honeybees for “smart pollination.” Honeybees pollinate 95 percent of crops in Ukraine; however, their number is decreasing due to intensive agriculture and pesticide use. The project found that it could decrease pesticide use by introducing a safe, biological fungicide to honeybee hives. The honeybees then carry the fungicide powder to the crops, protecting them against disease.

By using honeybees to transport the biological fungicides, the costs of traditional pesticide treatment decrease significantly. Additionally, the project’s pilot of this approach with raspberries shows an increase in berry yield and improvement in fruit quality.

Presented at the 2020 SID-W Annual Conference, the video above describes the Agriculture Growing Rural Opportunities Activity’s “smart pollination” approach.

In the People category, USAID’s HRH2030 program submitted TNH Health’s Vitalk, a winner of its Health Workforce Resilience Prize. Vitalk is an app developed to address the mental health treatment gap in Brazil. It aims to provide “care for carers” by identifying and combatting mental health stressors that affect healthcare workers.

The Vitalk app uses smartphone technology to provide support through on-demand access to an AI-powered chatbot providing psychoeducation, mood-tracking, evidence-based interventions, and the option to actually converse with a licensed psychologist if needed. The app also provides self-care programs and audio-based exercises, written by clinical experts, that are based on the user’s personal objectives.

Due to the digital nature of the app, it is easy to scale quickly and at a low cost to reach rural and underserved areas. HRH2030 and Vitalk are currently working with USAID to pilot the app in Malawi.

Presented at the 2020 SID-W Annual Conference, the video above describes TNH Health’s Vitalk mental health app.

For more about SID-W’s annual Innovation Competition, including guidelines and scoring criteria, visit www.sidwconference.org/innovation-competition.