Innovation Challenges

The GDC Innovation Challenge crowdsources innovations from GDC members, helps to pilot the best ideas, and supports the broader last mile distribution community to replicate and learn from those innovations. Learn more about our first Innovation Challenge pilots.

Against a backdrop of Covid-19, the GDC’s second Innovation Challenge supports ideas that build last mile distributors’ resilience and increase their ability to respond to future shocks. We received more than 80 applications from GDC members and their partners this year and, voted for by GDC members themselves, the five winning ideas are below! From Nov 2020 to Sept 2021, the GDC will work with these partnerships to bring their ideas to life. The knowledge and tools developed will be shared with GDC members to enable them to learn from, benefit from, and/or replicate these innovations in their own contexts.

Want to know more about innovation in last mile distribution? Check out our recent webinar and downloadable poster!

Challenge winners

Embracing digitised group sales lending

Econome (GDC member) and Sevi (partner)

This pilot will integrate a mobile app to simultaneously digitise group sale of products and lending. The app’s algorithm calculates the credit worthiness of group members, after which they can select their product and submit a loan request. Group sales presents a new avenue for scale, while lowering the pre-financing risk. Sevi will help GDC members purchase this service to upload their own products and adopt a digitised approach to group lending.

Location: Kenya | Photo credit: Econome

Credit: Econome
Credit: upOwa

Managing remote sales teams via new software platforms

Pilot 1: Vitalite Senegal (GDC member) and Maad (partner)

Pilot 2: upOwa (GDC member) and Optimetriks (partner)

Two partnerships applied with a practically identical idea, so, in a GDC Innovation Challenge first, we are sharing the prize between them. This means that both of these pilots will develop a digital sales agent management tool that can be integrated within existing CRM systems, to help members manage sales teams remotely. Features will include agent training, on-boarding, task management, and route planning. Sales managers will be able to track their agents’ performance and compliance with the sales process via a central dashboard, while the sales agent mobile app will function offline. The software will be made available to all GDC members to purchase as a service via the third party software providers.

Locations: Senegal and Cameroon | Photo credit: upOwa

Developing a data-driven underwriting service

Vitalite Zambia (GDC member) and Nithio (partner)

This pilot will develop a data-driven underwriting module to enable LMDs to predict with much greater precision which customers are ‘slow’, ‘moderate’, and ‘fast’ re-payers. To achieve this, a combination of historical customer data and geospatial household characteristics will be analysed. Learnings will be shared with GDC members, and the tool will be available to purchase via the third party service provider, including a freemium version for early-stage distributors.

Location: Zambia | Photo credit: Bopinc

Credit: Bopinc
Credit: Kambasco Technologies

Assessing customer credit worthiness via savings groups

Kambasco (GDC member) and Upya (partner)

This pilot will draw on datasets from savings groups to develop a credit assessment tool to enable LMDs to predict the credit worthiness of their customers. The analytics will be automated via an Excel spreadsheet or software that integrates into existing CRM platforms; with customers able to access instant loans from a large bank, to buy solar products. All learnings, as well as the tools to undertake in-house credit assessments, will be shared with GDC members.

Location: Uganda | Photo credit: Kambasco Technologies

Tips for writing grant funding proposals

Check out this short and simple summary, which brings together insights and reflections from the GDC’s experience of running Innovation Challenges in 2019 and 2020. Recommendations are intended to help GDC members successfully fundraise from a range of donors, including but not limited to the GDC.

Read our top tips 


The winning ideas receive:

  • Up to £50,000 in funding to pilot the innovation
  • Expert technical assistance to support implementation
  • Connections to key stakeholders who could help make your idea an even bigger success
  • Profile and support to disseminate learnings and insights across the sector following implementation

The following evaluation criteria were considered as part of the selection process:

Commitment: There is a highly committed team in place with the necessary expertise, and the ability to free up sufficient time, to bring the idea to life.

Impact: The idea makes last mile distribution businesses more resilient. It helps reach underserved customers, and is gender inclusive.

Sustainability: The applicant has a clear idea of how to sustain and scale the idea if the pilot is successful, after the funding and support from the GDC comes to an end.

Replicability: The idea is relevant for the broader sector and can be replicated or used by other GDC members.

Innovation:  The idea is exciting because it is creative and/or new for the last mile distribution sector in that region.

Feasibility: The idea can be realised and validated (piloted) in a nine month period. The applicant provided a compelling strategy for how to deal with the biggest assumptions and risks.

UK Aid logo

This project is funded by UK aid from the British government.