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Evaluating the Health of a Sophisticated Innovation Program

innovation programs innovation-management sector - aid and development sector - communications Jan 07, 2024


How do you assess the health of an innovation program and its ability to generate impactful and successful innovations?  If you're a commercial investor, over time the financial return of the selected investments may be a satisfactory proxy for the investments you've made.  

However, if you're investing in complex problems and sophisticated solutions that are expected to deliver more than just financial success, it will be helpful to dive deeper into what makes an innovation program successful.  If you can evaluate whether a program is good at identifying important challenges, creating powerful solutions, removing barriers to development, and then scaling working ideas, then you'll have a sense of whether the working parts of your innovation program are each doing what they should.  

This is exactly the challenge that GSMA, the association that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, and a leading supporter of innovation serving development and humanitarian response.   They wanted a MEL (Measurement, Evaluation, and Learning) framework that could tell them how their innovation program was performing, and importantly, what areas most needed attention.  

I worked with Lydia Tanner and her team at The Research People, to develop a MEL framework that would help understand the different types of challenges that an innovation needed to traverse from conception to scale.   Each of the major elements (problems, solutions, barriers, and scale) have their own challenges and can be evaluated for effectiveness.   

The resulting framework recognized the complexity of this journey, but by breaking down the major contributors to success, made it easier to work through what was working for the overall program, and what wasn't.  

A summary of the approach is available from GSMA here:  

GSMA - A Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Framework for Humanitarian Innovation Programmes

Want more insights into the power of Ecosystem Innovation and the career of Innovation Choreographers?  Get the book!  Do Bigger Things.  

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