Convened by:

Innovation CHallenge


Innovations are dynamic processes which focus on the creation and implementation of new or improved products, services, or organizational models leading to substantial improvements in addressing development challenges. Successful innovations are those that result in improvements in efficiency, effectiveness, quality or social outcomes and impacts. Innovation may involve an existing process or product adapted to a new context, or it can be something novel. 

The SG2020 Innovation Challenge provides the opportunity to share promising innovations relating to the conference theme and technical tracks. In the spirit of friendly competition, organizations will present 7-minute ‘innovation pitches’ to bring visibility to new approaches and seek open feedback from peers. Audience members will then engage via a digital polling tool to rate and evaluate each innovation and determine the overall winner of the Innovation Challenge. The winner of the competition will receive a prize and be recognized at the close of the conference.


Our Sea Our Life: Where Environmental Conservation Meets Savings Groups

Presented by Zoological Society of London



Northern Mozambique has some of the highest levels of marine biodiversity in coastal East Africa, now under threat from unsustainable development and high levels of immigration due to increasing oil and gas exploration, both of which also contribute to the marginalization of local communities. 

In the Our Sea Our Life initiativeZoological Society of London (ZSL) has pioneered community-based approaches to tackling the widespread over-fishing within this region, helping to preserve natural resources within the community. Currently in its second phase, the program integrates marine conservation interventions within traditional Savings Groups methodology, aimed at providing basic financial services that will empower community members to diversify their livelihood options and increase social resilience and food security. Savings Groups play a key roleas a link between community members and resource management and an outreach platform for tackling gender equality and promoting inclusive conservation efforts. 

Based on lessons learned from simple, scalable and holistic models in the Philippines such as Net-Worksthe program incorporates several marine conservation activities, including the establishment of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) focused on increasing the sustainability of local fisheries, and the successful development of community bivalve farming as a viable potential alternative to unsustainable practices such as mosquito net fishingAs women – amongst the most vulnerable community members – are often dependent on this highly controversial fishing method for instance, the latter also provides an opportunity to better engage female participation in resource management efforts.

Pitch by Ana PintoConservation for Communities Project Coordinator

Maximus: Turning Exclusion into Access to Digital Finance

Presented by Emergent Payments 


Once an underdog in Africa's quest to promote financial inclusion through digital financial services (DFS), Ghana is proving doubters wrong and giving the oft-heralded East African markets a run for their money. In fact, the World Bank's Global Findex data shows Ghana claiming its spot in 2017 among the most successful and fastest-growing mobile money markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Yet the data also reveals that many solutions still fail to reach the base of the financially excluded, specifically individuals who live and work in rural areas and women. Furthermore, traditional digital financial service (DFS) models tend to focus on urban and peri-urban areas and leverage mobile network operators (MNOs) and conventional financial institutions whereby clients, rural banks and microfinance institutions are often excluded.

Enter Maximus, a mobile money-based group funding and savings platform by Emergent Payments that interacts with all mobile money platforms operating in Ghana to expand financial service coverage for underserved peri-urban and rural populations. Free-to-use, Maximus is designed to improve transactional efficiency by leveraging mobile money technology to enable low-income earners to save conveniently using financial service providers (FSPs).

For group members who do not own a mobile device nor have access to a mobile money account, Hybrid Maximus offers a shared access setting where a member can carry out cash-in transactions on behalf of other members. The principal objective here is convenience – to facilitate easier access to financial services so more individuals can own unique m-wallets.

Financing payments options often exclude the informal sector. Through miniaturization model, Maximus is leveraged to give beneficiaries access to a range of financial services such as insurance, pensions, among others and to be paid in small increments.

Pitch by Roland Nouebissi, Financial Inclusion Project Management Lead

Chomoka: Going Offline to Scale Digital Savings Groups

Presented by CARE


Smartphones may be the future of mobile computing, but saturation is below 33% in Sub-Saharan Africa, with substantial gender and income gaps. Though internet coverage is rising quickly, access for low-income individuals (particularly women) remains a challenge and internet costs can impede even those who own a smartphone. For new users, there is also a need for visual and engaging user interfaces as they build trust and digital literacy. Yet most digital Savings Groups tools rely on a complex USSD menu or regular connectivity to back up groups' financial data and transactions.  
When CARE set out to resolve this probelm, Chomoka was bornMeaning "to take off" in Kiswahili, Chomoka is built with the groups' reality at the center, offering a user-friendly and simple smartphone interface that leverages a unique solution to the challenges of internet connectivity.  
With Chomoka, groups enter transactions and activities in the application during their regular meetings. At the end of each meeting, the data is encrypted and sent via SMS to the Chomoka serverenabling groups to operate completely offline with the peace of mind that their data is securely and reliably backed up, a very low cost. To ensure transparency, group members receive an SMS receipt of each contribution, confirming that their data is backed up and recorded accurately. The group can also view their savings balances, outstanding loans, and calculate their share-out at any time.

With over 3,000 users in its first year, Chomoka is proven and poised to scale up in Tanzania and will expand to Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana in 2020. Chomoka operates as a social enterprise, currently incubated within CARE Social Ventures and supported by several revenue streams, ensuring that it is a long-term solution available to savings groups globally. 

Pitch by Karen Vandergaag, Product Manager

Be-FINE: Building an Enabling Financial Services Ecosystem for Refugees

Presented by Grameen Foundation 


Uganda hosts the sixth-largest refugee population in the world, totaling 1.4 million refugees and has been repeatedly noted by international organizations for having one of the most progressive refugee policies in the world. Yet refugees here face severe challenges to accessing financial services (including savings, credit, insurance and payments), preventing them from starting and expanding businesses that could provide for their basic needs and increase their resilience.

Since 2018, Grameen Foundation has been working with a local microfinance institution (MFI), Rural Finance Initiative (RUFI) to overcome these barriers and change the way financial institutions see refugees. RUFI is a South Sudanese MFI that operated for many years, before the July 2016 crisis and renewed war drove many of their borrowers to refugee settlements in Uganda. RUFI decided to follow their borrowers to Uganda and start offering loans to refugees, something no other MFI was willing to do at the time.

RUFI began providing individual loans within the settlement but were interested in reaching a vast majority of borrowers that no longer met traditional collateral requirements, as well as finding a more cost-effective way to expand their customer base in the settlements given their limited manpower. To resolve these issues and increase financial inclusion in the settlements, Grameen worked with RUFI to:

  • Develop a new VSLA Group Loan product and standard operating procedures to overcome barriers imposed by traditional collateral requirements and reach more customers at lower cost
  • Upgrade LedgerLink, Grameen's industry-leading digital Savings Group platform, to better serve local refugees by translating it to South Sudanese and Ugandan local languages, designing a graphic user interface, and developing automated loan repayment and share-out calculations
  • Deploy LedgerLink to enable VSLAs to establish digital transaction records which serve as alternative credit data and substitute for RUFI's traditional collateral requirements
  • Train groups in financial and digital literacy, ensuring they are prepared for responsible linkages to credit
  • Link groups to a group mobile money wallet to enable linkages to group savings accounts at Centenary Bank
  • Develop a digital literacy curriculum (with GSMA and MTN) that helps refugees take advantage of the range of digital financial services (DFS) available on their phone

Pitch by Bindi Jhaveri, Technical Manager, Financial Services

Getting Closer: Using Geospatial Data to Address Proximity Challenges

Presented by Oxford Policy Management


Proximity refers to the distance that people must, are able and willing to travel to access financial services. It is closely linked to one of the most persistent challenges in the drive for financial inclusion: to sustain uptake and usage of financial products by informal savers, specifically savings accounts in remote areas. Physical and social distances to where people can access their money matter. But proximity also disguises an opportunity: identifying and quantifying under-served Savings Groups and their members in self-organized urban areas and its ever-growing fuzzy edges. 

Savings at the Frontier (SatF) discovered that none of its financial service provider (FSP) partners collected customer or agent geo-location data in a systematic manner. To address this, the program worked with satellite imagery processing specialists to measure the challenge and develop simple solutions that were accurate, low-cost and easy to use. This meant using existing open geospatial mapping tools, such as Google Earth, and what3words to map access points, Savings Groups’ locations and relevant public data, such as population density and rural/urban grading. 

SatF piloted the innovation with Vision Fund Zambia (VFZ), combining informal saver locations and agent access points. The resulting maps allowed VFZ to measure the proximity challenge, identify areas with un- or under-served Savings Groups, improve agent distribution strategies, and locate new savers in peri-urban areas. SatF then concentrated on automating processes to reduce the time and effort required, grade urban, peri-urban and rural areas and integrate public datasets to help with better planning. An excel plug-in was developed that allows project managers to use the geo-location data in spreadsheets, and in form of web maps to visualize and consider proximity in day-to-day decision making.  

Following these adaptations, DSS, a partner in Ghana, now uses the plug-in to map customer locations, overlay agent collector routes, and map customer transaction data in real time. Using public data, DSS identifies under-served areas and open spaces for deployment or agents as pathways to increasing reach to Savings Groups and individual savers 

Geo location and transaction data also nudge FSPs to design products that place customers at the center. It increases efficiency by identifying easy to reach agent locations and can thus support FSPs in expanding financial access.

Pitch by Mbinya Mutiso, Savings at the Frontier



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