Inspired by the television show “Shark Tank,” the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs’ Knowledge SUCCESS project has launched The Pitch, a global competition to find and fund innovative knowledge management ideas for family planning.
The Pitch places stakeholders in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia at the center of designing and implementing knowledge management innovations. The competition is open to any organization working in USAID’s family planning priority countries.
Four Knowledge Management (KM) Champion Innovators will be awarded up to USD $50,000 each in order to implement their innovative ideas. These winners will also receive knowledge management mentorship, training and tools from Knowledge SUCCESS during the implementation period to further develop their capacity in knowledge management for family planning and reproductive health.
The competition also provides an opportunity and platform to get entrepreneurs’ names and those of their organizations out to the broader family planning community, regardless of whether they are selected to win.
“One of the things that COVID-19 has taught us is that the best responses did not come from the richest countries,” Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli of WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research said during the competition’s launch event this month. “A competition like this, which pays attention to and respects learning from the ground, really excites me.
“The best solutions aren’t found in textbooks.”
The idea for the pitch came out of a series of regional workshops led by Knowledge SUCCESS last summer.
“There are many cultural differences and nuances in the way family planning services are delivered, and family planning program professionals need knowledge and information that matches their culture and context,” says CCP’s Tara Sullivan, who directs the Knowledge SUCCESS project. “Current global challenges like COVID-19 have also revealed how essential it is to share accurate knowledge quickly and in locally relevant ways.”
Knowledge management — the way we access, share and use information — is a valuable tool to address public health challenges, including those in family planning, she says. Through its work, Knowledge SUCCESS has found that family planning professionals are strongly motivated to seek out ways to improve their programs. However, technical capacity in knowledge management remains limited, and there is a lack of sufficient funding for knowledge management in family planning programs.
That’s where The Pitch comes in.
“The family planning community is better able to respond quickly and effectively when it has accurate knowledge and information in-hand and systems and approaches that work for sharing that knowledge,” said Ellen Starbird, director of USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health, in a taped interview for the competition’s launch.
So far, The Pitch has generated tremendous interest within the family planning community. More than 1,000 people have visited the competition’s webpage since it launched on January 11.
Applications for The Pitch are due by 11:59pm on February 4. Champion Innovators will be chosen by the end of March. Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“In these unprecedented times, we know that it is local communities and innovations that make all of the difference,” Starbird says.