Lessons from the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize: The Importance of Ensuring Goals Align
Date published: Feb. 12, 2019
Feed the Future, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), took this measured approach in the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize. This prize was created to incentivize new digital tools and approaches to help African farmers identify and treat the invasive agricultural pest that is threatening the food security of about 200 million people. Following a rigorous application process that included 228 proposals, we selected a cadre of 20 promising teams to create and test digital solutions to sustain farmer productivity in the face of the pest. After field testing and expert evaluations, we convened our finalists to showcase their work and announce the winners at the November AfricaCom conference.
One of the attractions of awarding prizes in global development is that the prize sponsor shifts the responsibility of achieving results onto competitors. While this approach can inspire a range of creative solutions and spur a nascent market, it also means many finalists will develop something valuable whether they win the award or not. For a prize to be valuable to both sponsors and competitors, sponsors must clearly communicate prize objectives so that competitors have the best chance at success and can assess whether devoting resources to achieve those objectives makes sense for them, win or lose.