IIC Annual Workshop: Scaling Impact

9:45 am–7:00 pm
UChicago Center in Delhi


IIC Annual Workshop Recap

Development is challenging. Creating effective, scalable solutions that can take hold in a complex context like India is even more challenging. At the International Innovation Corps at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy’s Annual Workshop: Scaling Impact, leaders from the government, private industry, non-profits, and development agencies as well as IIC fellows shared their experiences tackling these challenges and discussed unique insights and proven best practices that translate across specific project and issue areas.

The July event, co-hosted by the University of Chicago Center in Delhi, marked the culmination of the IIC’s first project cycle. 2014 IIC fellows, who spent the past year working at the intersection of scalability and impact on a diverse array of projects, presented valuable takeaways alongside major actors in the development space.


The government can be an incredible resource to take development interventions to scale, and working with the government is one of the hallmarks of the IIC model. It is unsurprising, then, that strategies to effectively work with the government were one of the major topics of discussion at the Annual Workshop.

Santhosh Mathew, Jt. Secretary at the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, noted that government buy-in can be very difficult to develop. However, Mr. Mathew expressed optimism that there are increasing political incentives within the Indian government for government entities to devote more resources and attention to innovative, new ideas and programs.

In order to take advantage of opportunities to work with the government, the IIC-Central Electronics Limited (CEL) fellows recommended strategically taking into consideration a government partner’s resources and areas of strength. The team discussed how this strategy enabled them to identify solar energy as a key area within CEL where their innovative thinking could realistically lead to implementable solutions.

The IIC-Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC) fellows were able to pursue an ambitious single window project within the government thanks to the strong support of Talleen Kumar, the CEO & MD of DMCIDC. The IIC-DMICDC fellows recommended finding a champion within the government to lead the charge on new ideas.


Another important issue that emerged at the Annual Workshop was the need for diverse partners to collaborate on development projects. Prachi Windlass, the director of India education at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, noted that organizations across the development field, from foundations to NGOs to consulting firms, need to work together effectively to ensure a project’s success from funding to implementation.

Other participants shared specific techniques they found useful in working collaboratively. The IIC-National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) fellows emphasized the importance of developing a clear mutual understanding of each partner’s resources and expected contribution early on in the partnership, to ensure that a partnership will remain strong as a project progresses.

The IIC-CEL team highlighted their experience as an interdisciplinary team without highly specialized expertise that was able to build off of innovations happening elsewhere and collaborate with experts to move projects forward. The team’s lack of specialization helped them to be innovative in their partnerships and generated out-of-the-box thinking.

Additionally, Paul Seong, the acting office director at USAID’s Office of Partnerships for Innovations in India, advised examining successful innovative approaches across the globe to comparable issues to help bring effective solutions to India.


From health to sanitation, impact investing to design thinking, Annual Workshop participants drew on their field of expertise to share specific strategies and techniques to rethink the way we contribute to development.

Priyanka Dutt, the country director of BBC Media Action (India) Ltd, emphasized the value of using simple existing technologies, strategic targeting, and ‘sticky content’ to reach wide swaths of people. Ms. Dutt shared the case study of Mobile Kunji, an audio-visual tool for community health workers that pairs a dial-in phone service with flash cards to help workers counsel families on pre- and post-natal health care.

Human-centered design is an approach based on close understanding of end-use experience that can be applied in practically any issue area and can help ensure that interventions stick. Ayush Chauhan, the co-founder and managing partner of Quicksand, shared the successes of applying human-centered design to a direct benefits transfer program and a large-scale sanitation infrastructure effort.

The IIC-NSDC team found that on their project, a top-down approach to creating change would not be feasible. Rather, they pursued a bottom-up approach and emphasized providing the support and infrastructure for those bottom-up initiatives to scale.

Finally, Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, a partner at Unitus Seed Fund, shared the value of   a profit-oriented model for creating social impact. Mr. Ramamoorthy contended that a successful business can approach its business strategy by measuring both profit and impact—ensuring profit while also making it a priority to create positive impact.