The Energy Innovation Contest IDEAS supports the development of new projects that promote the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, bio-fuels and energy access in rural areas throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It was first launched in 2009 and over 50 ideas have won awards since, out of over 2,300 innovation project proposals submitted.
To help you organize your proposal, we offer you a series of lessons learned during an evaluation by the GIZ (German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation) of the first 26 projects that won awards over the past few years. Among the results of this evaluation are suggestions on how to present your idea that we’ve considered worth sharing. We hope these six tips will help you come up with a brilliant idea and… who knows, maybe be one of the next IDEAS winners!
1. Reduce project-design risks: time estimation, logistics and administrative matters, and keep your plans flexible and realistic
If the idea you have in mind is to develop a project for rural areas, you’ll have to consider possible unforeseen delays due to administrative matters or to the need to include additional tasks that weren’t initially contemplated. It’s very important not to underestimate timeframes and administrative issues in order to come up with successful, realistic plans. Keep in mind that weather conditions or market trend changes can have an impact on a project’s economic viability, so in order to ensure the realization of your IDEAS you need to consider these risks and seek ways to reduce them.
2. Build ties with the local community—this will strengthen their cooperation
At the end of the day, who are we developing this idea for? Before drawing up a project, you need to get involved with locals. On the one hand, this will help you better understand their social environment and the benefiting community’s actual needs, which can give your plan more punch. On the other, it’ll be easier to implement the project if your institution has a solid relationship with the beneficiaries and you’ve gained their trust.
3. Communicate with your team and the local community
In order to have a good work environment it’s important to focus on effective communication. This will enable a good decision-making flow both within your work team and with the local community. Plus, keeping the community posted through each developing stage of your project and about their own responsibilities is likely to increase the project’s sustainability.
4. Continuous training
If you want to effect deep, lasting change, a single training session for the whole community won’t cut it. Scheduling different, specific training sessions for participants at different stages of the project is a must. This will ensure that beneficiaries are better prepared to make the project and its technologies their own.
5. Don’t forget the marketing
Once the project is under way –and especially if it’s a new venture— it’s paramount to include in your plans promotional activities and dissemination of results. One of the features required of projects submitted to IDEAS is their scalability: in order to grow, a business needs promotion, so go ahead and include an effective marketing strategy in your plan.
6. Do you have it in you to lead a development project?
Michael Jordan once said, “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” Do you have what it takes to make it happen? Character makes the world go round and being a dynamic and charismatic project leader with the ability to convince and motivate both your team and the local community will boost the odds of your project’s reach and yield the desired results.
Last but not least: the IDEAS contest, as well as other existing financing opportunities, is just the first of many steps in a project, especially if it’s a complex one. So before you get started, remember there’s a long road ahead of you.
As the Spanish would say, “¡A por ellos!” As the Italians would say, “In bocca al lupo!” (Break a leg!).
Access the IDEAS 2014 website here: www.iadb.org/ideas