The U.S. Global Development Lab

Speeches Shim

The U.S. Global Development Lab serves as an innovation hub. We take smart risks to test new ideas and partner within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and with other actors to harness the power of innovative tools and approaches that accelerate development impact.

USAID established the Lab in 2014. The Lab brings together diverse partners to catalyze the next generation of breakthrough innovations to advance USAID’s mission to end extreme poverty and support inclusive growth.


The Lab operates under a set of guiding principles. We are:

    Drawing upon the ingenuity of people from around the world.
    Creating fast feedback loops that enable continuous learning and performance improvement.
    Attracting the support of others to enable sustainable development solutions that reach massive scale.
    Investing based on strong evidence of impact.


  • In Afghanistan, the Lab helped the Afghan National Army and Police switch from cash to digital payments, which reduced loss from corruption, increased perceived pay by 30 percent, and improved retention, leading to a more stable security force.


  • The Lab supported the Latin America and Caribbean Bureau with geospatial analyses related to unaccompanied children entering the U.S. from Central America, allowing the Agency to strategically target resources to the region.


  • Lab-supported ClickMedix, a U.S.-based start-up, has reached more than one million people in Afria, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, and saved an estimated $10 million in healthcare costs by connecting patients to doctors through mobile technologies.


  • The Lab leads USAID in partnering with U.S. companies such as Google, Microsoft, Visa, Intel, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Johnson & Johnson. In the past 15 years, USAID has built more than 1,600 partnerships with the private sector, expecting to leverage more than $16 billion in non-U.S. government funds.


  • Off-Grid Electric provides solar energy to people without access to the grid in Tanzania. It provides an affordable solar leasing service, with payments facilitated by mobile money transactions. It has leveraged the Lab’s support through the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program, a tiered funding model for innovations with proven impact, cost-effectiveness, and potential to scale, and raised $95 million in follow-on capital.
  • Grand Challenges for Development (GCDs) are competitive programs that focus global attention and resources on problems and their solutions. One Grand Challenge supported by the Lab is Scaling Off-Grid Energy, which is working to connect 20 million households in sub-Saharan Africa to electricity by 2030. It supportsoff-grid solar companies that create jobs in developing countries, contributing to economic growth and stability. It also opens up opportunities for American solar companies working in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Duke University’s Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator helps faculty members and students develop new global health technologies. It is part of the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), a partnership between USAID and seven top U.S. universities to harness the ingenuity of students and researchers around the globe. It supported Boston-based Sproxil, a mobile technology that enables consumers in emerging markets to identify and avoid counterfeit drugs.
  • The Lab’s Digital Inclusion programs help bridge the digital divide by expanding access to the internet. For example, the DadaabNet partnership provides low-cost internet to the world’s largest refugee complex in Kenya. This is helping relief agencies save money and better serve refugees, introduce new job and educational opportunities, and prepare refugees for life outside a refugee camp.
  • USAID co-founded the Better Than Cash Alliance to advocate for a global shift to electronic payments. The alliance is managed by the Lab’s Digital Finance team, which is increasing access to financial services through mobile technologies. Since switching to e-payments, maternal and health care provider Dnet, based in Bangladesh, estimates it has saved more than 40,000 hours in staff time and $60,000 per year, while bringing thousands of previously unbanked women into the formal financial system.
  • Through the Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) initiative, the Lab is working with more than 40 incubators, accelerators and seed-stage impact investors to support early-stage enterprises in developing
    countries. This drives economic growth in developing countries and is opening markets and reducing investment risk for more than 30 U.S. small- and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Since 2001, USAID has built more than 1,600 public-private partnerships leveraging more than $16 billion in external funding through Global Development Alliances (GDAs). For example, in El Salvador, USAID has partnered with Microsoft and the Sagrera Palomo Foundation on the ¡Supérate! Program, which provides alternatives to crime, violence, and gang involvement for young people.
  • Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) is a program to support scientists in developing countries, each paired with an American researcher. One of its projects is a collaboration between scientists at Baghdad University and Michigan State University to increase food production in arid regions of Iraq. It uses soil water retention technology developed at Michigan State.
  • The Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Innovations Program (MERLIN) [PDF, 126K] tests new and innovative approaches to improve decision-making at USAID. It is supporting global health security efforts, including USAID’s Ebola response and global health supply chain programs.

Key Term: ‘Lab leverage’ is a program performance indicator for the U.S. Global Development Lab that captures commitments of funding and in-kind resources from a range of external non-USAID partners investing in shared development goals when working jointly with the Lab on a partnership, program or activity. The Lab’s leverage performance indicator includes: all cost-share contributions (from both public and private sector partners); all other contributions (from the private sector, the public sector, and other U.S. government agencies); and gifts (from foreign governments, private organizations, and individuals).