Established in 2021, the Paul Polak Innovation Fund helps nurture and grow iDE’s proud culture of innovation.The fund aims to unlock new opportunities with the potential for scale and impact. Awardee’s within iDE’s country staff (of 1,200) are provided with startup money and the space to test entrepreneurial thinking.

Innovations such as treadle pumps (over 2.5 million sold worldwide), Farm Business Advisors and sanitation marketing have enabled 40 million people to prosper on their own terms. You can help us to develop and test new ideas with the potential to create real and lasting change. Like, figuring out the best solution for dealing with snails that wreak havoc in Nepal’s crop fields. Recording the journey of Honduran coffee beans on a blockchain. A Zambian business plan for submersible solar pumps. And improving food security in Cambodia by growing mushrooms.

These are some of the latest ideas being backed by the Paul Polak Innovation Fund. Since the fund began, we’ve
awarded more than 40 Fail Fast and Spark Grants.

  • Fail Fast projects (up to $20k) support rapid prototyping and testing of new ideas
  • Spark projects (up to $130k) more rigorously market test promising ideas

Our goal this year is to raise $500k to support innovation that makes an impact across iDE.


Chetan runs a small farm. Like many farmers in his region, he
faces a chronic shortage of fertilizer. Fertilizer he needs to help
his dragon fruit trees grow and produce more fruit. Through the
donor funded Paul Polak Innovation Fund, three community-
managed projects began producing compost. Farmers add this
compost to the soil as fertilizer, which helps their plants grow
and produce more fruits and vegetables that they can sell and
make more money for their family.

Chetan used this nutrient-rich compost and saw his production
of dragon fruit double. That’s twice the amount of money he
can make selling them! He even had enough fertilizer to grow
an additional crop of marigolds – a popular flower used during
festival season in Nepal – which made him even more money!

For farmers like Chetan, making twice the amount of money is
life changing. It can mean sending their kids to school, buying
medicine when a family member is sick or buying a vehicle to
go long distances with ease.

  • Start with People: To end poverty, we start by listening to those experiencing it. They are the world’s most discerning and under-served customers.
  • Design to Context: Using their insights, we work with local businesses to create the products and services needed to improve quality of life and increase incomes.
  • Power Entrepreneurs: By building sustainable markets for desirable, affordable products and services, families can invest in their health and businesses, creating a cycle of greater prosperity.
  • Measure Results: We take results seriously. Rigorous measurement gives us new insights to keep improving and confidence in the impact of your support.

By following these principles, we are committed to ensuring that your support goes directly to designing solutions that really work, and scaling up successful solutions to make the biggest impact for the most people.

Help power entrepreneurs to innovate for impact with your donation

Other Initiatives by iDE

Stay in touch with us

Get the latest news, updates, and events from iDE right in your inbox. Find out what we’re doing around the world and towards which projects your donations are going.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.