How might we design an open innovation challenge poised to positively impact children’s education in emergency situations?

Designing an open innovation challenge for the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)


Of the 75 million children across 35 countries whose education was disrupted by crisis in 2015, many did not receive the education services they needed. Within Syria alone, there have been 150,000 education personnel killed since the crisis began, 2.1 million Syrian children out of school, and one in four schools either damaged, destroyed, or used as shelter or for military purposes.  Compounding this challenge, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys in conflict-affected regions, giving rise to the need for solutions that take a gendered approach. Although there are many actors working in the Education in Emergencies space, many of the most experienced, talented, and innovative responders in the sector focus on delivering an immediate response rather than the development of sustained approaches and strategies.  Relatedly, agile funding for Education in Emergencies remains low and is sometimes used inefficiently.


The MIKTA consortium is an innovative, consultative partnership led by the Foreign Ministers of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Turkey, and Australia.  At the 8th MIKTA Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in November 2016, the five MIKTA countries agreed to a joint MIKTA innovation challenge to “reward innovative solutions for expanding education opportunities in emergency situations, particularly for girls.”  Australia committed to take the lead on running this “Education in Emergencies Challenge” and has committed AUD $2 million in prize funding.  The innovationXchange (iXc), of which GKI is a key partner, within the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is leading this work.

As a member of a consortium led by AECOM to manage the Innovation Resource Facility (IRF), an initiative of the iXc, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) was asked to take the lead in designing this open innovation challenge. GKI’s approach included a “Design Sprint” and subsequent “Big Think” event in early 2017 with the aims of defining key objectives and goals for the Education in Emergencies Challenge.  Through the design and facilitation of these multi-stakeholder collaborations, GKI enabled critical decision makers within government, research and implementation to define and prioritize key aspects of the Education in Emergencies Challenge required for its success (e.g., incentives for applicants, ideal innovators, types of innovations sought, issue framing, etc.).  Working with IRF partner OpenIDEO and AECOM, GKI helped transform the Education in Emergencies Challenge from idea to reality.

Since the announcement of 7 Education in Emergencies Challenge winners, GKI has taken on the role of developing a comprehensive monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) framework that will examine impact at three levels:  the innovations, the teams, and the broader challenge space.  In collaboration with OpenIDEO, AECOM, and other consortium members, GKI is delivering a bootcamp for innovators as well as offering follow-on MEL support to provide additional guidance to innovators and to DFAT in the areas of prototyping, human centered design, impact assessment, storytelling, and more.

Results / Outcomes

  • During the Design Sprint in February 2017, GKI guided 16 participants (representing iXc’s Innovation Resource Facility and DFAT education experts) in crafting four possible Challenge Statements, analyzed the Network Ecosystem around the Education in Emergencies Challenge and identified key Challenge design considerations.
  • During the Big Think event, 32 participants (ranging from academia, innovation experts, international NGOs, and former students living in emergency situations) determined: (1) the types of innovations and innovators eligible for the Education in Emergencies Challenge; (2) the support services MIKTA could provide Challenge winners; and (3) criteria upon which to judge applicants.
  • After the Big Think event, GKI provided partner OpenIDEO all necessary information and materials to launch the Education in Emergencies Challenge on their renowned online open innovation platform.
  • GKI designed an integrated framework and training approach to guide innovators and DFAT through the process of monitoring, evaluating and learning over the course of the Challenge


Introducing the Innovation Resources Facility – An Overview of the Innovation Resources Facility: what it is, who can use it, and how it works.