Looking for audacious but achievable ideas.

“Saving lives at birth: A grand challenge for development” is a recently released granting opportunity targeting organizations with smart, innovative interventions to reduce the number of maternal and child deaths happening around childbirth. The announcement estimates there are 3.2 million stillbirths, 3.6 million neonatal deaths and 360,000 maternal deaths annually around the world, numbers which could be sharply decreased with pointed and thoughtful innovations.

This video from the UNFPA estimates we could prevent 44% of newborn deaths in the developing world and nearly two-thirds of maternal deaths by providing access to family planning and to quality care for pregnancy and childbirth. The Global Challenge grants aim to help make those reductions in maternal and neonatal deaths reality.

The target: to fund “audacious but achievable ideas with the potential to lead to transformational change.” Specific focus areas including science & technology, service delivery, and demand generation, with particular interest in ICT, low-cost technologies, and behavior change interventions. Projects need to have a plan to scale up and reach target populations, which may draw on private sector expertise; funds will be available as seed money and transition grants for scale-up.

The funders: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, the Government of Norway, Grand Challenges Canada, and the World Bank.

How much: Seed grants of up to $250,000, transition grants up to $2 million to take projects to scale.

Who’s eligible to apply: nearly any organization (for-profit companies, non-governmental organizations, academic/medical research institutions, faith-based organizations, civic groups and foundations—together or in partnership) who can put together the application materials, outlining a unique, innovative tool to reduce maternal and newborn deaths near childbirth.

Deadline: applications must be received between April 20 and April 29, 2011

There seems to be particular interest in receiving applications from innovators living in developing countries and private sector actors willing to bring their business expertise to the development arena. The request for applications spouts some big words (“radical” “audacious” “transformational change”), but I applaud USAID (and its partners) for opening a new funding stream that cuts through the many levels of bureaucracy often associated with their funds.

If you know innovators in your respective organizations, companies, universities, etc. who may have one of those “audacious but achievable ideas,” please encourage them to apply and help reduce the number of preventable deaths that happen each year around childbirth. I’m looking forward to seeing who is selected, and the new ideas grantees bring to the table.

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