The Asian Preparedness Partnership (APP) “Social Innovation Grand Challenge”  was launched on 4 May 2021. The initiative sought to spotlight local actors of the APP countries who were focusing on developing innovative solutions for more effective emergency preparedness for response under the themes of risk communications, early warning, and response. The APP regional secretariat received 50 unique submissions of Expressions of Interest within the deadline (June 2021). 

Following a meticulous evaluation process, 10 solutions were selected to continue to the ‘Co-creation phase’ of the challenge (August – September 2021). The current stage of the challenge provides them with the opportunity to refine and develop their innovative solutions. The Orientation Meeting for the Co-creation’ Phase was held on 5 August 2021. The event brought together 45 participants that included the representatives from the applicant organizations of the challenge, innovation practitioners, APP country managers, and representatives from the APP Regional Secretariat and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (the foundation). 

Mr. Kilian Murphy, Program Lead – Thematic Innovations, APP,  initiated the meeting with the objectives of the session, emphasizing that it would also be a sharing experience in the hopes of promoting stronger innovation concepts. Mr. Hans Guttman, Executive Director, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), welcomes participants and partners. He connected the challenge to the ADPC advocacy for innovation, “The APP network’s initiative strives to bring forth innovation from the local actors in its member countries. The partnership continuously forged ahead with the vision that these actors understand the community best and therefore, their participation in all aspects of DRM is pertinent.”

Mr. Hans Guttman (top left), Dr. Valerie Bemo (top right), Mr. Sisira Madurapperuma (bottom left), and Mr. Biplab Paul (bottom right) presents and spoke at the orientation meeting.

Dr. Valerie Bemo, Deputy Director, Emergency Response, the foundation, also welcomed the participants. She expressed how the COVID-19 pandemic has become a period that increasingly recognizes local actors, “I see all of the innovators as champions because they found solutions during one of the most difficult global situations. Local responders have led COVID-19 responses because they have the best understanding of communities. As a result, their innovative solutions become more tailored to the specific and unique needs of a particular region.”

Mr. Sisira Madurapperuma, Director at ADPC, presented on APP, localization, and its connection to innovation within the partnership’s member countries. He highlighted how the solutions that have been submitted for the challenge exhibit diversity and the potential of local actors, “We are proud to support each innovation and their wider application. Your innovations represent the unique solutions that come from those who understand the needs of their communities best. I would urge you to broaden your perspective to see how these solutions can be scaled from your countries to the south and southeast Asian regions.” 

He was followed by Mr. Biplab Paul, Director, Naireeta Services, who presented a session on De-mystifying Social Innovation for DRM. He explained how the organization progressed, following the mantra ‘Your Solution = Everyone’s Initiative’, “Our views on disaster must shift towards opportunities to find disaster solutions. We started our monsoon and dry crop season approach in one part of India and now we have more than 4,500 volunteers across 14 states and eight nations.”

The second part of the session was organized to guide participants on the next steps of their application to improve upon their proposals and present an overview of the process for submission of proposals for Award Grant Funding. It also sought to direct innovators to consider some of the core principles of APP when progressing their solution. These considerations encompass a commitment to ‘localization’, ease of replication, cost-efficiency, gender sensitivity, long-term sustainability, social inclusiveness. The applicants of the APP Social Innovation were encouraged to incorporate these aspects into their proposals which are to be submitted and pitched at a subsequent Innovation Conclave by the end of September 2021 as part of the next steps of the challenge.