Innovation challenge

How might we future-proof last mile distribution?

The GDC Innovation Challenge is a unique challenge that crowdsources innovations from members, helps pilot the best ideas, and supports the broader last mile distribution community to replicate and learn from those innovations.

After our first challenge in East Africa last year, we are excited to launch a second one which is open to GDC members from more regions as well as organisations that support or work with last mile distributors. Learn more about the winners of our first challenge.

What kind of ideas can I apply with?

The response of last mile distributors to the global COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated their determination and ability to adapt, even in the greatest adversity. This isn’t the last challenge the sector will face, but it has unveiled underlying business vulnerabilities and demonstrated the importance of future-proofing in order to thrive. The GDC’s new Innovation Challenge therefore aims to support innovative ideas that increase the ability of last mile distributors to respond to shocks.

Innovation means different things. It could mean developing an entirely new idea, or it could mean applying a proven idea to a new sector or geography. When it comes to your submissions, we welcome you to think outside the box! Try to consider how an extreme event like the COVID-19 crisis has triggered you to rethink business operations and come up with solutions that do not just provide short-term relief, but potentially strengthen your operations and your impact in the long run.

Up to four ideas will be selected, and will each receive:

  • Up to £50,000 in funding to pilot the innovation
  • Expert technical assistance to support implementation
  • Connections to key stakeholders who could help make your idea an even bigger success
  • Profile and support to disseminate learnings and insights across the sector following implementation

To get you started, here are some examples of innovations we may consider:

Note that we do not fund your core business activities. Instead, we look to fund discrete innovations that make your business more future-proof and that can be replicated by others. When they are key to the success of the innovation, we very much welcome applications in partnership. These can be collaborations between GDC members, or between a third party such as a software company that wants to co-develop and pilot a new idea with a GDC member.

Changing current business practices to make them more resilient.

For example, you have an idea for digitizing part of your operations such as demand creation, sales or sales agent training. Or you have an idea for spreading financial risk through diversified revenue streams and smart financing mechanisms.

Developing a new service.

For example, you have an idea for how to serve customers at times they are cash strapped; or you have an idea for how to serve a new target segment.

Establishing new partnerships.

For example, you have an idea for cost-sharing of business activities such as after-sales support with other last mile distributors.

Why should I apply?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to the questions below, then this challenge is for you…

  • I want the space to think freely and creatively, at a time when I am having to make challenging business decisions;
  • I am keen to design and test something new and exciting, but don’t have the skills or resources to do this on my own right now; and
  • I would be happy to see this idea replicated or adopted by the wider sector.

How do I apply?

Here’s what you can start with:

  • First, check that you meet our eligibility criteria outlined in the application form.
  • Then, tell us what your idea is and why you should be selected.
  • Email your completed application form to by 13 July 2020 11:59pm London Time.
  • Any questions? We will host a Q&A webinar on 16 June 2020 at 12:00pm (mid-day) London time. Email your questions by 15 June 2020 to and we will make sure to answer them in the webinar.

What happens next?

  • All eligible ideas will be shortlisted and applicants will receive feedback and guidance to refine their idea, before submitting a full proposal by the 28th August which lays out the pilot plan and budget.
  • A short anonymised version of the idea presented in your full proposal will be shared by email with all GDC members, who will be asked to vote for their favourite idea.
  • The best ideas will be vetted by the GDC Advisory Council, but the final selection will be made based on GDC member votes.


Innovation challenge timeline

Evaluation Criteria

Make sure you have considered the following evaluation criteria when preparing your application, as this will increase the chances that your innovation is selected.

  • Innovation: Your idea is exciting because it is creative and new for the last-mile distribution sector in your region.
  • Replicability: Your idea is relevant for the broader sector and can be replicated or used by other GDC members.
  • Impact: Your idea makes last mile distribution businesses more future-proof. It helps reach underserved customers, and is gender inclusive.
  • Feasibility: Your idea can be realised and validated (piloted) in a 9-month period. You can provide a compelling strategy for how to deal with the biggest assumptions and risks.
  • Sustainability: You have a clear idea of how you can sustain and scale your idea if the pilot is successful, after the funding and support from the GDC comes to an end.
  • Commitment: You have a highly committed team with the necessary expertise, and the ability to free up sufficient time, to bring your idea to life.