Intrapreneurship in international development during a pandemic
16 April 2021 - Impact Hub Berlin


This blog post is written by Clara Niedt, Impact Hub Berlin’s Programme Manager for the GIZ Innovation Fund.

Intrapreneurship occurs when an organisation enables its employees to act entrepreneurially, to take risks and try out new ideas outside of traditional work structures.

Since 2017, the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) has run a regular intrapreneurship competition across its teams around the world: the GIZ Innovation Fund. As with both previous iterations of the programme, Impact Hub Berlin and our partners FutureGov were there to support the implementation of the 2020 roll-out. What was new for all of us this time around was having to work under the constraints of a global pandemic.

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The challenge for this year’s competition was: “10x more by 2030: What’s your idea to boost the impact and sustainability of the GIZ’s projects?”. Around 100 teams responded to the call with ideas for innovative approaches to the organisation’s sustainable development efforts. The top six ideas, selected through an employee ranking process, were guided through a seven-month human-centred design journey to take their solutions to the next level.

From competition to acceleration

The Innovation Fund competition and subsequent accelerator programme aims to foster an innovative mindset within the organisation, to scout prototype ideas for products, services and methodologies, and to up the efficiency and effectiveness of the GIZ’s work.

Phases of the Innovation Fund

With FutureGov as experts on digitalisation in public institutions and Impact Hub Berlin’s experience in human-centred design and social innovation, for this third edition, we were ourselves prototyping a fully virtual version of the programme.

During the accelerator, coordinating over 40 participants across five time zones was initially a challenge. The combined efforts of all partners, detailed planning processes, flexibility, and the use of smart tools such as Miro, showed that it can be done.

Miro Board Innovation Fund 2020

Part of Impact Hub Berlin’s role was to leverage our global network of over 1,200 impact innovators (‘makers’) to scout the coaches that accompanied the six teams throughout the accelerator. We targeted design thinking coaches with experience in guiding teams through human-centred innovation methodology. The value of our global network – with Impact Hubs now present in five regions and almost 60 countries – also allowed us to match teams with local coaches who had the right market and cultural knowledge.

The big pitch

In an emotional and exciting final pitch event, the six teams presented to over 3,000 viewers in November 2020, demonstrating their rapid development throughout their time on the programme.

One of the two winners was team PartiCipate, for their digital citizenship participation kit. The other, in the category ‘best product or service’, was team shERPa, with members based in Kosovo and Jordan. This team had seen SMEs in their respective countries struggling to digitise functions like customer management, with most current market solutions proving too complex for their needs. The participants came up with an open-source, user-centred and locally adapted Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.

Guided by their coach, the team sharpened their business model throughout the programme, gaining clarity on the components of the software and how best to train the SMEs to use the solution. Team shERPa (now you see where the name comes from) are planning to pilot this solution with an IT partner in either Kosovo or Jordan, as part of the follow-up programme to the Innovation Fund.

Final Event Innovation Fund 2020

Collaboration is the name of our game, and we were as always extremely inspired by and grateful for the work of all the participants, coaches and the programme partners. Building on our learnings from the three editions of the Innovation Fund to date, we’re very much looking forward to the next edition this year, and to supporting plenty more impactful, international ideas – pandemic or no pandemic.

Interested in our intrapreneurship services? Find out more about what we can do for your organisation, and get in touch with our team to enquire. Sign up to our monthly newsletter to be the first to know about new initiatives.