By Alexis Bonnell abonnell@usaid.gov

“Securing Water for Food”, through the Technical Assistance Facility, supports mission-driven innovators by providing acceleration services that influence their pathway to scale-up and help them to pinpoint key management decisions that enable their success. From determining innovator commitment to grow and under- standing their ambition to scale, we work hand-in-hand with innovators to set realistic milestones and targets and guide them toward concrete, practical actions with targeted accelerations services. These services enhance skill sets, guide the implementation of standardized and repeatable processes, provide a track for growth, and improve the innovators’ ability to meet business objectives, whether they be related to sales, human resources, business modeling, and the like.

Over the past three-and-a-half years, the team has influenced and supported capacity-building and nurtured SWFF innovator development through three levels of direct acceleration support. Through business model canvas engagements, for example, SWFF innovators identify their core competencies, most important customers, competitive strength, and a relevant growth path for their organization. Their targeted efforts to focus on poverty reduction, sustainability, and gender all feed into the expanded positive impact of their scaling path.

Through our 150+ acceleration support activities, the SWFF TA Facility acts as an invested partner and men- tor to guide innovators’ journey to grow. Though not all of the innovators are on the same trajectory, we’ve documented 10 specific business actions that many of them have taken to create a positive momentum toward scale up. They have:

  • Positioned their business with the flexibility to experiment, adapt, pivot, and even fail in some aspect of their business to meet changing customer needs and market demands
  • Dealt with tactical challenges, identified emerging growth opportunities, and took on new business directions to spur growth momentum
  • Created the right business environment and strengthened financial operations to accept funding arrangements that are not grants-based
  • Focused on people-centered growth and innovative solutions that address customer needs and marketplace realities
  • Put in place the right systems, people, and structure to handle growth
  • Requested internal capacity building in sales and marketing for patterned and optimized growth as a key priority and a primary driver for scale-up
  • Shared lessons learned with other innovators and partner organizations
  • Been open to coaching, inspiring compromises, and healthy debates from those fully invested in their business success
  • Built and executed capabilities in storytelling, knowledge sharing, and thought leadership to enhance reputation and brand
  • Worked to be investor ready and have the right systems in place for growth capital

SWFF innovators are big picture, aspirational market leaders that have harnessed the power of metrics and milestones-setting for business growth and scaling.

We’ve seen evidence of how they gravitate toward outside perspectives and advice to drive success and expand capacity to ensure that their technology or business model improves the water is being used for agriculture.

We have learned that grants provided with acceleration support yields success in turning business ideas and start-ups into entities that are ready to take the path to scalability. In addition to providing grant money tied to milestones, the SWFF program has invested in innovator potential through the provision of SWFF TA Facility acceleration services. This combination of support has resulted in an increase the value of their businesses, increase their market-facing activities, improvements in their functional accountability, and has helped them to identifying their engine of growth.

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