Scott MacMillan and Maria A. May

Ideas Wanted – Mobile Money for Millions: BRAC’s Innovation Fund for Mobile Money 2015 Challenge opens

Got an idea for mobile money? We want to know about it.

Mobile money has huge potential for changing the lives of the poor. Recently Bill Gates and World Bank President Jim Kim have been touting its potential to improve financial inclusion for the poor. BRAC, a global development organization determined to end poverty by empowering the poor, is looking for bold mobile money ideas that can be tested and then taken to scale.

That’s why we’re announcing the Innovation Fund for Mobile Money 2015 Challenge. With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’re encouraging those concerned with social change to submit ideas that could potentially change the lives of millions. Participants should submit their idea and describe their potential for change here. The deadline is April 16 and winning ideas will be piloted in Bangladesh.

Last year’s Innovation Fund for Mobile Money Challenge winners, selected by BRAC from over 100 entries, included seven ideas that are now being piloted. Ideas were submitted from a range of people, including senior BRAC staff and a university student from Chittagong, Bangladesh.

The winning ideas from 2014 included digitizing payments to extension workers, trying to take one branch almost “cashless”, creating a digital disaster relief system, and launching a crowdfunding mechanism to mobilize funds for local disasters. One project is digitizing school fee collection at secondary schools in Dhaka that serve low-income students. Moving away from cash would enable the parents to pay the $2 monthly fee at their own convenience without burdening the teachers with keeping everything straight. We launched this pilot in three schools last fall, and based on the preliminary success (including several surprises that we hadn’t planned for), it is expanding to 30 more schools.

Working with mobile money across of number of different programmes has enabled BRAC to develop a much deeper understanding of how to integrate mobile money into operations, support staff development, and invest in new technologies to gain efficiencies. Ideas proven to be successful in terms of having positive impact on the lives of the poor will be scaled up, where possible, through BRAC’s existing programs. BRAC, the world’s largest nongovernmental organization, touches the lives of an estimated 135 million people with its services, which include microfinance, healthcare, education and other empowerment programs. Our organization also runs bKash, the world’s fastest growing mobile money provider, through its subsidiary BRAC Bank. Last year, it hosted global leaders on mobile money in Bangladesh for its Frugal Innovation Forum to discuss the opportunities and challenges of scaling digitally.

WIth BRAC’s track record for scaling up what works, we believe the Innovation fund challenge is an unprecedented chance for those with insight and inspiration to pitch an idea that could potentially change the way millions of people handle their money. Don’t be shy!

Scott MacMillan is the Communications Manager at BRAC USA

Maria A. May is the senior programme manager for the BRAC Social Innovation Lab and Microfinance Programme.