What we learned from taking 8 disruptive innovations to the global stage
A look back at the latest WFP Pitch Event, which featured insightful panel discussions and a showcase of our newest batch of start-ups and entrepreneurs working for SDG2 — a world without hunger.
By Gulia Rakhimova
Since its foundation in 2015, the World Food Programme (WFP) Innovation Accelerator has been on a mission to find, support and scale innovative solutions that can help solve real-world challenges and disrupt hunger.
Each year, we identify the most promising start-ups and innovation teams through several innovation challenges globally and invite them to participate in our WFP Innovation Bootcamps to accelerate their solutions. Bootcamps culminate in WFP Pitch Events, where participants get to present their work to our government partners, potential investors and private-sector industry leaders.
This edition of the WFP Pitch Event was held in Munich and online on 17 February 2023 as an official side event of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) and an official Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO) event.
We were thrilled to hear pitches from eight teams with innovative answers to the global food crisis, including six bootcamp teams and two scaling projects preparing to expand their innovations through our WFP Scale-Up Enablement Programme. They presented diverse innovations being tested in Cameroon, Colombia, Egypt, India, Iraq, Italy, Mali, Mozambique, Peru, and Tanzania.
Guest speakers, including Ambassador Joachim Bleicker, Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to the UN Organizations in Rome, Sandra Ro, CEO of the Global Blockchain Business Council, and Arif Husain, WFP Chief Economist, joined us on stage to share their insights with innovators.
We’ve learned some important lessons along the way:
1. Going hybrid
Taking lessons learned from the pandemic period, we can run more inclusive and effective hybrid events
We’re constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to serve the start-up community, our partners and funders, and the broader humanitarian and development sector.
This includes applying what we’ve learned from the pandemic’s virtual pivot to create more inclusive, hybrid experiences for WFP Pitch Event attendees and audience. Virtual events offer significant advantages such as increased accessibility, lower logistical costs, and global reach across countries and time zones, encouraging us to continue opening an event to an online audience. Our experience showed us that designing a hybrid event is like coordinating two different events simultaneously; having experienced both formats, we introduced a hybrid event format that caters to on-site and remote participants. This was the second hybrid WFP Pitch Event in a row, attended by 197 on-site and 184 online participants.
2. Learning to pitch perfect
Pitch events create space for innovators to test their newly learnt skills while expanding their network
This WFP Pitch Event concluded WFP’s 51st Innovation Bootcamp, an intensive programme combining leading industry innovation approaches and WFP’s operational knowledge to provide teams with guidance, mentorship and pitch training. Bootcamps bring expertise on both sides of the table — for start-ups, it’s an opportunity to gain insights into the work of the largest humanitarian organization, enabling them to maximize impact in the real world. Participants shared that the bootcamp helped them understand how their innovations can be enhanced for specific use cases in humanitarian and development contexts, while the pitch training enabled them to convey it more effectively to their intended audience.
If you missed the event, check out all the pitches on our YouTube channel here.
3. Experimenting with an online event platform
When choosing an online event platform, keep your event’s objectives and intended outcomes in mind to see if it adds value to your existing stack
For this WFP Pitch Event, we tested a new virtual event platform that allowed users to easily access the event agenda, participant profiles, and venue layout; it also included a matchmaking feature that facilitated networking over the innovation bootcamp week.
Yet, we rapidly learned that the online platform wasn’t optimal for our specific use case. However intuitive the platform was designed to be, users would need additional time and information materials to learn its features. For bootcamp participants, this created a layer of information in addition to materials they received throughout the intensive bootcamp programme. We concluded that a virtual event platform would add more value to our longer innovation programmes or events with more complex agendas.
4. Maximizing opportunities for innovators
Event marketplaces are another opportunity for innovators to showcase their work and establish meaningful connections
The online experience cannot wholly replace opportunities presented by in-person events. We introduced a marketplace for multiple innovation teams to exhibit their work to make the most of our second on-site event since the pandemic.
All guests could stop by marketplace booths and talk to project managers representing BioAnalyt, H2Grow, Ignitia, Nilus, Payment Instrument Tracking, PHL Venture, SKAI, S4S Technologies, SheCan, and the Accelerator’s SDGx Acceleration team. The marketplace participants had the chance to present their solutions to booth visitors and network with potential funders and supporters. We learned that event marketplaces could also serve as a forum for innovators to connect with experts and practitioners in their relevant field, creating a space for knowledge exchange that is so important in the innovation context.
5. Connecting the dots
Bringing people from diverse backgrounds and sectors can create more value for attendees
Since its foundation, the WFP Innovation Accelerator has strived to serve as an enabler for start-ups and innovation teams by helping them accelerate and scale their solutions.
Part of it is assisting innovators in expanding their network by connecting them with potential funders, collaborators and mentors working toward our shared goal of disrupting hunger. WFP Pitch Event is one such forum. The participant feedback has once again highlighted the power of our network. The attendees indicated that the event introduced them to promising teams and innovations. At the same time, expert keynotes and panel discussions on the global food crisis helped attendees better understand the current humanitarian and development challenges.
We are excited to see where the journey is going for each team. Six innovation teams selected for this bootcamp will have the opportunity to apply for the WFP Sprint Programme to continue their social impact journey with WFP.
We are grateful for the dedicated support of our multi-year partners. The impact and growth of our innovations would not have been possible without their support. Our network of diverse partners include: the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO), the Bavarian State Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry (StMELF), the Austrian Development Agency, BASF Stiftung, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, BSH Home Appliances, the Czech Republic, France, GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation), Innovation Norway, the John Deere Foundation, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Netlight, and USAID. Together, we can achieve Zero Hunger and all SDGs.
The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.