Handpicking the Best Entries for epAward 2019

empowering people. Award 2019 received around 800 entries from across the globe. Our evaluation partner AT-Association assessed each submitted project on their technical functionality, suitability with the award category and criteria along with their social impact. This the third time that they have partnered with us and have sifted through the applications to hand-pick the best solutions. Andrea Schultheis from AT-Association gives us an insight into the exhaustive process and experience of distilling down to a long-list of 26 top solutions.

Can you give us an overview of the assessment team?

Our team consists mainly of long-term experts from various fields, e.g. energy, solid waste, wastewater, health, agriculture, education, etc. They all have experience in the context of development cooperation and have generally been working for national and international organizations for a long time. The specific topics within the award categories like media, apps, platforms and financial technology were evaluated by experts who are themselves active in the fields of computers, programming, development and communication and/ or have a background in finance.  For very particular questions, e.g. in the field of medicine or specific technologies, experts from clinics or universities were also consulted. AT- Association is well spread out and works on many research projects therefore, the network is accordingly quite large.

Can you throw some light on the process?

For the evaluation of the submissions, we developed the various criteria that were largely reflected in the structure of the applications. The criteria were already developed in cooperation with the Siemens Stiftung team for the first award: the evaluation was done based on the focus of the solution and their technologies. In the second and third award, the applications’ focus clearly shifted from hardware technologies to apps and platforms. Therefore, the evaluation criteria were extended to include apps, platforms, etc. For instance, it was quite a challenge to reach a balance comparing the impact of a financial app with an agricultural device.

Some submissions were also evaluated by several reviewers, especially if they were cross-cutting or if there were similar submissions in different thematic blocks. From the 6-10 best submissions of each reviewer, a long list with approximately 75 projects were drawn up. The reviewers met several times and discussed all the submissions together. So, similar submissions could also be assessed again comparing their strengths and weaknesses.  This resulted in the long-list with 26 best applications which were presented to the Stiftung.

What were the challenges of sifting 800 applications?

We assigned all submissions to our expert teams which means that I have read all the 800 submissions! Since this was already the third award, it was a bit easier to capture and assign the content. Some submissions posed challenges as their technical descriptions were slightly vague and it was hard to understand the solution. In such cases, we had to verify on their website to comprehend the details.

Andrea Schultheis and Oliver Assmann from AT-Association present the twenty-six long-listed submissions before the Siemens Stiftung team.

The reviewers themselves were able to evaluate parts of the submissions based solely on their own experience and expertise. In particular, intensive internet research had to be carried out on those submissions that were potentially suitable for the award. Technical details were checked and recalculated if necessary, apps were downloaded as far as possible and tested. As long as the sources were authentic, experiences from special internet forums were also used to narrow down the applications. Thus it was finally possible to identify and filter out some fake or plagiarized submissions. Some projects were very specific so we sought support from additional experts, physicians or researchers from our network. If the local context was important for a submission, colleagues from our association or from UN-Habitat, who are available locally, were approached to provide us with the necessary information.

The award has been extremely popular, what does this say about the power of innovation in the development field?

The 800 submissions included some very interesting and exciting ones. Unfortunately, some interesting submissions could not be shortlisted because they were more like projects and not concrete technologies, apps or the likes. I can understand, for the applicants, it must have been difficult to be innovative on the one hand and marketable on the other.

The Team behind epAward 2019: AT-Association, Siemens Stiftung and Sympra with Lotta the pug.

How were the applications different in comparison with the previous rounds?

I would like to start by saying that there were a number of submissions that took a lot of effort and were interesting to read. However, there were some organizations whose websites revealed additional interesting and convincing information which unfortunately were not included in their applications.

Which sectors saw the most interesting applications? Are there countries or regions that are particularly committed?

Most submissions came from the health, education and agriculture categories, so the most interesting submissions can also be found here. Compared to the last awards, this time an incredible number of submissions came from Africa, especially Nigeria. However, a few submissions were quite similar, which can probably be traced back to comparable problems in the region and, therefore, similar solutions. We were expecting a few more applications from Latin America.

Andrea Schultheis, is a board member of AT-Association. Her areas of expertise are in project management, research and development, planning, technology transfer, capacity building, international waste management/waste processing, environmental technologies. She has been working with AT-Association since 2005 primarily on international research and development projects in Africa and Asia. Since 2014, she is the joint project manager of “Rapid Planning – sustainable infrastructure, environmental and resource management for highly dynamic metropolises”. Recently she was working with Siemens Stiftung on social entrepreneurship in waste management in Kenya.

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