Vodafone Americas Foundation partners with OpenIDEO to Award $50,000 to COVID Business Pivot Challenge Winners

In the wake of the our current global crisis, we are all challenged to find answers to overcome our latest obstacles, both old and new, that are affecting millions of people worldwide. In an effort to encourage and support solutions to address issues resulting from the pandemic, we partnered with OpenIDEO last month to conduct the COVID Business Pivot Challenge focused on how businesses of all kinds are rapidly adapting to support the immediate needs of the COVID-19 response, and enable a more just and resilient future.

Today Vodafone Americas Foundation announces five winners of that challenge, with a total award of $50,000 ($10,000 each) in order to achieve their current goals through the use of Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and/or mobile technology. These winners were thoughtfully selected from a group of nearly 700 nominations.

Through this challenge we’ve discovered creative, innovative and inspirational solutions from nonprofit, civil society, community-based, and for-profit organizations working anywhere in the world.

Participants submitted ideas and inspiration within the following opportunity areas:

  • Meeting Immediate Protective Demand
  • Meeting Immediate Needs for New Services
  • Adapting Today in Service of a New Future

I’m honored to announce the following winning organizations, who have all worked to completely pivot their business in response to COVID-19, with a diverse range of focus areas, geographies and missions.


Many families lost income due to the economic effects of COVID-19. As a result, families who cannot pay their rent are now at risk of being evicted. In response, Georgia-based New Story created a local campaign to stop that from happening: PayTheirRent.Org – a crowdfunding platform that allows individuals to pay a portion of a family’s rent. The platform then partners with local organizations using its original mobile technology to help them find and vet families who are the most at risk and will benefit the most from this assistance.

At a time when COVID-19 rates are increasing and social distancing rules are relaxing in the state, the risk of an influx of homeless families would be devastating to Georgia’s health infrastructure. According to the GA Dept. of Social services patients experiencing homelessness [or unstable housing] are admitted to hospitals 5 times more often than people who have stable housing. The organization is moving fast to provide housing to 200 families and using original tech to support partner organizations to qualify families. See PayTheirRent’s full submission.

Covid Rapid Response Platform

Created by Reap Benefit, Covid Rapid Response Platform is a crowdsourced citizen’s network that supports local citizens in assisting the Government in last mile delivery of citizen services.

This solution was a quick response to COVID-19, focusing on delivering local relief (community health, food security, income support) through crowdsourcing, data analysis and hyperlocal volunteering in India. The tech platform aggregates, analyzes and visualizes data and has a hyperlocal component to support volunteers. The dashboard is currently in English and will be translated into 19 languages. Volunteers can map hotspots of need (people) and supplies. It helps Civil Society Organizations with last mile delivery and provides a single stop for information (testing locations, shelter homes, free food supply shops), while tracking the status of need fulfillment. It also has a WhatsApp tool for one-on-one communication between beneficiaries and chatbots in local languages. See Covid Rapid Response’s full submission.

Virtual Monitor Mother

In countries currently implementing “lockdowns,” mothers2mothers (m2m) 1,800 Mentor Mothers have been categorized as “essential frontline workers” by all of the country governments where they operate. As such, it is imperative that m2m maintains its programs while prioritizing the safety of their site staff, all of whom are living with HIV.

To achieve this, m2m rapidly adapted existing technology and began piloting new interactive e-Services including the Virtual Mentor Mother tool, based on the WhatsApp service, to make sure our frontline staff can still support their clients when it is impossible for them to do so in person. See Virtual Monitor Mother’s full submission.

AgUnity Response

AgUnity Response is a technology platform enabling farmers to safely connect with buyers and ensure uninterrupted food supply chains worldwide. Australia based AgUnity has spent the last four years developing award-winning technology designed to help and assist smallholder farmers worldwide. Its unique approach on developing technology hand-in-hand with the very farmers who use it has enabled the company to gain significant insight into the daily lives and challenges encountered by many farmers in Africa, SE Asia, and Oceania, and how digital solutions can help transform these challenges into opportunities. AgUnity Response is adapting existing technology for farmer transactions to provide farmers with a mobile platform for selling produce directly to buyers, and enabling the safe delivery of produce to the consumer.

AgUnity Response will license IP from AgUnity and adapt the current mobile app and web platform for use by farmers needing to list their produce for sale, connecting them with buyers, and facilitating contactless transactions and delivery. See AgUnity’s full submission.

Somo Digital Entrepreneurship Training

As so many have become jobless, Somo, an entrepreneurship accelerator operating in low-income urban communities, created Digital Entrepreneurship Training to digitize training material and testing tools to ensure availability of business training during these days of social distancing.

Due to COVID-19 they moved their training online. Entrepreneurs are able to access training in the comfort of their homes. Moving their training online has helped the program to provide entrepreneurs with content that enables them to develop sustainable businesses. The organization has pivoted its training strategies to teach trainees how to quickly adapt to the current market needs. In the long-term, this will also enable them to quickly pivot their business and respond to an uncertain situation. By creating this easy to access material they can reach entrepreneurs across the country to help them continue running their businesses given current circumstances. The newly created gamified content will be accessible on basic feature phones, which grants entrepreneurs easy access to our content from home. Entrepreneurs will be given a code which grants access to the Arifu platform. Through an SMS system, entrepreneurs can pick the class they want to review and will be sent a specialized quiz for each class. The program trainees will also have the possibility to receive SMS-based recap messages for each class, which will help them to quickly review the content of the training. See Digital Entrepreneurship Training’s full submission.

The winners of the challenge ultimately showcased a plan and the ability to quickly launch the submitted pivot within a 1-month timeframe, and demonstrated how they plan to meet a real need, including how the pivot will create value for communities and the world.

We can’t wait to continue to support and follow these winners as they strive to meet today’s most pressing needs, while planning for a future that we know will look very different from our present.