Challenge Fund


The District Delivery Challenge Fund (DDCF) was a sub-component of SNG programme that was established in April 2013. It was a competitive grant process specifically designed to identify and test innovative solutions that addressed the challenges of poor quality and inadequate governance in public service delivery of health and education sectors at the district level of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. The challenge fund sought to embed innovative and potentially scalable pilot approaches to build evidence of what could work to improve public service delivery that in particular met the needs of the poor and marginalised people in the SNG target districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

DDCF offered grants through competition among public and private organizations and institutions working in a targeted social sector area, by inviting them to submit project proposals. The DDCF awarded grants to those projects that best met the objectives of the fund and fulfilled various per-established eligibility criteria.

The DDCF was distributed through four initial rounds. Each round focused on a selected sector or sectors (e.g. education, health and other). Each sector was further sub-divided into selected themes. The first round offered funding for innovative pilots in Primary School Education in KP and School Education in Punjab with themes of access, quality and governance. The second Round focused on Primary Healthcare Services in KP and Punjab.

Designing a Challenge Fund

The Challenge Fund intervention was designed to provide the ‘financial and thinking space’ to those, who were closest to the problems facing delivery of services. More specifically, the Challenge Fund was designed to address issues like Lack of Evidence Based Policy Formulation & Development Planning, Outdated Service Delivery Mechanisms, Lack of Sustainable innovation in the Public Sector and Distrust of the Private Sector to partner with Government for service delivery.

It is important to mention that the success in the context of challenge funds must be seen from the multiplier effects that were realised from:

Innovative Approaches

Under the DDCF, pilot projects were encouraged to establish workable solutions on the ground and once these had been proven effective, grantees were then supported to automate the solutions. The DDCF included projects that adopted technological solutions. Among those were: Integrated Ambulance Service (IAS) that aimed to fill the gap of timely availability of medical service for EmONC. The Pilot developed a GIS enabled ambulance dashboard that provided doorstep facilities for EmNOC. The communication between driver, patient, and medical facility was tracked and recorded by a central control room. The second was Har Zindagi E- vaccination project, a SMART vaccination card was introduced to assist medical practitioners who were administrating vaccinations trace children’s vaccination records. While in Tele-medicine solution, project aimed at filling the gap of doctor by providing equipment that had a capacity of being solar powered and worked on simple GPRS to connect to a consultant sitting at district hospitals. An innovative approach used in the schools of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through the BroadClass (listen to learn) project won an international award for Pakistan as the most innovative idea of 2015. Similarly the health project IDSRS – tested to control communicable disease outbreak in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  – has claimed a national level appreciation which is expected to be adopted as model for the entire Pakistan. The Technological solutions respond to the real challenges.



Lessons Learnt

A key feature of the Challenge Fund has been its ability to build on the learning from the education pilot projects Round1 to strengthen the processes and requirements for health pilot projects in Round2. The DDCF’s adaptability has enabled it to respond to both changing donor requirements as well as the surrounding political environment .These iterative and flexible qualities have been a central component of the DDCF’s success. The key lessons learnt from DDCF were:

  • A manageable size of Challenge Fund ensures a high level of attention to detail both in design and its implementation.

  • A robust monitoring and evaluation framework ensures easier potential scale up by the government where each pilot is designed with an in-built evaluation criterion.

  • A well thought out political economy management strategy and demand driven ideas ensure improved level of visibility, engagement and ownership by key decision makers at provincial and district governments.

  • Bespoke solutions that seek to address specific challenges make them more likely to succeed and be scaled up.

  • An iterative and adaptive process in implementation ensures flexibility for future amendments in processes. For example, in Round 2, the DDCF rules were adapted to allow District Administrations to apply the DDCF and deliver their own pilots.

  • Strong partnerships with government combined with early and widespread dissemination of results improve the chances of early adoption. DDCF innovation at the Punjab Information Technology Board’s innovation fair in Lahore exposed DDCF pilots to a wider audience.

  • Transparency in evaluation of applications leads to effective sharing of information on awards, whereas rapid feedback enhances the integrity of the process, while reducing the administrative and management burden for the fund.

  • A cross cutting programme like SNG can be of great importance for replicating ideas across different governments at national, sub-national and local level.
  • An efficient hybrid model deeply embedded in local government perfectly supports pilots optimised to the needs of the district government.

  • The focus beyond innovation supports evidence based reforms, which aids in adoption and scale up.

  • Clear and easy processes along with communication adds credibility with partners

  • A ‘hands-on’ approach to challenge fund management enables fund managers to be in close contact with grantees, for monitoring the progress.

  • Technology infusion should be taken as an aid rather than a driver of change.