Gates Foundation

Client: Gates Foundation  |  product: innovation hub


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is well known for its philanthropic efforts to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.  The foundation’s Global Development Program was looking for a technology that could be provided to tribal elders in Africa to help them understand why it’s better to plant crops instead of traditional gathering methods. Sprout explored the project and provided the Gates Foundation with a platform the organization now uses to grow many of its successful programs.


The Gates Foundation approached Sprout with a project to help tribal elders understand the whys and hows of planting crops. Sprout quickly identified several big challenges with the idea: the lack of written language for many of tribes, the question of powering the device in rural Africa, and how to teach technology to someone who may have literally never seen an electronic device before.


Sprout worked with the Gates Foundation to find answers to the challenges they faced. By posing questions to various groups throughout the Gates Foundation, Sprout found that many excellent ideas abounded—not just within the organization but inside the non-profits funded by the foundation. Sprout came to the conclusion that although they could work to solve the immediate question, a more effective and long-term approach would be to develop a platform that would enable the Gates Foundation and other nonprofits to tackle the project themselves. So Sprout suggested that they change the project. They worked with the Gates Foundation to outline a platform for a collaborative community and created a prize program that enabled nonprofits to compete for funding. They partnered to ensure that the project would address the needs of the Gates Foundation, and developed a way for nonprofits to get grants that was more enjoyable than the traditional application.


Launched in 2007, the project was one of the Gates Foundation’s first community innovation activities, and served as a template upon which the Gates Foundation has based funding programs ever since.

The project helped to evolve the Gates Foundation’s new engagement with the nonprofit community. Upon seeing the success of the project, other parts of the Gates Foundation adopted a similar platform, creating a technology-based community that facilitated the exchange of information and ideas across many disparate organizations around the world.

Project Focus

Product Strategy
Marketplace Strategy

Sprout helped define our program to deliver a truly emerging world solution via first world technology.
— The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation