Call for solutions

How can we strengthen business exchange between refugees and host communities?

Call for Solutions Toolkit

A toolkit for setting up a Call for Solutions

This toolkit wants to inspire and support our partners - ministries, NGOs and private sector organisations, by sharing experiences and lessons learned when scaling innovation.

Download Call for Solutions Toolkit

Call for Solutions – What makes the difference?

As we aim to scale our solutions in Rwanda and beyond, let’s take a step back to reflect on what the Solution Challenge is about:

  • Building on existing knowledge and solutions to tackle a development challenge.
  • Engaging the local community in the adaptation of the solutions to their context.
  • Empowering local teams to establish sustainable businesses with the solutions.

What has worked and what hasn’t? What have we learned?

We would love to share and discuss with you how organizations in international development can make the best use of a Call for Solutions. Are you interested in conducting a Call for Solutions and learning from our experience? Feel free to reach out to us!

Local businesses made of global solutions!

In the ongoing market test, our three Solution Challenge teams are building on their business models to establish a sustainable business on the Rwandan market. Until the end of October, each team is creating the cornerstones of a sustainable business by:

  • continuously producing and selling their product or service,
  • expanding their customer base and
  • making regular and substantial profit to fund ongoing business activities.

Read on for the newest insights on their progress!

Market Test: Maximizing profitability

Each team has set their own goals and chosen strategies for developing a successful business. A common goal for all teams has been to maximize profitability:

  • The soap team has experimented with different soap recipes, increasing their profit of liquid soap.
  • The biogas team has focused on customer acquisition by giving out free samples of their bio-fertilizer to convince new customers of the quality of their product.
  • Lastly, the AgRover team has taken steps to reduce expenses by driving the AgRover themselves. First step: attending driving lessons.

Inside the teams, teamwork formed a great challenge, including establishing consistent work rhythms and making effective group decisions. Progress and growth of the teams’ business operations has been significantly more difficult in light of these challenges.

Business Graduation: Growing further

Our vision: At the end of the market test phase, the Rwandan teams will have developed businesses that sustain themselves. To support the teams to grow further and generate more income for themselves and their families we will facilitate access to further opportunities.

Together, we will identify each team’s principal needs for business growth, such as loans, capital investment, networks or training opportunities. We will then match the specific teams with available opportunities in Rwanda offered by GIZ, our cooperation partners and local businesses.

We will celebrate the highs and lows of the teams’ innovation journey at a Business Graduation Ceremony in Kigeme in November.

The Innovation Lab – It’s a wrap.

After one week full of customer insights, prototyping, and coaching our Solution Challenge Winners handed over their solutions to the Rwandan teams. These teams now lead the testing and further business development in Rwanda.

To successfully adapt the three winning solutions and transform them into profitable business opportunities for refugee and host communities in Rwanda our innovation process put the customers of the local communities at the center.

The process was guided by coaches that assisted the teams in conducting user research and testing of their business models. Through user research, the teams validated their business assumptions and applied the insights to develop their business model. Then, the business models were put to a test with a prototype to prove their viability. The teams continuously iterated on their model and presented their products and services to their fellows, friends, local authorities, colleagues and partners from GIZ, UNHCR and the German Embassy.

In the next 8 weeks the teams will continue to improve their products and services to further validate their businesses with the continued support of the coaches.

On the 21st and 22nd of March 2019 the teams pitched their final business models for further investment at our Pitch Competition in Rwanda.

Want to know more about the business models?

Making detergents from onions, lemon and other fruits
Knowing that customers value the most competitive price above all in their customer choice, the team developed a ‘2-in-1’ business model selling a bathing and a washing soap in one pack at a competitive price.

See their original submitted solution.

Biogas trade between host and refugee communities
Households in the host community as well as institutions in the refugee camp will be the key customers due to their need of sustainable cooking energy. Both gas and bio-fertilizer can be traded to generate additional income.

See their original submitted solution.

AgRover: Building communities by crossing paths
Maximizing on the utility of the AgRover vehicle – easily carrying heavy loads on steep, bumpy roads – the team focused on traders inside the refugee camp as primary customers of their service where other vehicles fail to pass or other transport means are time-consuming.

See their original submitted solution.

What was the challenge?

Refugees often live in displacement for decades. Therefore, it is critical to enable them to become economically independent and build a life on their own in a way that benefits both the refugees and their hosting communities – who also often face substantial problems. GIZ has been developing solutions on this matter for many years together with target groups and partners. But still, there is an urgent need for more and new solutions and for new cooperations.

What's the opportunity?

There is a huge untapped potential to create shared business opportunities for refugees and host communities.

Think of shared workshops and joint creation of new services or products – doing business with each other provides an opportunity to meet, reduce prejudices and improve one’s livelihood.

In Rwanda, our pilot country for the Call for Solutions, refugees enjoy freedom of movement and have the right to work and establish companies. The Government of Rwanda and UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) are in the process of implementing a joint strategy for supporting economic development in host communities through refugee self-reliance.

So how can we create more shared business opportunities between both communities?

Why a Call for Solutions?

Instead of starting from scratch, we want to build on existing knowledge and experience

We believe that there are people who have solved this challenge before us. Maybe in a different context, maybe with a different focus. Nonetheless, we want to build on these experiences to leapfrog ahead to solutions that we know have the potential to make a change.

Believing in the skills of others

As GIZ, we believe that everyone can bring something to the table, and that an intensive exchange of ideas is crucial for innovation. Hence, we appeal to all types of actors - large or small, NGOs, businesses or private individuals - to participate in our Call for Solutions.

Adapting the solutions to align with needs of local communities

A jury will select the three solutions with the biggest potential, to be adapted with the needs of local communities. This adaption process will take place during the on-site Innovation Lab and prototyping phase. Following this one-week lab, the local teams receive seed investment from GIZ and arrange a market test of the adapted solution.

As a pilot country, we chose Rwanda. However, the objective is to scale successful solutions in other countries facing similar challenges.

Going Global

Once the solution has been tested on the market, GIZ will support a global upscaling.

When things are happening

The winners have been chosen, you can see them alongside all the other solutions here. The lab in Rwanda will start on 14/01/19.

Call for solutions: applications
Selection of winners
Innovation Lab in Rwanda
Business Model Dev
Market test in Rwanda
GIZ supports upscaling globally
Sep 01
Oct 31
Nov 15
Jan 14
Jan 18
Mar 2019
Sep 2019

Deadline for applications

Announcement of winners

Pitch in Rwanda for seed investment

About Rwanda

Refugee Situation
At the beginning of 2018, Rwanda hosted around 165,000 refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Almost all of the refugees speak the same language as the locals - Kinyarwanda. Around 80% of refugees in Rwanda live in refugee camps. The country is also receiving Rwandan nationals who are returning home after years spent living abroad as refugees.
Refugee Policy
Refugees in Rwanda enjoy freedom of movement and have the right to work and establish companies. The Government of Rwanda and UNHCR are in the process of implementing a joint strategy for furthering economic development in host communities through refugee self-reliance. The overall objective is ‘for the refugee camps to become places of vibrant social and economic activities with active markets, shops, restaurants and industries’.
Economic Situation 
Despite the strong economic growth of recent years, unemployment and under-employment present one of Rwanda’s greatest challenges. The majority of people in the densely populated country work in agriculture, where incomes are low. At the same time, the number of young people entering the labor market is constantly growing. Therefore, employment promotion is high on the national development agenda.

Meet members of the host and refugee community

Jacqueline was born in Kigeme, in the South of Rwanda and owns a successful tailoring business. First she rented a sewing machine, but once she had saved enough money, she bought her own. She would love to be part of a cooperative. As a group they could make bigger investments. Each member would have a focus - hers could be women‘s fashion, someone else’s menswear or children’s clothes.
Edson has been living in Kigeme refugee camp with his family for 6 years now. In the Democratic Republic of Congo he used to own a shop that sold food. In Rwanda he invested all his money in building a small shop again – but ran out of money and cannot afford to buy the products to sell anymore. Instead, he borrowed a plot of land from his friend Claudine to do subsistence farming.
Ziphera has not received formal education and used to work as subsistence farmer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She has six children, who all go to school. Right now, she can’t afford to rent any land, because the school fees for her children come first. However, she has a tiny business selling local beer and charcoal. The profit is very, very small. 

Examples of solutions we are looking for

SPARKbay Online Marketing Platform
In Kenya, refugees and host communities have received the chance to distribute their products both regionally and globally via the so-called “SPARKbay Online Marketing Platform”. Initiated by UK’s Department of International Development (DFID), and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the platform expands the access to customer markets and establishes a more stable economic situation and social cohabitation for the community members. To strengthen their business and entrepreneurial skills, DFID further introduced a “digital micro learning and community platform” offering a variety of course modules for the refugees and host communities. The platform content is accessible via smartphones, tablets or in the established learning centers.
The energy component of the DFID funded pilot "Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and Energy in the Refugee Context" is implemented by GIZ Energising Development (EnDev) Uganda. It improves market-based access to sustainable energy for refugees and nationals. The solar-powered energy kiosks sell improved cook stoves, quality solar products, phone charging, printing and internet access. While the kiosk in Rhino Camp Settlement is run by South Sudanese refugees, the kiosk in Imvepi Settlement is being managed jointly by refugees and nationals. They received trainings on basic knowledge about solar and stoves as well as bookkeeping and marketing. This was accompanied by sensitization activities to raise demand for energy products.

Who can participate?

Participants can be private individuals, NGOs, foundations, associations, private enterprises and their employees as well as GIZ employees. We are hoping to receive a wide range of possible solutions.

In order to participate you need to:

Submit a tested and implemented solution

We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but build on existing knowledge and experience. Any solution that creates business opportunities for refugees and host communities can be submitted, as long as it has been tested and implemented anywhere, no matter where and when.

A solution that can be adapted and handed over

The solution does not need to be rooted in Rwanda, but should have the potential to be adapted to the local context.

A solution that is benefiting refugees and host community members through shared business opportunities

We are looking for solutions that can create economic opportunities for both, refugees and host communities. There are no limitations on the kind of solutions: Your submission might be a product as well as a service, it might be a success story from another country in the region or from an entirely different continent.

Be able to spend a week in Rwanda

Together, we will spend one week in Rwanda, where you can share your experience with locals from host and refugee communities. We will follow a design-led approach to develop rapid prototypes and seek feedback from local users.

Selection Criteria

A jury – including members from leading organisations, Rwandan representatives, companies and GIZ - will select the three best ideas. A good solution follows these principles:

Fostering financial self-reliance

We are looking for solutions helping people to lead an independent life, and providing them with access to a regular income.

Creating a benefit for refugees and host community members

We are looking for solutions that are not only focused on supporting refugees, but also provide a benefit to members of host communities and help strengthen the relationships between both groups.

Enabling communities

The solutions must respond to people’s needs and should be implemented by refugees and host communities. We would love to see local people take ownership of the solutions instead of providing a service to them.

Potential to scale

We picked Rwanda as a pilot country. However, similar conditions in relation to refugees and host communities exist in other refugee contexts around the world. We are looking for ideas that have the potential for scaling up, first in Rwanda, then beyond.

Do no harm

We are aware that any intervention could lead to results that are difficult to foresee. We are looking for solutions that are responsible and respectful towards locals and avoid negative impact.

Everything you need to know before submitting

What kind of solutions is GIZ looking for?

We are looking for solutions that can create economic opportunities for both refugees and host communities. There are no limitations on the kind of solutions: Your submission might be a product as well as a service, it might be a success story from another country or an adaptation from another context where it has proven effective. The solution does not need to be rooted in Rwanda, but needs to have potential to be adapted to fit the local context and in similar situations worldwide. We would like to adapt and develop solutions that are scalable – first in Rwanda then beyond.

What will the Innovation Lab look like?

The 1-week on-site innovation lab in Rwanda will take place from January 14th – 18th, 2019. The objective of the innovation lab is to push your solution and adapt it locally. In a one-week workshop, you will develop several ideas to enhance your solution together with local design experts and members of the refugee and host communities. Learn how to create innovative projects in inter-cultural teams and get access to an international network of experts in the field of development and innovation. On top, GIZ will cover your travel costs.

After the lab, members of the host and refugee community will develop the solution further and create a first business model, ready for piloting and a reality check on the local market. The submitter of the initial solution will not be formally involved anymore. But you are welcome to stay in touch with the team if you wish to do so.

How many solutions am I allowed to submit?

You are allowed to submit as many solutions as you like. Please take care, that you always create a new account and use a different email-address.

Who are GIZ partners for this project?

GIZ is working together with different international and local innovation actors in order to develop the call for solutions and to carry out the innovation lab. The local agencies are also responsible for supporting your local team members in case the local team receives a seed investment for a 6 month-market test.

GIZ is also working with an international network of partners in order to create global awareness for the project and to find different supporters for the facilitation of the project.

Our partner for the development of the website and the innovation lab in Rwanda is FutureGOV.

You will also find more information in the FAQ section about the jury. If you have further questions about partners or you would like to support the project, please contact us at

Who selects the solutions and how are they being selected?

The jury consists of partners of GIZ, that are closely connected to the topic of the call. The jury will screen all submissions and choose a set of solutions based on the criteria listed on the call website.

Meet the jury

How do you notify winners?

Winners will be notified by email until November 15th, 2018 and announced on the website shortly after. GIZ will also announce the winners throughout their communication channels.

What happens if my solution gets selected?

The three best solutions win €1,500 each and the winners participate in a 1-week innovation lab in Rwanda (January 14th – 18th, 2019), where they will be involved in the adaptation of the solutions to the local context.

The ability to participate in the innovation lab during January 14th – 18th, 2019 is the prerequisite to submit a solution to the call. Since the success of the innovation lab is dependent on the pool of experience of its participants, it is crucial, that the solution submitter is or was directly participating in the implementation of this solution in another context. Should this person not be able to attend the innovation lab, he could be replaced by another person, who was or is also participating in the implementation of the solution.

GIZ will cover related costs during the lab in Rwanda (economy flights, room and board and transportation) and will do all necessary bookings. We ask you to take care of your visa application, any medical journey preparation and a travel insurance if necessary. We are happy to assist if you have any questions on these topics.

Please note, that GIZ will not pay any salary compensation.

For your preparations, we will send you more information about Rwanda shortly before the trip.

For questions concerning property rights regarding the submission of your solution, please read the terms and conditions.

What is GIZ doing with my solution in case I am not selected?

The website with all solutions will stay published until the end of the project. Afterwards all information and saved data will be deleted.

If I have a technical problem submitting my solution, whom do I contact?

If you have technical problems submitting your solution, please contact:

If you have more questions

For further questions please contact our community manager: