Thoughts from the Last Mile Welcome to the VillageReach Blog
11.14 2017

What-if Thinking: Grand Challenges Explorations

On the road in Mozambique.

What if…? These two words can be a spark for innovation. At VillageReach, our work often begins with this question. We start with big, promising ideas and work towards creating evidence of their impact in the hardest-to-reach communities. We are excited by our latest Grand Challenges Explorations award rooted in what-if thinking.

What if we can use ride-sharing for faster lab results?

Early diagnosis is key to timely access to treatment and health care services. In Mozambique, lab samples for testing tuberculosis and infant HIV must be transferred from health facilities to central laboratories for testing. While some facilities have scheduled transport for these samples, many use an informal transportation system. These informal arrangements can result in delays in getting samples where they need to go, sometimes without proper documentation and accountability.

Our idea is to coordinate transportation resources by using ride-sharing to match sample transport needs with planned transportation routes.

Our idea is to coordinate transportation resources by using ride-sharing to match sample transport needs with planned transportation routes. Similar to ride-sharing in major cities, we will use technology and dispatchers to connect vehicles already traveling to health facilities with samples in need of delivery. VillageReach will be working with the Mozambique Ministry of Health and local partners to test whether this coordination of existing transportation is sufficient to meet the needs of lab sample transport without adding new vehicles to the network.

This idea is part of Grand Challenges Explorations – a competitive funding mechanism from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation designed to spur creative solutions to global challenges. Grand Challenges Explorations encourages what-if thinking, providing the support and space needed to try high-risk, high-reward ideas.

Lab sample transport is just the latest idea to which VillageReach is applying its expertise in logistics and supply chains. We have also received Grand Challenge Exploration awards in previous funding cycles to test how paper-to-digital technology can make data collection more efficient for health workers and to understand the specific contraceptive needs of youth in Malawi. Grand Challenges allows us to ask big what-if questions and make an impact while finding the answers.

Read more about Grand Challenges Explorations here.

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