PCI has been innovating in the field of development for the last 50+ years.
PCI has been innovating in the field of development for the last 50+ years. In the late 60s and early 70s, PCI helped popularize the walk-a-thon – at that time a unique mechanism to engage communities across the country to raise awareness and money for its charitable work through the Walk for Mankind. In the 1980’s it tripled immunization rates in Indonesia through the unconventional practice of engaging grade school children as immunization advocates within their own families. More recently, in India PCI played a central role in helping to eradicate polio; in Bolivia it reduced llama mortality by 60% and tripled annual income of poor llama producers, and in Ethiopia, PCI helped eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in communities where the practice was pervasive and entrenched. All were accomplished through the use of new ideas, or adapted ones applied in untested contexts, and yielded dramatic results…in effect, innovation.
Despite these and other organizational accomplishments, we determined that the status quo within PCI was not sufficient to meet the global challenges ahead of us. We realized we have to be better at nurturing and accelerating innovation as too many good ideas do not surface or are effectively diffused; too many staff feel constrained by job descriptions or time limitations; and too often policies and procedures hinder the creative process or sap the time that could be dedicated to innovation. In order to reach our goal we have to work better, faster and more efficient.
Starting in 2013, PCI initiated PCInnovAtion (capital A for Adaptability), seeking to become one of the first international development organizations to embed innovation from top to bottom in order to fundamentally change our internal dynamics and meet these global challenges. It is one of a handful of selected priorities within our strategic plan aimed at achieving the goal of transforming the lives of 20 million people in the poorest communities and least developed nations in the world.
PCInnovAtion, as an approach, seeks to continuously unleash the creativity of our people, and foster it towards concrete and remarkable outcomes for our beneficiaries, our staff, our donors and the world. It’s being directed to solve some of the greatest development challenges, increase our operational efficiencies, and improve the capacity of our people and the productivity of our environment.
As part of the embedment process, PCI has been calibrating its management systems to facilitate innovation. It is generating, monitoring and pushing innovations globally through training, support and an on-line mechanism that can track, analyze and move innovation ideas quickly through a process of development and assessment. We are embracing and celebrating both success and failure as essential consequences of our commitment to find breakthroughs that will change the world and all confirmed innovations have to meet the same threshold definition designed for both flexibility and rigor.
PCI is one of the few international development organizations that has established a global 15% time policy for all staff – similar to that of Google, 3M and other innovation leaders. The policy stipulates that any employee can use up to 15% of their time for innovation. It not only gives license to innovate, it sends a clear message to all staff about the importance that PCI places on innovation.
Central to creating an architecture for innovation has been an online submission, review and tracking system that allows for staff globally to submit innovation ideas, concepts, prototypes and execution (scaled). This system not only provides a structured and supportive mechanism to innovate, but it promotes collaboration, smart risk-taking and real-time monitoring of innovation within the organization. PCI is also working on embedding innovation within our recruitment, on-boarding, performance and supportive supervision systems to reinforce the message that PCI wants everyone to be part of the innovation process and expect them to engage. And finally, at PCI we are creating a culture of innovation which is measured regularly as part of our organizational climate survey.