From the Desk of Taylor Conger, Managing Director:

As I look back and reflect on 2022, I am awed at the progress the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator (DUIA) social entrepreneurs have made and the impact they’ve created in this world. DUIA, with its focus on catalyzing efforts to reach Sustainable Development Goal 6—which seeks to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all—has supported 19 game-changing enterprises across the world. We know that while great progress has been made in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) globally, huge gaps still remain. Achieving the SDG goal of universal coverage by 2030 will require a quadrupling of the current rates of progress. Vulnerable populations are at greatest risk of being left behind, and women and girls are disproportionately affected by a lack of safe water and sanitation services. We at DUIA are doing all we can to contribute to the change needed.  

Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator’s second cohort of innovators, focused on sanitation and hygiene.

Our second cohort, who graduated this past year, focused on bringing sanitation and hygiene solutions to children and families across Africa. These innovators have cumulatively reached 9.2 million Africans with WASH products and services since joining the Accelerator in May 2021, with 3.1 million people impacted in the last year alone. This incredible group of entrepreneurs employ more than 3,325 people, mostly women, and brought in more than $4 million in new revenue in 2022 through the sale of WASH products and services including soap, toilets, baby changing stations, menstrual health kits, handwashing stations, safely managed sanitation, and more. DUIA entrepreneurs, working across Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, and Ethiopia, have scaled their work to reach new cities, created global partnerships, secured multimillion-dollar grants and top fellowships, and continue to reach more and more people.  

In 2022 DUIA welcomed our third cohort, expanding our reach to countries across East Asia and the Pacific. This cohort’s solutions—which range from clean water filtration systems, to youth-led sanitation projects, to an innovative place-based toilet—all aim to provide local solutions to WASH challenges, with a focus on youth engagement and youth leadership. Through our proven web-based curriculum, bespoke coaching and mentoring, and access to Duke University faculty and students and UNICEF experts, we look forward to supporting these brilliant entrepreneurs in their growth and scale to create meaningful and lasting change in their communities 

Last fall, we brought together all of our cohorts for our annual Duke-UNICEF Virtual Forum on Social Innovation, which showcases social innovation and entrepreneurship around the world. In conversations with founders including Sabrina and Afzal Habib of Kidogo and Geoff Revell of Happy Tap, among others, we explored themes of growth and scale, leadership, and sustainability.

A group of Tanzania girls pose for a picture after testing the period-tracking Oky app at Innovation Week Exhibitions in Dar es Salaam.

Over the years, we’ve learned the importance of convening all of our entrepreneurs together, even if virtually. Cohorts are able to learn from one another, find new entryways to provide support, and sometimes, even cross-pollinate and collaborate, as we saw this year when the Oky app, from cohort 1, was picked up and scaled through SaCoDe in Burundi and Tai TZ in Tanzania. The week culminated in a much-anticipated pitch event featuring 14 DUIA enterprises across the three cohorts showcasing their work and impact 

We are grateful to our donors for helping us reach important milestones in 2022, most notably the recruitment and selection of cohort 3, who each received $25,000 in unrestricted funding to scale their enterprises. Looking forward in 2023, we are eager to continue to grow our support for enterprises working to achieve SDG 6 and hope you will join us on our journey!