Equitable Sanitation

and Hygiene for All

Ready to scale your innovation or enterprise? We are looking for social entrepreneurs tackling the most challenging problems facing children globally. We are currently seeking six social enterprises working specifically on sanitation and hygiene issues in Africa.

Solutions in Sanitation
and Hygiene

Water and sanitation are at the core of sustainable development, and the range of services they provide underpin poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental sustainability. However, in recent decades overexploitation, pollution, and climate change have led to severe water stress in locales across the world. The COVID-19 pandemic poses an additional impediment, impairing access for billions of people to safely managed drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services – services desperately needed to prevent the virus from spreading.

Now more than ever the world needs to transform the way it manages its water resources and delivers water and sanitation services for billions of people. Urgent action is needed to overcome this global crisis, as it is affecting all countries around the world, socially, economically and environmentally.

Duke-UNICEF Design Principles

UNICEF has a 70-year history of innovating for children. We believe that new approaches, partnerships, and technologies that support realizing children’s rights are critical to improving their lives. For us, innovation is about taking emerging approaches and tools, and testing how they can be applied across contexts. If successful, we scale them to positively impact children and young people around the world. For the purpose of this Accelerator, Duke and UNICEF have adapted the Principles for Digital Development, as developed by UNICEF and others. Eligible social enterprises must adhere to these principles to qualify.

Design with the User

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that incorporate (or are open to incorporating) a human centered design approach to sanitation and hygiene products and services. Paying special attention to the needs of women and girls’ and other vulnerable populations including  the socio-cultural, biological, environmental, and economic factors that influence their lives. Designing with this in mind not only increases the chances of improving program development, but also the delivery, evaluation, and scaling of social enterprises.

Understand the Existing Ecosystem

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that recognize and pursue opportunities to leverage the ecosystems in which they operate in order to have greater impact. Social enterprises seek to improve enabling environments and strengthen or form new partnerships with governments, private sector, and civil society organizations to increase collective impact.

Design for Scale

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that have the potential and ambition for significantly increasing their outcomes and impact. Preference given to social enterprises that are beyond start-up stage, can provide some evidence of meeting customer demand, and that are actively considering a longer-term strategy to scale their impact.

Build for Sustainability

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that have (or have a promising potential to create) business models that are built on sustainable social, environmental, and financial principles. Both for-profits and nonprofits are encouraged to apply, but nonprofits should also have–or aspire to have–a significant earned income, market-oriented approach, or consumer payment component to their revenue.

Be Data Driven

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that are evidence-based, impact-oriented, and have developed and are using metrics and evaluation to validate, refine, and prove their theory of change. We’re looking for social enterprises with strong quantifiable data, rather than just anecdotal stories. Participants will be asked to share performance data (e.g., outputs, outcomes, total clients, internal capacity, etc.) and financial data on a semi-annual basis.

Use Open Source

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that seek to maximize their resources — and ultimately their impact — through open standards, open data, open source technologies and open innovation. What being “open” means for applicants will depend on practical and technical constraints, security and privacy concerns, and the dynamics of the people, networks, and institutions in the space of each social enterprise.

Reuse and Improve

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that look for ways to adapt and enhance existing services, products, resources, and approaches to improve their overall quality, applicability, and impact. Where possible and desirable, social enterprises develop modular, interoperable approaches instead of those that stand alone.

Do No Harm

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that act ethically and responsibly in designing, delivering, assessing, and disseminating their innovations. Social enterprises identify and test assumptions, mitigate risks, and commit themselves to diversity, inclusivity, and equity. Social enterprises take measures to minimize collection of and to protect confidential information and identities of individuals represented in data sets from unauthorized access and manipulation by third parties.

Be Collaborative

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that are committed to sharing information, insights, strategies and resources across projects, organizations and sectors. Social enterprises seek to strengthen or form new partnerships with governments, private sector, and civil society organizations, leading to increased collective impact.


Our Support
Over the course of the 2-year Accelerator, selected enterprises will receive:

  • $25,000 unrestricted, one-time grant
  • Personalized coaching from social enterprise experts at Duke University and field experts from UNICEF
  • Bespoke mentoring
  • Customized capacity building curriculum
  • Duke University student support
  • Access to our broad networks

Accelerator Awardees should anticipate the following as part of their participation:

  • Participate in online communities and webinars
  • Participate in regular calls for coaching, mentoring, and peer learning
  • Participate in the week-long Duke-UNICEF Virtual Forum on Social Innovation, held twice yearly
  • Develop a capacity-building plan for scaling their impact, with support from the Accelerator team
  • Implement and track progress of a customized capacity-building plan, with support from the accelerator team and other mentors
  • Report relevant program performance and financial data on a semi-annual basis
  • Share insights, promising practices, lessons learned, and other expertize with other social enterprises participating in the accelerator
Eligibility Requirements

The Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator is open to any impact enterprises, working in or across Africa, that meet the following criteria:

  • Is a nonprofit, hybrid, or for-profit social enterprise
  • Has two founders/executives/senior leaders that can represent the enterprise over the course of the 2-year Accelerator and are comfortable working in English
  • Has strong evidence of impact over at least 3 years and has a plan for how to use the Duke-UNICEF award to scale that impact in the next 3-5 years
  • Deploys a promising sanitation and hygiene product and/or service, innovative supply chain model, business model, or other approach that has potential for widespread, sustainable impact
  • Enterprise or enterprise innovation adheres to UNICEF Innovation Principles
  • Active in any country, or multiple countries, in Africa
  • Preference for social enterprises that have existing working relationship (formal or informal) with UNICEF or a UNICEF country office
  • Preference for a diverse, gender-equitable team

Join Us

Think you are a good fit? Take our eligibility quiz to find out.

If you are eligible for the program, our team will send you the full application. Applications will be accepted on a rolling bases until 11:59pm ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. For questions or concerns, please contact us.

Partner With Us

Keep up with our social entrepreneurs’ progress and the impact we’re making together.