Featuring New PIA Member: USAID Global Development Lab

August 9, 2016






Seema Patel is the Chief of Innovation Design and Advisory at the Global Development Lab at the U.S. Agency for International Development. PIA was excited to welcome Seema and several of her colleagues to our member cohort, extending and strengthening the relationship between the Global Development Lab and D-Lab. Read on to learn more about Seema, the Lab, and their exciting work!

1. Why did you choose to join PIA? What value do you anticipate for the U.S. Global Development Lab at USAID?
The Global Development Lab is committed to find​ing​ new ideas for solving development challenges and speeding up the ​​adoption of the most promising breakthrough innovations​ to impact millions of lives. To do this, we engage ​new, ​non-traditional ​development ​​solvers and change agents to identify, address, and propose solutions for development challenges and build evidence for better development.​ We ​proactively seek ​new partnerships ​and collaborations which leverage the combined skills, assets, technologies, and resources of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to ​design, test and accelerate new solutions that ​deliver sustainable development impact. ​The Practical Impact Alliance gives us access to like-minded partners across these sectors to work with. Together we see the potential to identify important problems to focus on, explore new approaches to foster innovation and capture learnings we are taking away from our collective experiences. 

2. What element of PIA are you most excited to engage in this year?
As a new member of PIA we are most excited to participate in the working groups. Through these learning sessions, we can access ​the collective experiences of a​ network of practitioners, ​and a broader range of innovative solutions to development, in order to draw out lessons from across a broad array of cases. The ​lessons from ​the PIA network around how to design and scale innovative, market-based solutions to  the greatest challenges of our time enhances our own evidence base of what is working and what is not. And armed with this information, we continue to test our assumptions, get more data, and become smarter and more thoughtful as we shape our own innovation programs.  

3. Which Lab priorities or projects do you see as most relevant to the PIA network and approach?
​The Lab invests in a diverse portfolio of innovation programs such as Development Innovation Ventures, LAUNCH, the Grand Challenges for Development, and more across the Agency. Through these programs we have invested in hundreds of development innovations in different sectors, geographies, and stages of development. The experience around how to design solutions through more participatory approaches, support solutions from pilots to scale, and how to measure results and impact is critical to the success of the programs we manage and to every individual innovation that we believe has the potential to improve peoples lives.  


About the Global Development Lab, USAID

USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential. Building on the belief that science, technology, innovation and partnership can accelerate development impact faster, cheaper, and more sustainably, USAID established the U.S. Global Development Lab in April 2014. The Lab's focus is twofold:

  1. To produce breakthrough development innovations by sourcing, testing, and scaling proven solutions to reach hundreds of millions of people
  2. To accelerate the transformation of the development enterprise by opening development to people everywhere with good ideas, promoting new and deepening existing partnerships, bringing data and evidence to bear, and harnessing scientific and technological advances

Seema Patel, a native of Washington D.C., is a passionate advocate for social change, committed to catalyzing innovative, sustainable, scalable solutions to poverty. She is the Chief of Innovation Design and Advisory at the Global Development Lab at the U.S. Agency for International Development. She leads a team that seeks to advance USAID's culture of innovation by designing opportunities to bring people together to solve development challenges. Previously, she worked at DAI as an advisor to donors, for-profit and non-profit clients on social innovation programs and public-private partnerships. Seema started her career as an investment banker working on emerging market mergers and acquisitions and venture financing for the info and biotech start-up sector. She holds a Masters of Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University. ​Seema enjoys outdoor adventures like kayaking, skiing and surfing and can be found most weekends in enjoying the food and restaurant scene in D.C.