That Time We Asked USAID for $1 Million in JadedAid Funding…

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Deep in the midst of our Kickstarter last year, we got a cheeky tweet and decided to submit a crowdsourced proposal to USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) funding mechanism that runs a year-round competition for innovative innovators innovating innovation.

Our proposal was pure JadedAid, and included zingers like:

G. Explain how you intend to assess the innovation, given your stage and scaling path (e.g.. how you will assess proof of concept, commercial viability, causal impact and cost effectiveness, etc.)

Through the proven JadedAid methodology, which includes a triptych of feigned optimism, cynicism, and alcoholism, humanitarians will be able to access intrinsic innovation and motivation resources, such as trying to pee with an audience of children or successfully navigating the World Bank’s online proposal submission interface.

Contrary to our previous experience with US Government procurement processes, DIV’s response was lightening fast and, wow! Their determination letter is epic.

We’ve been holding on to this for just the right moment… so with the primary season wrapping up and Jimmy Fallon slow jammin’ Obama’s contributions, we’re joining in to celebrate the creativity, humor and innovation that the current administration has brought to DC!

Below is their response to us, verbatim.

We love you, DIV! – Jessica, Wayan & Teddy

We’re done pleasing the donor at any cost!
Be sure to download the PDF or buy a deck now to ensure our sustainability.


From: DIV Applications (USAID)
Date: Tue, 27 Oct 2015 16:59
Subject: An Update on the Status of Your DIV Expression of Interest (EOI)

Dear JTW Productions,

Thank you for your application to the Development Innovation Ventures program. We appreciate you taking the time to review our solicitation and submit a response.

Unfortunately, your project was not selected for award. Organizations are able, however, to address deficiencies and re-apply with a new Expression of Interest (EOI). There is no deadline for EOI submission, because DIV is now on a rolling application process. Please note that, due to the competitive nature of the process, addressing the weaknesses provided in the debriefing below does not guarantee acceptance in subsequent rounds.

Please see below for strengths and weaknesses noted by DIV.

*Evaluation Factor 1: Cost-effective Innovation* Potential to address a significant development challenge in a cost-effective way.

Factor 1 Rating: Good – Meets requirements. While the applicant demonstrates an ability to complete the work in some areas, there are some significant deficiencies. However, these combined weaknesses still represent a manageable performance risk.

*Evaluation Factor 2: Monitoring and Evaluation* Ability to generate data or evidence to prove development impact.

Factor 2 Rating: Meh. Fair – Minimally meets basic requirements or demonstrates a limited understanding of the requirements. Implementation of the proposed project would likely lead to unsatisfactory performance. Contains deficiencies and significant weaknesses that may negatively affect performance.

*Evaluation Factor 3: Implementation and Scale Plan* Potential to scale operationally and sustain activities beyond USAID financial support

Factor 3 Rating: Fair – Minimally meets basic requirements or demonstrates a limited understanding of the requirements. Implementation of the proposed project would likely lead to unsatisfactory performance. Contains deficiencies and significant weaknesses that may negatively affect performance.

*Evaluation Factor 4: The Team* Capacity of the Innovator/Innovation Team to successfully implement the innovation

Factor 4 Rating: Very Good – Demonstrates overall competence, meets all minimum requirements and exceeds requirements in some areas but not all. Despite some identified weaknesses, the applicant demonstrates that it can successfully complete all deliverables in a timely, efficient, and economical manner.


  • Potential impact could be more than Teddy Ruge’s 14,100+ Twitter followers or all of the people Wayan Vota reaches in his first-class cabin using his 100K status. We also see this as a direct call to improve our Twitter game. We will tell our full-time, adult colleague who runs our Twitter handle to step it up.
  • The application used the word “triptych” in a sentence. Clearly someone on your team has been waiting for years for an opportunity to do that. So, bravo.
  • Correct usage of the word “schoolchildren” in the phrase “iPad for schoolchildren” instead of the improper deployment of a space between “school” and “children”
  • There is a strong pathway to scale, though perhaps in the wrong market — we would all buy this. Some of us may have secretly already supported the Kickstarter. Don’t tell anyone.


  • The application could be strengthened with improved evidence of assumptions supporting the theory of change. While the development professionals contract-management experts reviewing this application appreciate any and all opportunities to consume alcohol, it is unclear whether belly laughter or soul-crushing despondency will result from daily reminders of the inner workings of the Development-Industrial Complex.
  • Please submit a mitigating and monitoring plan for the risk of soul-crushing despondency in beneficiaries. The mitigating and monitoring plan must include several subscriptions to wine of the month clubs to be delivered weekly to Washington, DC.
  • The Expression of Interest submitted includes neither glossy, well-lit photos of smiling beneficiaries nor helpies with said beneficiaries. Small et. al 2007 has shown that well-lit photos and helpies generate more funding than text-based, and data-driven presentations of complex, global problems. Therefore, the inclusion of well-lit photos would better demonstrate your commitment and ability to address your theory of change and would strengthen your application.
  • Please include a Results Framework that clearly lays out the vision, goals, objectives, sub-objectives, results, intermediate results, sub-intermediate results, proxy-sub-intermediate results, surrogate-proxy-sub-intermediate results, outcomes, incomes, outputs, inputs, underputs, and sideputs for your activities, with outyear targets for 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, and Saved By the Bell: The College Years.
  • Please describe how the JadedAid methodology is “proven”. What are the results from your pilot test? How is “feigned optimism, cynicism, and alcoholism” measured among beneficiaries? Furthermore, the application lacks sufficient evidence the cards are truly effective at convening the capacity building sessions. The application would be strengthened with sharing data and tangible results of the pilot test (published research paper, youtube video, facebook photos, etc.).
  • The pathway to financial sustainability is not clear. The applicant relies on the assumption that aid workers will continue to buy and use the game and periodic card expansion packs. This does not adequately account for development fad fatigue. Is JadedAid more than just the flavor of the week?
  • We appreciate your references to new technology platforms such as The Facebook and Kick Starting. However, we have recently been told that the Youths are using Snapchat. We don’t know what that is, but please find a way to incorporate it so we can tell our bosses that we are on the cutting edge. Cutting Edgeness will be assessed in our Annual Evaluation Form personnel assessments.
  • It was noted that “JTW Productions” sounds like a company name made up by a wannabe music entrepreneur with a microphone and Macbook set up in his mom’s garage. Please ensure that all appropriate systems to receive US Government funding, including: registration at, audited financials as described by OMB Circular A-133, NCAGE, DnB, GarageBand for Mac, and compatibility with Microsoft Internet Explorer 95.
  • Too many hyperlinks in the application. Not enough youtube videos of cats, which some scientists claim lead to increased happiness and boosted energy.

We appreciate your time and effort, and will happily accept a EOI from your organization if you decide to resubmit. Should you resubmit, you are encouraged to complete certifications and audits to ensure that you are in compliance with the Fly America Act, the Cargo Preference Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Whiskey Act of 1791, the Guano Islands Act of 1856, the Sister Act, the Sister Act II, and the Ryan Gosling Eat Your Cereal Act.

Warm regards,

DIV Team

*  These comments reflect the views of a lowly contract management specialist on the DIV team who is technically employed by a USAID contractor who shall remain unnamed and do not reflect the views of USAID, the Global Development Lab, or any programs contained therein. We appreciate your sense of humor, we hope you’ll appreciate ours. But on the real: this is a formal notification that your application has not advanced to the next stage in our selection process and will no longer be considered for funding.

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We’re loving Barbie Savior!

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Barbie Savior’s work in East Africa has inspired us all! Through her new website and carefully curated social media presence, she is single-handedly raising awareness of development’s most pressing challenges through her brave helpies and good old-fashioned colonial values.

image3chalkboardSomeone like Barbie Savior doesn’t come along every day. It may be a whole year until the next graduation cycle delivers another one like her. We can’t just sit idly by and let her be forgotten like that time the UN recognized Palestine. She must be celebrated! At JadedAid, we’re finding inspiration from Barbie Savior to create new cards for our games.

We challenge you to make your own Barbie Savior inspired cards too!

BarbieSavior  may just be just what you need to finally get around to using those blank cards in your deck. (You know thoseblank cards weren’t a printing mistake, right?)

medevacimage1Post your Barbie Savior inspired (or other) card ideas and combinations to  Facebook and Twitter. Our favorite social post each month wins a JadedAid t-shirt!

Categories: Featured

The Story Behind JadedAid T-shirts

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Since this is JadedAid, we didn’t just go to some print shop in the USA. Nope. We went straight to a t-shirt capital of the world – Cambodia! – where we sourced them directly from a family factory.

JadedAid Co-founder, Jessica Heinzelman, was in Phnom Penh earlier this year. She’d done all the touristy things on previous trips and wanted a new adventure!  Next thing you know, she was spending her Sunday driving 45 minutes out of Phnom Penh with her trusty tuk tuk driver, Mr. Hour, down a long and very dusty road to a family home/t-shirt factory.


When she arrived Piden, the proprietor, greeted her and ushered her past some busy workers cutting and sewing.


They ascended up the back stairs to a wall of material. Jessica felt each one, as if she was a t-shirt cloth expert (she was the expat after all!) and compared colors in the light-filled room. She chose a red that closest matched the JadedAid box, and a grey for those that don’t find red to be their color. Piden swore all the cloth was scraps from a North Face garment factory….hmmmm?


As Jessica went back downstairs, she marveled at one of the women operating an amazing tool that is best described as a t-shirt saw that allowed her to cut up to ten layers of t-shirt at one go.


She then discussed timeline and Piden brought out “the boss” to work out the money. Unsurprisingly, “the boss” turned out to be his wife, a small woman armed with a calculator. Jessica then paid 30% down to get production started and left in her dusty tuk tuk. Piden kept us updated and sent pictures of some early shirts to make sure he was on track.

Just one week later the t-shirts were all packed up ready for delivery.

Jessica paid in full and the only thing left to do was…figure out how to get 500 t-shirts home. Who knew you need a license to export t-shirts from Cambodia? Time to smuggle!


Thanks to the generosity of friends and colleagues that will eventually carry them back, JadedAid t-shirts will cross the Pacific in waves. 

So… We know you want one! As long as they are available, there are two ways to get JadedAid t-shirts!:

  • Win One! Post your favorite pics of JadedAid play to our Facebook page. Each month we’ll choose two winners who will receive a JadedAid t-shirt (color of your choice) with free shipping to USA-based winners.
  • Buy One! Can’t wait to win one? Buy a red one or buy a grey one now on for $19 plus shipping – the best accessory for playing JadedAid. We have two color choices and all the sizes you need.

Note: Sizes run smallish so buy a size bigger than you think you need! The fabric and fit are nice, though so you’ll look gooooooood!


Categories: Featured

CardStories: A gift of live chickens and a stalk of plantains

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I was a Peace Corps volunteer and had recently moved to post. My market was an hour away so I would go into town in the morning to give myself plenty of time to shop and walk back before it got too hot. One day, after buying my normal weekly provisions, I stopped to buy a pineapple from a woman with two toddlers sleeping at her feet. I asked if her kids were twins, which are sacred in my country of service, and she nodded. I pulled out a photo of me and my twin and she got so excited that she started yelling to everyone around us, “The foreigner is a twin!” While I answered her questions about my sister and ate the pineapple she gave me for free just for being a twin, more gifts from who-knows-where piled up at my feet. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening, but among other random items, I ended up with a stalk of plantains three feet tall and two live chickens.

Continue reading CardStories: A gift of live chickens and a stalk of plantains

Categories: Card Stories

CardStories: Bicycle-powered water pumps pedaled by malnourished 8-year-olds

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This card idea was inspired by Stop Trying to Save the World: Big ideas are destroying international development. As JadedAid cards attest, snark and dark humor are two ways many of us cope, especially when it comes to that great new idea from a donor or a top leader who just went to that high-level “innovation” meeting.

The thing is, it’s rarely the idea that’s the problem. The problem is the human tendency to fixate on the idea as the only solution, the solution that will solve all the problems, if it is done just so like was done in India/Uganda/Vietnam, but since we don’t have infinite funds, well, guess we’ll need to cut this other project…

Continue reading CardStories: Bicycle-powered water pumps pedaled by malnourished 8-year-olds

Categories: Card Stories