Grand Challenges Canada


—Through their ‘Healthy Village’ approach, Max Foundation is creating lasting change for children and their communities in Bangladesh —

Toronto, December 14, 2023 —The Max Foundation has been awarded the prestigious Rotman Innovation of the Year Award for their work to ensure healthy growth and prevent stunting for children in Bangladesh. The CAD $10,000 award is given annually by Grand Challenges Canada, a not-for-profit organization that invests in local innovations to address critical global health, humanitarian, and Indigenous community challenges in Canada and low- and middle-income countries.

The Rotman Innovation of the Year Award was created in honour of the late Joseph Rotman, Founding Chair of Grand Challenges Canada, and his family, in recognition of their unfailing support for global health innovation. The Award honours an innovation that has had the largest sustainable increase in lives saved or lives improved over the past year.

The Max Foundation’s ‘Healthy Village’ approach is an integrated innovation that is driven by communities, NGO partners, entrepreneurs, and local governments to ensure long-lasting impact in Bangladesh. Their three-pronged intervention focuses on improving water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); nutrition; and maternal care at the village level.

Max Foundation provides initial funding, support, and training for local NGOs, who then enlist community members to act as health promotion agents, educating their village about the benefits of better nutrition, handwashing, toilets, enclosed bathing areas, piped water supply, maternal care, and menstrual products. They create demand for sanitation and nutrition supplies, and local entrepreneurs sell their products and services to the community.

One of the most innovative parts about the Healthy Village approach is that the NGOs are compensated through a ‘pay-by-results’ model. They receive an initial upfront payment to implement the project and receive a final payment upon achieving ‘Healthy Village’ status.

Local governments bestow ‘Healthy Village’ status once more than 90% of the community meets key WASH, nutrition and health criteria, and maintains those practices for a full year. To date, there have been 409 Healthy Villages designated in Bangladesh, with an additional 1,265 villages working toward certification.

Max Foundation’s impact is possible because the ‘Healthy Village’ approach enlists the community, entrepreneurs, and local governments as owners of the process. The communities drive demand and sustain the innovation in the long term. For every dollar that the Max Foundation invests, the communities themselves invest nearly six.

“We are very honoured to receive the Rotman Innovation of the Year Award and to be selected as the innovation that has had the largest sustainable increase in lives saved or lives improved over the past year,” said Joke Le Poole, Max Foundation Co-Founder and Co-CEO. “Grand Challenges Canada’s catalytic funding has been essential in enabling the success of the Healthy Village approach in Bangladesh.“ Le Poole added that the prize money will help with the Max Foundation’s goal of gathering impact evidence and expanding the Healthy Village approach to urban and peri-urban settings.

“Max Foundation’s model of integrated innovation is a wonderful reflection of Joseph Rotman’s vision of innovation for impact,” said Janis Rotman, President of the Rotman Family Foundation. “My father believed that business has a critical role to play in building a better society. By working closely with local entrepreneurs, suppliers, NGOs, community members and governments, the Max Foundation’s Healthy Villages approach has demonstrated that everyone has a role to play in saving and improving children’s lives. The Rotman Family congratulates the Max Foundation for being named this year’s winner of the Award.”

Grand Challenges Canada CEO Dr. Karlee Silver added: “Grand Challenges Canada has been a proud partner in supporting the Max Foundation’s evidence-based approach to addressing child undernutrition and stunting in Bangladesh. With our most recent investment, we are backing the Max Foundation’s efforts to demonstrate the impact of the Healthy Village approach in seven urban and peri-urban municipalities in northern Bangladesh. This funding will also help the to expand the uptake of Healthy Villages in rural areas by building strong partnerships with NGOs and local governments to scale implementation and providing support to build an ecosystem of micro-entrepreneurs.”

Grand Challenges Canada has funded Max Foundation’s sanitation work since 2019. With GCC’s support, they have reached 1.2 million people in the south coastal region of Bangladesh, resulting in measurable health improvements for more than 438,000 people, including nearly 150,000 children. To date, Grand Challenges Canada has invested a total of CAD $2.415M Canadian dollars (with funding provided by Global Affairs Canada) in the Max Foundation’s work in Bangladesh.

Under the most recent funding agreement, the Max Foundation is now adapting the Healthy Village concept to reach more children and communities in the Lalmonirhat district in northern Bangladesh. This year, they are also replicating the approach in Ethiopia.

The Rotman Innovation of the Year Award was created in 2020 as part of Grand Challenges Canada’s 10th anniversary. To date, it has been awarded to Hewatele, a Kenyan-owned social enterprise that produces medical grade oxygen for rural and regional healthcare facilities; Ubongo, a Tanzania-based non-profit social enterprise and Africa’s leading producer of kids’ edutainment; and Fresh Life, a Kenya-based social enterprise that improves sanitation through access to toilets and the safe removal and treatment of waste.

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About Grand Challenges CanadaGrand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, Grand Challenges Canada funds innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation—known as Integrated Innovation®.

One of the largest impact-first investors in Canada, Grand Challenges Canada has supported a pipeline of over 1,400 innovations in 102 countries. Grand Challenges Canada estimates that these innovations have the potential to save up to 1.78 million lives and improve up to 64 million lives by 2030. Visit www.grandchallenges.ca to learn more.

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