Developing Effective Private Education in Nigeria Challenge Fund (DEEPEN)

Allow service providers to support unconventional solutions to longstanding problems in the low-cost private education sector in Lagos.

Short overview

The Fund supported ambitious innovations designed by Lagos’ private schools’ proprietors, service providers and other entrepreneurs.

The concept at the heart of the Fund was ‘innovation’.

What the fund aimed to achieve

The Fund provided the Lagos LCPS-focused service providers with an opportunity to support unconventional solutions to longstanding problems in the private education sector in Lagos, through the ingenuity of private enterprise. It also provided an opportunity to fund ambitious innovations designed by Lagos’ private schools’ proprietors, service providers and other entrepreneurs. The aim was to scale up ongoing and emerging pilots, boost market linkages in hitherto unconnected market segments and highlight opportunities that might not have been noticed if not supported externally.

The concept at the heart of the Fund was ‘innovation’. The Fund team took a broad view of innovation and encouraged proposals that went beyond ‘business as usual’ and challenged applicants to find new ways to improve the performance, governance and influence of their proposed intervention in the LCPS. The DEEPEN Challenge Fund’s working definition of innovation included, but was not limited to, products and services that were:

  • new to Lagos, Nigeria or Africa
  • new in education sector (not previously used for education purposes)
  • specifically, new in the low-cost private school sector
  • new in delivery or method of application (e.g. If the provider of a traditional training course comes up with a way of providing this service to schools simultaneously to reduce costs)
  • adapted to address persisting constraints in low-cost private school sector
  • adapted in terms of cost structure to make the product or service more accessible
  • in pilot stage and delivering results, but have not been formally launched into the market
  • able to unlock constraint faced by private school
  • associations in delivering to their primary markets

Although the Fund was open to all innovators and providers, it was particularly interested in innovations with the following focuses:

  • improving schools’ compliance with rules and standards
  • improving access to teaching development initiatives and services
  • creating innovative business models for schools and ensuring supporting services are introduced to the market

The items above formed the thematic focus of the Fund. Limited consideration was given to the following additional themes:

  • increasing the quantity and quality of information available to parents and other primary stakeholders
  • improving the financial performance of schools (e.g. through improved fee payment mechanisms or access to finance for schools)

These interventions were only considered where there was:

  • compelling innovation on offer
  • a tangible learning outcome achievable in the timeframe provided
  • sufficient budget to fund the project once other projects that are more in line with the Fund’s aims have been allocated funding

Prospective grantees were required to provide key information, such as:

  • the scope of innovation, creativity and variety in the focus of proposals and in the nature of existing grantee partnerships with beneficiaries
  • how proposals would deliver innovative and transformative changes that have a sustained impact on LCPS governance and learning improvements
  • evidence of compliance with grant rules and the fit with thematic areas identified above
  • company registration details and evidence of compliance with local regulations – while preference was given to established companies with a history of performance and scale, we considered investing in promising small start-ups where there was compelling evidence that the innovation would generate improved learning outcomes
  • ability to deliver results by August 2018

The Fund only provided grants to project related expenditure (e.g. hardware, venue hire) and did NOT provide funding or support to:

  • routine operating costs such as monthly rent or electricity
  • ongoing or recurring projects
  • large-scale construction
  • non-project-related general budgetary needs

See Guidance notes accompanying this for more information.

Background information on the fund

A bidders’ meeting was held in Lagos on the 1 August 2017. This was a briefing session open to all prospective grantees. It provided clarity on grant requirements towards strong proposal development by potential grantees.


The Fund Team:

Address: DEEPEN Challenge Fund , 3rd Floor REALS Plaza, Plot 1 Junaid Dosumu Way, Central Business District, Agidingbi - Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria


Tel: +234 908 720 6995

Fund documents

Published 18 July 2017
Last updated 10 August 2017 + show all updates
  1. Bidder clarifications and draft evaluation criteria added.
  2. Fund documents added.
  3. First published.