Securing the future of Médecins Sans Frontières’ global innovation fund

Securing the future of MSF's global innovation fund

  • Brought in 20 applications to the fund – as many as all previous calls for applications combined
  • 16 applications from staff in the field
  • 7 applications from National Staff, the first ever National Staff applicants to the fund
  • Unique page views for the Sapling Nursery web page increased 21% from the last call for submissions
  • Non-Europe page views increased 35% and direct entrances to the page went up by 60%

From the start, the team at Taylor Nisbet understood what we were trying to achieve. We worked on our messaging and explored different avenues to get that message out to staff on the ground. Throughout the project we were always in communication and on the same page. It's one of the great things about working with Taylor Nisbet, they include you and make you feel like you're part of the process.

Pete Masters, Medical Innovation Advisor at MSF

The project

“As in many large organisations, MSF sometimes struggles to provide opportunities to its staff on the ground to innovate for the future. Previous Sapling Nursery proposals have mainly come from our headquarters staff and specialists. They’re still great ideas, but it can mean that they aren’t always representative of the current needs of those working in the field, face to face with our patients.” – Pete Masters

We were asked to find a way to increase the number of applicants to the Sapling Nursery fund from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff and to attract the first applications from national staff members.


The Sapling Nursery is a fund MSF staff can access to test innovative ideas that could improve patient care. Previous attempts to promote the fund had a short reach and no national staff members (MSF staff working within the country they are from) had ever applied.

Due to its name, the little-known fund was often mistakenly thought to be a literal plant nursery. Most staff aren’t aware of the research the fund has enabled or the positive impact previous projects are having on care within the organisation.

Most MSF staff are patient-focused. The structure and nature of operations are such that getting non-essential information to the ground can be difficult. People in the command chain may not have the time to pass information about Sapling Nursery to staff members. This means that any information we needed to share must be delivered quickly and be easy to digest. This also means we had to give as much information as possible about the fund as we don’t know how long an interested person could spend doing their own research.



Every week staff on the ground come together to be briefed by their Project Coordinators or Medical Team Leaders. We used this meeting as the point to deliver information about the fund.

The Sapling Nursery web page was text heavy with poor information flow. We reviewed the page and made suggestions to improve the flow of information and give multiple points for people to apply to the fund.

“Sapling Nursery is an excellent way to develop ideas that will improve care throughout MSF. But it only works when people apply. We needed to increase the number of applicants to the fund and to give us a more professional image that looked part of the MSF brand.” – Pete Masters



We created a poster in the three main MSF languages, English, French and Arabic, communicating the key points of the fund. We updated the web page to better direct potential applicants. We worked with translators to ensure the information could be accessible to MSF staff all over the world.


Project objectives:

  • Change staff perception of the fund so they know what it is and how to access it
  • Increase awareness of the fund to national staff
  • Remove barriers to application
  • Increase the number of applicants as a whole


Our approach

We drew attention to the key points of the fund – the money available, the time frame and the stipulations – to raise interest and invite applications. We focused the reader by delivering the information in a clear hierarchy led by the benefits of the fund. We gave the reader multiple ways into the design so that if they read it for five minutes or five seconds they would understand the key information and would know how to apply.

To smooth the delivery of the information to staff in the field, we made it easy for the Project Coordinator to promote the fund. They were asked to print the poster, place it on a noticeboard and make staff aware that it was there. Their role was minimised to make getting the information to staff as simple as possible.

Along with the poster design, we advised how to improve the Sapling Nursery web page. We took a sales approach and drew up funnels for site visitors at different stages of the application process. The aim was to remove the barriers to applications. Staff ready to apply were given immediate access to the application page. Staff at other stages in the decision process were provided with case studies of previous applicants and shown how the process works step by step. The URL for the page was simplified and placed prominently on the poster design. After the changes were made to the Sapling Nursery page, the average time spent on the page increased by 34% on the previous call for applications.

What difference did we make for MSF?

The project was a huge success, with over 20 applications to the fund. This was as many as all the previous proposals combined. We smashed the main goals of the project. 16 applicants were from the field and 7 of those from National Staff. This was the first time National Staff have applied to the fund.

Unique page views for the Sapling Nursery page increased 21% from the last call for submissions. Non-Europe page views were up 35%. After the URL was simplified, direct entrances to the page increased 60%, meaning more people were coming directly to the page rather than rerouting from elsewhere on the MSF site. The poster had done its job.

After seeing the poster, a team leader in Congo requested materials so she could deliver a workshop to explain more about the fund. MSF received four applications from staff that attended the workshop. This showed an appetite on the ground for supporting the fund and has allowed the Sapling Nursery team to prepare more substantial collateral for the next call for submissions.

From the applications three have been chosen and are now being developed. The Lean Chemical Weapons Kit (LCWK), task-based modelling for safe nurse staffing levels and malnutrition screening toolbox for children under 6-months old are on their way to being tested in the field.


Thank you!

We are grateful for the opportunity to work with MSF to ensure all their staff have the chance to contribute their ideas and improve care across the world.

Following the completion of the project, we underwent a review of the process with Pete Masters, Medical Innovation Advisor at MSF. All quotes and quality statements were provided by him during this review.

The outcomes were exactly what we were after. We surpassed the number of applicants from all previous calls to submit and we had our first submissions from national staff.

Pete Masters, Medical Innovation Advisor at MSF

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