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The Digital Agency for International Development

YouWiN! – Enterprise-development grant platform

We built and managed the digital platform for a National enterprise-development business-plan competition and grant management system for the federal government of Nigeria.



YouWiN! is a national business-plan competition run by the Nigerian government to encourage enterprise, help grow small businesses and create jobs. National media campaigns encouraged eligible young citizens to register on a website and submit an outline of their business ideas for evaluation. A panel of judges assess the businesses ideas to find the most promising and those applicants are trained to prepare a business plan. The panel then judge which business plans are most likely to succeed and the best receive grants -- 1,200 each year -- to help them grow. YouWiN issues grants in stages over the following year as it monitors the businesses development -- sending staff to visit all the businesses -- and checks that the money isn't being misused.

We built and managed the websites and digital tools used by the programme during four years of operation. Robust, secure and independent IT support was important to YouWiN!'s management team and funders. It helped them build trust in the programme.



YouWiN! is a high profile programme with a lot of visits to its website. And, behind the scenes there are online systems that support:

  • hundreds of thousands of applicants registering and submitting concept notes and finished business plans
  • tens of judges assessing the concept notes and business plans
  • the management team, and the monitoring staff, coordinating visits, gathering data about how the businesses are performing, and checking they comply with the conditions to receive each stage of their grants

YouWiN! has helped thousands of small businesses in Nigeria. All these initially applied via the website, and were judged and monitored using the digital systems we provided for the programme.



The early days of YouWiN! were exciting times for us. We were requested to take over the IT infrastructure shortly after the first round of the competition opened. National media campaigns were sending thousands of applicants to the website while we negotiated with the IT team to take over the servers and domains with as little down-time as possible.

In the first years of YouWiN! the management team were still figuring out how a national business plan competition should run. It tested our agility to somewhere near its limits. Sometimes they made big changes at the eleventh hour, and we had to run to keep up. Overall, however our iterative approach was exactly what the programme needed: our delivery team always focussed on their current priorities and we worked closely with their product owners to plan the next phase of work.



YouWiN! turned out to be a relatively complex project with several interconnected systems. We maintained and enhanced the security and robustness of the original custom-built PHP website which applicants used to submit their business plans. We built a new system in Django for the judges to review and mark business plans. Behind the scenes this accessed the business plans in the same MySQL database. And we built a separate post-award management application in Django to manage the monitoring and grant approval.

To cope with high demand close to the deadlines for applications, the website, and registration and submission systems were deployed on multiple load-balanced servers with a shared database.

In addition to creating and maintaining these systems, we worked closely with the YouWiN! management team during all phases of the programme to help them access the data, and to run the algorithms that select winners once the business plans are marked, etc.