Danya20: SBIRs and Investing in the Big Ideas of Small Businesses

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program supports scientific excellence and technological potential through the investment of Federal research funds into critical American priorities that will help build a strong national economy. Currently, 11 Federal agencies participate in this three-phase program, which, according to SBIR.gov, strives to: stimulate technological innovation; meet Federal research and development needs; foster and encourage participation in innovation and entrepreneurship by socially and economically disadvantaged persons; and increase private-sector commercialization of innovations derived from Federal research and development funding.

Phase I SBIR grants help a small business develop a concept or pilot. In Phase II, the small business uses its grant to develop, test, and evaluate the product. Phase III, considered the commercialization stage, is where the small business produces and sells their final products.

Since our beginning, Danya has won more than 100 Phase I and Phase II SBIR grants and contracts. Through this mechanism, Danya developed and enhanced its capabilities in research and evaluation, curriculum development, health product development, website development and maintenance, graphics, animation, and conference support. In 2000, Danya received the prestigious Tibbetts Award, which recognizes firms for their achievements in the SBIR program.

Our SBIR projects have provided awareness to reduce stigmas through videos and games, facilitated engagement through classroom curriculum, and provided information through websites. They covered issues such as autism, Tourette syndrome, cancer, alcohol abuse, substance abuse and prevention, smoking cessation, sexually transmitted diseases, nutrition, postpartum depression, mental health, and developmental disabilities. These projects resulted in the development of classroom curriculum, facilitator guides, screening tools, websites, factsheets, videos, board games, and even a children’s cartoon.

Our SBIR work has led to products such as:


DA102-3 This program was developed to foster the social inclusion of children and teens with autism, high-functioning autism (HFA), and Asperger syndrome in general education classrooms. The program consists of multimedia packages designed to reach children ages 8 to 11 and teens ages 12 to 15. The goals of AutismVision are to: increase typical children’s and teens’ understanding of autism, HFA, and Asperger syndrome; foster empathy and positive attitudes toward classmates with autism, HFA, and Asperger syndrome; and promote positive social interactions between children and teens with autism, HFA, and Asperger syndrome and their typical peers. This audiovisual program provides classmates with comprehensive, developmentally appropriate information about autism, HFA, and Asperger syndrome. Facilitator’s guides provide instructions for teachers or other advocates on how to implement the classroom presentation effectively, along with suggested activities to reinforce main learning points.


DA115-2The Adolescent Smoking Cessation Escaping Nicotine and Tobacco (ASCENT) program is a fun, engaging way to help youths understand social influences and learn refusal skills. Approximately 70 percent of smokers 12 to 17 years of age consider themselves addicted to cigarettes. Yet, there are very few resources that specifically target teen smokers. Cessation tools that help adults stop smoking aren’t always developmentally appropriate for teens.

Be Right Back: Time to Decide About Alcohol

DA156-2 This multimedia comprehensive curriculum educates 7th and 8th grade students about the risks of teen alcohol use and to prevent initiation of alcohol use among teens. Designed to correspond with the National Health Education Standards, this innovative curriculum provides all the information and resources needed to teach students about how alcohol affects teen bodies and brains, including their ability to make decisions. This DVD-based curriculum also provides a powerful tool to help teens lean and practice the steps to making decisions in difficult situations involving alcohol.

Many other products from our SBIR funding can be viewed at shop.danya.com. You also can check out our videos on the Danya YouTube Channel.

Addressing Gender Inequity, One Scarf at a Time

Photo of farmer wearing green and gold scarf

A farmer proudly wears her new scarf, received during the Maychew ceremony

In the Ethiopian town of Maychew, more than 500 women gathered in October 2014, some to receive scarves of verdant green and marigold and others to receive similarly colored umbrellas during a ceremony to welcome them and to celebrate a long-awaited shift in gender equity. With this ceremony, these women joined thousands of others who are finally gaining the same representation for their labor as their male counterparts, thanks in part to a behavior change communications (BCC) campaign Danya International helped spearhead throughout Ethiopia.

Women farmers contribute substantially to sustaining Ethiopia’s agricultural sector, but numbers show that both primary farmer cooperatives (PCs) and larger farmer cooperative unions (FCUs) significantly underrepresent them. The Government of Ethiopia wants to change this. In 2014, they established a 30-percent target for female membership at these PCs and FCUs as a way to emphasize the increased efficiency that these groups would enjoy through active participation and leadership from women.

This was where Danya International was able to step in and provide the BCC support needed to make this goal a reality. Acknowledging that registration is both the first step and one of the biggest challenges to increasing women’s participation, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Agricultural Growth Program-Agribusiness and Market Development (AGP-AMDe) project utilized Danya’s BCC expertise to implement an incentive-based membership drive that would help women farmers step away from the societal norms that discouraged their participation and finally join in.

Woman with umbrella

This farmer displays her umbrella, which she received in honor of her recruitment efforts

Beginning in early 2014, Danya’s BCC staff designed and implemented an intensive multi-lingual BCC strategy targeting four AGP regions—Amhara; Oromia; Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region; and Tigray. They offered incentives such as scarves for women who signed up and umbrellas for current members who recruited five or more women to join. Additionally, the campaign offered walking tractors and motorcycles to the PCs that showed the highest increase in women participants.

Thanks to Danya’s collaborative outreach campaign, more than 78,000 women registered as new cooperative members throughout 2014, according to government reports (AGP-AMDe has verified more than 42,000 of these registrants so far). The regional average membership increase for women went from 25 percent to 32.5 percent, with Maychew’s Bokra FCU reporting that 52 percent of its membership comprised women farmers—the highest percentage of women members in all four targeted regions. All four regions have demonstrated significant membership increases among women farmers.

Aside from the incentives offered for joining and recruiting others, women farmers already are reporting increases in income and benefits thanks to their new membership with PCs and FCUs. As proven by Danya’s BCC campaign, with the proper amount of encouragement, many women farmers throughout these regions are finally reaping the full reward for what they sow.

Read more about this project and a recent conference that celebrated the graduation of 100 women leaders from the Women in Agribusiness Leadership Network.