Archive for the 'inducements' Category

Ideas: Unleashing Creativity through Competitions

Dr Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Global Community Initiatives at Microsoft (and recent interviewee of our own Sneha Kannan!) has some insights into student innovation, development, and social change in today’s Huffington Post!

On May 2 as part of MIT’s 150 year anniversary celebrations I will be speaking to students who have entered the MIT IDEAS Competition and Global Challenge — which support innovation and entrepreneurship as a public service. This year more than 80 teams have entered ideas that address barriers to well-being in communities in 24 countries. 46 of them have qualified to enter final proposals.

What is unique about this is that the competition is sparking collaboration among students at MIT and the worldwide MIT alumni network, as well as communities around the world. Opening up the participation to the larger community is interesting and an innovative way for a university to engage a much larger audience. Over the last decade we’ve seen more and more universities and companies launching competitions to develop ‘ideas’ to solve some of the most intractable social problems that we face.

Read the full article here.

MITGC Introduction Slide Deck

Competitions, Social Innovation, and Human Well-being

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “The U.S. Lagging, not Leading, Social Entrepreneurship” caught my eye; the author writes, “Spend less time and money training entrepreneurs and funding contests domestically; invest more in social entrepreneurs globally.”

A few observations:

  • Lead with partnership. The author suggests that what’s needed are innovations “for the two-thirds world, coming from the two-thirds.” And while this is true, its probably not sufficient. What we’re finding is that partnerships – in which communities contribute their expertise, and MIT students contribute theirs – generate startling results. Scrape a little deeper into the history of companies like M-Pesa, Ushahidi, and even Grameen Phone and the role of robust international partnerships become clear.
  • Markets are not equal. Markets are very different in the U.S. and base of the pyramid. The consumer needs and the costs of entry are very different, as are the ongoing costs of doing business. We need better descriptions of the end-user benefits before we rule out domestic investment. The fact that the U.S. has created a Social Innovation Fund should signal some hope that we’re moving out of the era of big NGOs and into trimmer enterprise-led solutions to social dilemmas.
  • The U.S. is a terrific incubator. Domestic investments are, counterintuitively, investments in international social entrepreneurship. At MIT, 25% of team members in competitions like IDEAS and the Global Challenge are international. At the same time, partnerships should be considered an essential investment criteria for anyone considering funding for a social enterprise outside the U.S. in which American actors play a part.
  • Finally, there isn’t much in the article to suggest how the U.S. can move from being a laggard – if the proposition is true – to being a leader. Its not clear how investing in social entrepreneurs globally will advance the U.S. leadership position.

Its probably true that the United States, and much of the donor base that operates out of the U.S., has over-invested in well-intentioned – and ultimately fruitless – self-styled innovators who don’t have the problem-solving knack needed to tackle persistent problems abroad. But that’s not sufficient in my book to suggest we lag. Nor that entrepreneurs abroad are any more likely to achieve success – precisely because these are tough challenges that often require a rare confluence of skills, experiences and resources necessary to solve them.

At the end of the day, we need to create more opportunities for entrepreneurial thinkers to encounter each other – whether that’s through competition spaces, incubators, networking events like Design Indaba, Maker Faire AfricaSocial Capital Markets, Pop!Tech, and the Skoll World Forum to name just a few. The important concept is that these are how learning networks are fed, and from these networks innovation is sparked. We also need to seek out, recognize, and support nascent talent where it lies, and foster spaces where young problem-solvers like William Kamkwamba can encounter and build the personal networks that often build toward successful social enterprises.

Come get a sneak peak at some of the terrific ideas MIT students are coming up with as we prepare to launch the MIT Global Challenge, a competition platform to connect and reward innovators inside and outside the MIT community that are tackling barriers to well-being.

Wildfire Combines Viral Power of Voting and Sweepstakes

Wildfire, the social competition application for Facebook, has recently landed a couple of big name gigs, including Gatorade and Britney Spears. I’m glad their sharing what they’re learning as they implement inducement prizes and social filtering within social spaces. While the aim is to move product, the lessons I think can be pulled into plans to engage communities in social benefit campaigns – like IDEAS!

Here’s what they’ve said about their recent work:

Gatorade is the first to use our latest and most powerful campaign format – a combination of voting and sweepstakes. This format will soon be available to everyone on our platform.

Different campaigns are viral for different reasons. Voting formats are often viral because they involve self-expression. Voters like to broadcast their opinion to their friends (in the case of Gatorade, for example, voters can express which moment in Michael Jordan’s career they think was the best) by publishing newsfeeds….which results in more people learning about the campaign….which leads to more newsfeeds being published.

Sweepstakes, on the other hand, are extremely powerful because they enable companies to gather information about their users (contact info, email address etc) and to encourage them to become fans of a company’s fan page and/or join a company’s newsletter. Sweepstakes that utilize our ’social’ prize format (see below) are also highly viral because they encourage entrants to invite their friends. A voting campaign combined with a sweepstakes (e.g. “Vote for your favorite Michael Jordan moment and then enter the sweepstakes for the chance to meet Michael Jordan”) offers the best of both worlds – a highly viral, newsfeed driven campaign plus a powerful way to generate leads and build fans.

 

By combining the viral strengths of these two campaign formats, we’ve created the most powerful Facebook marketing campaign format on the web.

Lessons from America’s Giving Challenge

America's Giving Challenge

Download the America's Giving Challenge report from www.casefoundation.org

In 2007 the Case Foundation sponsored two distinct charity drives across two very different platforms, in part I suspect to change the top-down charity model to one of partnership and engagement and also to stress-test the emerging socialweb as a platform for carrying out its philanthropic interests.

In June they released a report on what they learned, titled America’s Giving Challenge: Assessment and Reflection Report. Written by socialmedia guru Beth Kanter – also one of the Challenge’s winners – and tech expert Allison Fine of Demos.org, its a pretty straightforward head-to-head comparison of the performance of both approaches.

On the one hand, Case launched America’s Giving Challenge with PARADE Magazine and through parade.com, an example of a mainstream publishing giant adapting to a new Internet reality. The second challenge, the Causes Giving Challenge, was run through Facebook, one of the most popular social networks on the web.

Both Challenges performed incredibly well, though in very different ways. As the report states, “America’s Giving Challenge raised $1,193,024 from 46,044 donors for 2,482 causes. The Causes Giving Challenge raised a total of $571,686 from 25,795 unique donors for 3,936 causes.” Continue reading ‘Lessons from America’s Giving Challenge’

Gleanings from X Prize/I2I

The Incentive to Innovate conference hosted by X Prize Foundation and British Telecom was held at the UN headquarters in New York June 8-9, 2009

The Incentive to Innovate conference hosted by X Prize Foundation and British Telecom was held at the UN headquarters in New York June 8-9, 2009

Enjoyed two days of open exchange around the role of inducement prizes to foster innovation, solve problems, and develop new sources of business value. Brought together by X Prize Foundation folks and British Telecom, Incentive to Innovate was packed with excellent panels and interesting folks w/a range of backgrounds – industry, non-profit, gov, academic etc.

Important to say off the bat is that one of the features I enjoyed most were the “break-out” discussions (NTS: need better physical setting), in particular one conversation centered on using prizes to address poverty and other development-related challenges. While the “product” of these conversations was centered on defining new competition space, they did surface interesting tensions and dynamics in approaches. One in our group was how you involve the beneficiaries in these competitions directly, so we break the mold of Northern winners, Southern venues. No solid answers, but I think Grameen offers a good, if “high burden” model of getting people out into the field – in this case to host conversations, sort of bridge the “customer-solver-inventor” gap.

Among those I found most helpful in applying their experiences to the Global Challenge:

  • Peter Diamandis, X Prize: Define the challenge in terms of measurables – specific. Think about not just producing a product, but catalyzing an entire industry.
  • Filippo Passolini, Proctor & Gamble: Don’t orchestrate – create a context for self-organization.
  • Paul Jansen, McKinsey & Co: Be prepared to support winners with follow-up eg getting innovations to market is an entirely different proposition.
  • Rob McEwen, US Gold and Marthin de Beer, CISCO: Have a plan for internal resistance and addressing organization culture.

Continue reading ‘Gleanings from X Prize/I2I’

McKinsey Report on Prizes and Innovation

"And the Winner Is..." (McKinsey, March 2009)McKinsey and Company recently put out a significant report on prizes as incentives to innovate which is quite good, and very accessible. The report, And the Winner Is, offers a view of the current landscape of prizes and competitions for innovation and provides good insight in good practice. To follow are some notes.

Prizes to incentivize innovation are going through a renaissance – they’re calling these “philanthropic prizes.” Interestingly, find that, “prizes are a unique and powerful tool that should be in the basic toolkit of many of today’s philanthropists.” Some benefits of the “prize inducement” model are:

  • Identify new levels of excellence
  • Encourage specific innovations
  • Change wider perceptions
  • Improve performance of communities of problem solvers
  • Build the skills of individuals
  • Mobilize new talent and capital

Some promising practices identified in the report include:

  • Philanthropist matching a clear goal with a large group of potential problem solvers who are willing to absorb some risk.
  • Start with a clearly define aspiration for society benefit which can be translated into prize objectives that are specific, motivational, actionable, results-focused and time bound.
  • A good prize will invest significant resources into its design, specifying the competitor pool, rules and award attributes.
  • An effective prize process is at least as important as the prize design, which will attract candidates, manage the competition, celebrate winners, and publicize the effort.
  • A good sponsor will invest significant resources in post-prize activities that convert the awards result into long-term societal benefits.

Continue reading ‘McKinsey Report on Prizes and Innovation’

Inducement Prizes and Innovation

Thanks to Erika W. at X Prize, am reading a recent paper by Liam Brunt (University of Lausanne), Josh Lerner (Harvard) and Tom Nichols (Harvard) which examines a 19th century data set to discern insight into whether prize-awards are a useful mechanism to encourage innovation. The answer seems to be yes.

Some insights:

  • Metric. The number of contestants the prize competition attracts. 
  • Entry fees. Discourage spurrious entrants.
  • Money and medals. Used as substitutes, gold medal having largest entrant effect.
  • Diffusion. Shows drew popular interest, spread of technical knowledge.
  • Patents. Prize winners much more likely to patent after show than non. Interestingly, doubling of monetary award increases patent activity 6-7 percent in the technical area in the year of the show, while a gold medal has a 33 percent effect.
  • Lead time. Providing longer lead times to inventors raised the number of entrants.

The paper concludes that, among other things, that the monetary awards covered only about one third of the costs of implements and machinery exhibited. More potent was the exposure from the show and “society’s mark of approval.”