Tag Archive for 'Competition'

Tackling the Global Education Crisis, One Innovation at a Time

Whether it’s helping Mexican university students bridge the gap between industry and academia, or providing Ugandan children with basic health education programs, many teams this year have chosen to tackle the difficult problems facing the global education sector.

In recent years, social innovators have joined the ranks of talented teachers and school administrators in rethinking traditional school models, finding creative ways to improve educational quality and access.

A new policy paper by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation might be of interest to those pursuing projects related to educational reform.

How Social Entrepreneurship is Helping to Improve Education Worldwide (available online) highlights the distinct contributions of social innovators in helping to improve early childhood education in low-income communities, creating alternate channels for funding, and providing basic skills to at-risk populations across the globe.

Author Rupert Scofield, President and CEO of the Foundation for International Community Assistance, draws from several interesting case studies that illustrate the potential for social enterprise to solve issues ranging from poor educational access to the growing achievement gap. The key to the success of these enterprises, Scofield writes, lies in their ability to effectively utilize business practices emphasizing sustainability and scalability – two important attributes of any winning IDEAS Challenge project! Here are a few examples:

In the Bronx, the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco) not only runs multiple afterschool programs and summer camps, but has also created hundreds of revenue-generating businesses within the community, helping to ensure the continued success and long-term sustainability of its programs.

In India, where harsh inequities prevail and 90 million women remain illiterate, the Mann Deshi Foundation provides vocational training and financial literacy to women in impoverished communities. It also runs the Mann Deshi Business School, which delivers microbusiness courses in mobile classrooms, and the Mann Deshi Mahlia Bank, which provides loans for its business school graduates to start microenterprises.

DonorsChoose.org is a charitable marketplace where teachers can make simple classroom requests, from pencils to microscope slides, for their students. As of August 2011, the website has generated $85 million benefitting more than 5 million schoolchildren in the U.S. The website notably allows individual donors to contribute to its overhead costs (with 76% choosing to do so), and has established diverse funding streams that include multiple corporate sponsors.

We hope that these examples of powerful — and sustainable — social innovations offer a bit of inspiration for those joining the education cause!

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’

How To Do an Innovation Challenge Not Right

 

Imagine Cup 2009 Student Competition

Imagine Cup 2009 Student Competition

Microsoft for several years has run something called the ImagineCup, which aims to engage students around the world in developing the next killer application. One of the exciting features is the annual Finals, which take place in a city around the world (this year it’ll be Cairo).

 

This year, the challenge “theme” is, “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today.” Tied to the Millennium Development Goals, the challenge invites students to submit entries in nine categories – software, embedded development, games, robotics, IT challenge, mashup, photography, film and design. First place prizes range from $25,000 to $8,000 depending on the category.

Its a lively an envigorating proposition.

Here’s what doesn’t work for me: just about every competition entry category that has legs must be built on a Microsoft product. Two specific points come to mind as lessons:

  • If you’re going to be about solving the world’s problems, the “platform” on which they are to be solved is a second order problem eg is this really marketing to students? Lesson: communicate the intent clearly.
  • If you’re inviting the very best from students in a learning process, why not draw upon their existing base of talent and expertise instead of shoehorning them into a specific tool set? Lesson: meet people where they’re at.

Aside: Imagine Cup has an interesting feature called a “Leader Board” – I am sure this is something that could be a fun tool to engage visitors and users using a combination of intelligent analytics and user feedback tools.

March Madness: We’re Not Playing Basketball

[From Business Week] “It’s March Madness time, all right. But the competition in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington had absolutely nothing to do with basketball. This annual event, March Madness for the Mind, is organized by the National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), a network of more than 200 universities that promote innovation by underwriting and mentoring teams of college student inventors.

More important, the 14-student e-teams (and one high school team sponsored by a different NCIIA program) got to rub elbows with more than a dozen venture capitalists, who might help take their ideas from the lab to the marketplace.”

At least one team - Affordable Solar Thermal Microgenerator Technology for Rural Cogeneration in Southern Africa - is from MIT. Check out the great slideshow of this year’s inventions here.