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Cards for Humanity

An online platform will gamify translational innovation, generating new solutions at the intersection of Peace, Prosperity, and Planet.

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Around the world, thousands of teams are designing transformational innovations aimed at tackling complex challenges – from a technology company developing tablets that deliver educational content to Syrian children living in refugee camps; to a Kenyan mango cooperative adopting a new model of transporting their fruit to market; to a Brazilian company producing eco-friendly plastic. What if the teams developing and implementing these solutions had access to a platform that enabled them to learn from each other’s ideas, processes, successes, and failures? The possibilities for real-world impact would be endless. 

Such is the power of translational innovation – when a successful idea or solution from one context (e.g., cold chain storage to safely transport vaccines in Europe) is applied and adapted to another context (e.g., transporting perishable fruits and vegetables from farm to market in Sub-Saharan Africa). As author and entrepreneur Frans Johansson explains, “When you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas” (Johansson 2004). However, these ideas often fail, not because the idea or solution is poor, but because the team overlooks important aspects of the new context (social, cultural, infrastructural, etc.) that made the idea or solution work in the past.

We want to develop a hybrid platform that merges online gaming with knowledge management to spark translational innovation for social good across diverse teams of innovators, bridging Peace, Prosperity, and Planet. Faced with these complex challenges, teams of innovators use a card game to develop solutions, which they can then share with innovators from other domains or sectors via an online platform that highlights their roadblocks and successes. The result: innovators uncover the building blocks of successful innovations and begin to see how those building blocks could serve as the basis of their own innovative solutions to social, economic, and environmental challenges.

Explain your idea

Cards for Humanity guides innovators through a series of steps, but would allow for flexibility to cater to each unique user and would require iterations at certain steps before moving forward. The steps are as follows: 1. A single team working on a specific, complex challenge—for example, a national Department of Education hoping to improve the use of technology for learning in the classroom—goes online and gathers around a computer to play a card game. Each card details a different solution idea based off of key human-centered design and Collaborative Innovation components (e.g., a card that outlines “new approaches for garnering private investment” or “walk a mile in the end user’s shoes, literally”). After drawing several cards, the team brainstorms different combinations of these options and the order in which they’re applied, resulting in a rough prototype of their solution. 2. The team then fills out a standard template to populate a “Key Insights Dashboard” that can then be uploaded to the shared online platform. The team updates their Dashboard at key innovation milestones (e.g., prototype, pilot, scale) as prompted by the online system. 3. After uploading to the dashboard, the team can then see other teams’ insights garnered from the cards. Teams can highlight the aspects of their approach that were successful and unsuccessful, such that other teams might be able to adopt and adapt those tested solutions. In this way, the Key Insights Dashboard provides teams important touchpoints for learning not just about the solution but the process for success. We believe the processes people use to successfully innovate on complex challenges will build the bridges that grow successful translation, and that knowledge of how the teams met those challenges is just as important, if not more, than what they produced. 4. As more and more teams begin to engage with the platform and upload their ideas/solutions, we will begin to grow a wealth of quantitative data showing how different types of tools and approaches / processes worked (or didn’t work) in addressing different types of challenges. This is very valuable data that could eventually be used to more easily point teams in the direction of a potentially successful approach given their focal challenge. After creating Cards for Humanity’s beta software, we will play the game and create dashboards with friends and family to ensure that it translates clearly to a range of audiences. After these initial tests, we will ask our most trusted partners to pilot the platform and fill out lite-touch surveys on its usability, appropriateness and value. These surveys will also help us to gauge which parts of the site provide the greatest value (the game, creating or reading dashboards) and which require more incentives.

Who Benefits?

Launching Cards for Humanity requires an already existing critical mass of innovators willing to take the risk of sharing ideas (which will take time and could make innovators vulnerable if speaking about failure) and hoping that they will in return be able to learn something valuable from others. For this reason, we would reach out to the 43 networks made of the thousands of partners from 67 countries that we have trained and supported in Collaborative Innovation over the past seven years. Having already experienced the value-added of working with us, these innovators will have the opportunity to serve as Cards for Humanity’s first adopters. Growing the Cards for Humanity platform will require inviting new innovators across geographies, sectors, and stages of innovation to join the process. These innovators will benefit by learning from one another's experiences, successes, and failures--ultimately maximizing impact for their target beneficiaries.

How is your idea unique?

Our idea uniquely brings together Collaborative Innovation and human-centered design approaches in an interactive online form. Whereas there are currently platforms that facilitate human-centered design and open innovation (thanks OpenIDEO!), there are none that enable collaboration in the innovation process from blueprint through to scale. By gamifying this process, we increase the incentives to participation and strengthen deeper learning around important aspects of innovation.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about you

The Global Knowledge Initiative builds purpose-driven networks to deliver innovation solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. We thrive on creating the enabling environment, the mindset, and the tools that make Collaborative Innovation possible. Specifically, we help innovators locate resources for problem solving; enable effective collaboration by building skills and designing shared agendas; and connect resources and partners into durable networks; all to solve pressing problems and create shared value. While we have facilitated Collaborative Innovation and human-centered design across many networks, we have rarely done so through an online game and never through an entirely virtual knowledge management network. We will seek assistance in the gamification of our tools and in the launch of the online platform.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.


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