Build partnerships with a set of national foundations that agree to immediately consider each "top idea" finalist for a $50,000 proof of concept grant. The foundations would use OpenIDEO as a trusted source for high-quality, pre-qualified innovation investment opportunities. Finalists wouldn't necessarily be guaranteed funding, but they would be guaranteed this opportunity and visibility. Program officers could evaluate each top ideas finalist and decide whether to make the investment. Or, if a foundation preferred, they could allow OpenIDEO to make the evaluations and decisions. OpenIDEO, IDEO.org, or another partner could then serve as the fiscal sponsor for the grants, making it easy for the top idea teams to receive the funding.
The participating foundations could help define clear criteria for what makes a top idea a good fit for a proof of concept grant. Teams might be asked, during Refinement or perhaps after the Top Ideas are announced, to take some additional steps to qualify for the proof of concept grants. For example, they might need to define how they will use the money, create a clear three month or six month work plan, and defined the deliverable they will complete with the grant funds.
Program officers could manage the grants without a heavy administrative burden. A $50,000 proof of concept grant is small enough that it could generally be made without going through a full docket process (especially if the participation in the OpenIDEO program has already been vetted and approved). A total fund of $1.5M to $2M, , across all the participating foundations, should be sufficient to support OpenIDEO challenges (roughly five or six per year, each generating five or six top ideas). The actual funding required could be less since some ideas might not be funded.