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Broadening Challenge Sponsorship to Innovative Social Enterprise Upstarts & Socially Conscious Corporate Transformation

So far, challenge sponsors have mainly consisted of large nonprofits, corporate philanthropy departments, public organizations, & celebrities, which is to be expected, given that being a challenge sponsor costs ~$50K (based on the quote Jennifer Davis received). These challenges have been great, but what would happen if we also had challenges run for scrappy, innovative, on-the-ground social enterprise upstarts; which could be subsidized by working with large corporations to transform their core business (not just their philanthropic/cause marketing programs) to become more socially conscious. How much positive impact could we achieve?

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In the past year, OpenIDEO has hosted ~10 challenges for large, well-resourced organizations at an estimated cost of ~$500k ($50k/challenge).

Various concepts have proposed opening up challenge creation to more organizations & people (linked to in the "built on this" section), which could really multiply the impact of the OpenIDEO innovation community.

However, it's important to remember that the OpenIDEO staff serve a vital role in making challenges successful: finding & working with challenge sponsors to frame the question appropriately; facilitating the collaboration through synthesizing patterns/themes, featuring ideas, encouraging comments, & thoughtful community management; often doing 1st-person research to bring the context to life & launching pilots towards implementation; workshopping with challenge sponsors to select promising ideas to actually be realized; etc. Though there could presumably be an OpenIDEO challenge lite option, there will still be costs associated with these important activities to ensure quality processes & results.

How can more OpenIDEO challenges be run with a broader range of organizations, while maintaining the high quality & end results, given the limited resources of OpenIDEO itself (~ 5 full-time staff).

Imagine if large corporations sponsored OpenIDEO challenges to generate new ideas for fulfilling their social purpose  while earning healthy sustainable returns. For instance, what if more companies adopted the Zipcar service model of letting you conveniently and easily share & rent expensive items only when you use them, as opposed to advertising to everyone to buy new at a huge financial & environmental cost? At this scale, changes can often create huge impacts (of the 100 largest economies in the world, most are corporations, not countries). For example, though Walmart has a host of issues I won't go into here, it's efforts to become more sustainable have not only made a huge difference in their own operations, but also affected the many companies in their ecosystem that are becoming more sustainable themselves to maintain their Walmart relationship, including >60K suppliers such as Fortune 500 companies General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Procter & Gamble, Verizon, Coca-Cola, etc. And, given that this would be focused on transforming their core businesses (rather than their philanthropic initiatives which tend to be a fraction of their operations: in US, generally somewhere below the 10% of income that is tax-deductible), the challenge hosting fees could likely be significantly higher (i.e. more similar to the fees being paid for traditional design, strategy, & research consulting work).

This in turn, could subsidize OpenIDEO challenges to help innovate social enterprise upstarts that are potential game changers: 1 large corporate challenge would allow for multiple upstart social enterprise challenges. This could involve even more upstart social enterprises if they choose to partner up to co-sponsor a shared challenge question of interest. For example, imagine if a consortium of education organizations (such as Harlem Children's Zone, Aspire Public Schools, Citizen Schools, etc.) partnered together to sponsor a series of challenges on how to improve public education. Besides splitting the costs, this also increase the # of invested organizations in a challenge who will be pursuing realization of the generated ideas.

What kind of social impact does this concept achieve?

By expanding OpenIDEO challenges to upstart social enterprise game changers and socially conscious corporate transformation at scale, we can increase the depth & breadth of OpenIDEO's positive social impact.

What skills are required to take this concept forward?

The required skills for these new OpenIDEO challenges have already been demonstrated by the OpenIDEO community & staff in previous challenges. Effort would be needed to tailor the challenge approach for these new types of sponsors.

How do you envision this concept being supported financially?

Expansion would be supported by increased challenge fee revenues.


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I´m all in! Great Idea

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