Rob Katz

Changemakers – Putting Health Innovations into Practice

Changemakers HealthWeb 2.0, meet BOP. (Wow, now that is a jargon-laden sentence.) Hopefully my jargon serves to highlight some of the latest efforts to bring the broad web community together in search of the next, best base of the pyramid idea. Yesterday, I introduced IBM’s upcoming ThinkPlace Challenge – Africa, which will solicit innovative ideas (and comments about them) for three weeks starting on Monday. Today, it’s healthcare and Changemakers’ turn.

Changemakers is an Ashoka initiative that focuses on social innovation. In the spirit of market incentives, Changemakers holds idea competitions – with monetary prizes – to solicit the best ideas and models in emerging areas of social innovation. They’re trying to build a new market for compelling topics in the field; the latest is entitled Disruptive Innovations in Health and Healthcare: Solutions People Want.It’s no small task – but that’s where we come in. The competition is open. Just browse over to the solution mosaic to check out the current submissions. You can comment, discuss, and submit your own idea. The top three ideas – judging criteria available here – will receive $5,000 cash prizes.

This Changemakers competition is a bit different – they’ve partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help put the ideas into action. From the competition Welcome Letter, here are the details:

It is our hope that the projects entered in the Disruptive Innovations competition can trigger similarly positive and profound change in health and health care in the United States. We look forward to seeing your innovative solutions for how we can improve access to care, lower costs, promote greater efficiency, and deliver higher-quality services in ways that empower consumers.

Following the Changemakers competition, selected entries will be invited to submit proposals to RWJF’s Pioneer Portfolio for future funding consideration. A total of up to $5 million in grants is available to support promising disruptive innovations in health and health care. (my emphasis) The Foundation will be looking particularly for innovations that show potential to produce significant improvement in health and health care in the U.S. Organizations must operate in the U.S. or its territories in order to be eligible for RWJF funding.

This is a huge step in the right direction. It is no longer enough to have a good idea, or even to solicit the best ones. The base of the pyramid movement is approaching 10 years of age (the Hart/Prahalad white paper came out in 1998/1999 — it’s astounding that it took 4 years to get it published, but that’s another post for another day). We have to get out of the idea-only mindset and start getting something done.

And that’s what Changemakers is doing with this partnership – they are creating a pipeline of investible healthcare innovations from the bottom up (sorry, blogosphere, but we’re the bottom in this case) and mapping them right to a funding source.

Granted – no pun intended – it might be better if that funding source were a hybrid of commercial investment capital with RWJF grants, or even IFI money (from the IFC or the Inter-American Development Bank), but I’ll take it one step at a time. This is a good sign for the BOP area, and for the health area in particular. Kudos to Ashoka, Changemakers, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for getting together to put this competition on.

(Side note: the other BOP competition now open is the BiD Challenge)