Rob Katz

Changemakers Cultivates Innovative Solutions for Smallholder Farmers

Changemakers – the Ashoka spinoff that uses “collaborative competitions” to identify innovative social enterprise models – is at it again. Their latest competition, sponsored by the Gates Foundation – is looking for “[i]nnovative solutions that span the entire agricultural value chain – from seeds to sales.” It’s called “Cultivating Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities.

(We have written about Changemakers in the past – they ran a great water & sanitation challenge, one on banking, one on health innovations, one on housing…and those are just the “bottom of the pyramid” focused competitions!)

If you haven’t heard of Changemakers before, here’s how it works: Project prospectuses are nominated or submitted online, then discussed and reviewed by the global Changemakers community. During the disucssion period, a panel of expert judges selects the competition finalists. Once the finalists are selected, Changemakers opens up the process to its community. The top vote-getters earn $5000 USD prizes.

The entry deadline is still about a month away (enter by May 13) and there are already 102 submitted entries as of this morning – with $15000 in prizes at stake, I’m not surprised. Even more, there are incentives for Indian companies in particular to get involved – CyberMedia, a media firm, will produce short spots on selected Indian winners. In addition, the Rural Innovations Network will provide incubation services for Indian winners.

Read the full competition guidelines here; please consider nominating a worthy project or submitting your own prospectus. At the very least, you will get the word out about your work…and there’s always the chance of a $5000 prize, a TV spot and an incubator waiting!

Added bonus: ally and TED Africa director Emeka Okafor is one of the judges. Longtime readers will undoubtedly know Emeka’s top-notch Timbuktu Chronicles blog. You can even follow him on Twitter these days! @emeka_okafor.

Good luck to the participants – will check in periodically and report back on the winners.