Thursday
July 2
2009

Francisco Noguera

Have you Been to Changemakers Lately? It’s About Time

Changemakers is one of the web’s most dynamic and interesting destinations for those of us interested in ideas and their power to advance tangible change in the lives of the “next billion”. Its recent re-design and the upcoming finals for one of their competitions (one very much in the vein of development through enterprise) are reasons compelling enough for me to ask you: have you been to Changemakers lately? If the answer is no, well it’s about time.

Their new site is refreshing in so many ways. Visually it a made a great leap forward, showing beautiful pictures that introduce their variuous competitions, like the ones that ends in just five days which is focused on innovations to improve the lives of rural communities. It also has other new and interesting features such as a space for stories, a summary of Changemakers and solutions by country and a space where anyone can start group discussions on topic related to social change.

The site (and competitions in general) serves a very important purpose: it helps unveil many solutions and entrepreneurs out there, who would otherwise remain unheard of. This platform opens up the space for people interested to identify previous entries ideas in their topic and region of interest. The one thing I’m not 100% on board with is Changemakers’ prize structure. Cash prizes (which are the norm at least in the competitions I’ve checked out before… I hereby confess I’ve not looked at every one of them) only go so far. Most of the entries in compatitions like Changemakers are entrepreneurs who would find other prizes much more useful for the purpose of launching their ventures.

Sure, you can argue that the competition’s prize is not only cash but also recognition and visibility, which are also of great importance. Agreed. But how about recognition plus visbility plus, say, a scholarship at business incubator such as GSBI? Or a scholarship to travel and participate in the next IDDS or Maker Faire? Each competition draws a different pool of entrepreneurs who may benefit from different opportunities and connections that may well replace or add to the current cash prizes.

The good news is that “prize design” is becoming more of a science and less of an art. At least that’s my takeaway after reading Rob’s entry on Incentive2Innovate, thanks to which I found out that McKinsey has been doing some thinking on the subject of prizes and competitions for social change. (A bit off topic but this is not the only fascinating thing McKinsey has surprised me with lately. Have you been to What Matters?)

I look forward to continuing the conversation on the topic and prizes and competitions in BoP contexts. In fact, stay tuned for what I hope will be an interesting interview with a researcher on the topic. However, this shouldn’t be a distraction from the original purpose of this post: Check out the new Changemakers. If anyone in this space is testing ideas in this area for the rest of us to take action and comment, they are the ones.

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