Solution 100 -challenge prize (Crowdsourcing the challenge)
Who gets to set the direction of travel has been identified as a key concern of challenge led policy. Utilising an online crowdsourcing tool, the challenge prize Solution 100 provided a novel approach to addressing this question. By crowdsourcing the challenge formulation, the competition organisers built legitimacy for the prize along with a deep understanding of the challenge that was to be addressed. The chosen method combined knowledge gained through crowdsourcing and expert panels.
Ratkaisu 100 challenge prize sought solutions to key future challenges in the spheres of education and work. It was organised by Sitra, the Finnish innovation fund in 2016 and 2017 in celebration of Finland’s centennial. The competition called for social innovations that could catalyse the effective identification and utilisation of people’s expertise and abilities in a context where human resources and knowledge frequently move across boundaries.
The two winning teams, Positive CV and Headai were granted a total of one million euros to implement their ideas. The winners were chosen by an independent, seven-person jury. The jury assessed the effectiveness, innovativeness and feasibility of each solution.
Over the two-year period, Ratkaisu 100 progressed through three stages. First, members of the general public were asked what they thought was the most important social challenge affecting the whole of Finland. Next, Sitra launched a public call for teams with diverse backgrounds who were motivated to create innovative solutions. The call was open for anyone to submit their proposal. In the last stage, the teams received incubation support while competing to develop the most promising social innovation.
The bottom-up approach to defining the challenge at the beginning of the challenge prize process gave us the necessary legitimacy for the rest of the competition. As well as creating the public visibility that was a pre-condition for the success of the prize, the crowdsourcing process provided us with exceptional knowledge of the challenge that the prize set out to address.
The crowdsourcing process developed in three stages. First, the general public were asked through an open online vote what they perceived as the most important social challenge affecting Finland’s future. The responses were gathered on an online platform, where it was also possible to comment on other people’s ideas. In total, a 1000 challenges were put forward.
For a detailed definition of the challenge, an impartial 25 member expert panel was assembled. This panel familiarised itself with the proposals, examined the scientific evidence behind them, as well as spoke to various experts that worked on the questions in Finland.
The panel formulated four challenges, which were then put forward to the public for a vote. A well-known media person was chosen as a representative for each of the four challenges.
After a total of 3000 received votes, the following challenge formulation was chosen: To develop a solution that allows for the more effective identification and utilisation of expertise and capabilities in a world where people and information move from country to country more than ever before.
In sum, the challenge prize constitutes an extremely important case in examining the affordances of novel technologies in engaging the public when setting the direction of policies. It forms an important successful case in addressing one of the key concerns in challenge/mission led policy, i.e. ensuring that citizens are deeply involved in co-creating the missions/challenges that matter to society.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Despite much excitement, not enough is yet known about practical affordances of challenge/mission- led policy. Solution 100 constitutes a major attempt in doing challenge/mission led policy in practice. Systematically, it sought to address also the more contentious points associated with it, not least the accusation that historically such policies have more often been led more top-down rather than bottom-up. To ensure that its lessons would learnt more widely, the prize was accompanied by a major study that systemised its learnings in to a publicly available report.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The competition organisers and researchers are continuing their collaboration, writing up findings in academic papers as well as policy reports. Currently, the researchers are conducting a follow up study on the current state of the innovations that came out of the prize.
In particular, although the crowdsourcing was done as part of a challenge prize, we believe that the lessons learned can be extremely valuable in any mission-setting process.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Citizens played an important role in the process. The whole method was based on the value of citizen engagement.
Company called Viima Solutions Oy offered the digital platform that was used for crowdsourcing.
Process around the expert-panel was designed together with consultancy company Demos Helsinki.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The process legitimated the challenge/mission that was built upon it. This benefited Sitra as an innovation organization in terms of allocating money and resources for the challenge.
Another beneficiary were the innovators who participated the competition. Because of the bottom-up crowdsourcing process and the expert-group, teams had a wealth of knowledge and data about the challenge they sought out to address.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The crowdsourced mission helped us to legitimize and carry out the challenge prize program. Summary of the evaluation of the challenge prize:
1. New brains to solve challenges. At best, challenge prizes attract new and competent experts to the field defined by the challenge, determine important criteria for new innovations and speed up the development of innovations.
2. Ideas develop together. Challenge prizes with an integrated incubator or development period can considerably support the progress of the participating teams’ idea journeys.
3. Different teams benefit from competitions in different ways. Significant differences can usually be seen in the development of the participating teams’ idea journeys. Different teams benefit from the challenge prize in different ways and the teams’ different needs should therefore be taken into account when planning the challenge prize.
4. Discussions speed up the creation of innovations. Evidence from research shows that various interactions
Challenges and Failures
When seeking to define a challenge/mission with a bottom-up approach, it is imperative to be clear about the problem that the challenge/mission seeks to address. The mission/challenge is largely defined by the problem that it seeks to address.
We learnt that a challenge/mission defined through a crowdsourcing and expert does not necessarily automatically take the form that it is usable in an innovation contest.
Missions must thus be defined according to their use. Should a mission be clearly understood by a lay person, or should it motivate innovators around the world? Or perhaps activists. The way a mission is defined has major implications for who will seek to participate in addressing it. This must be kept in mind and will require more thought in the future.
Conditions for Success
Time is the most important precondition for a crowdsourcing process. If done well, it requires time. A major part of the process is to create shared knowledge between the actors participating in the process. This takes time also.
In addition, what is needed are facilitatation and communication skills. Expert panels must be organised and facilitated in such a way that the panels understand their role and potential high influence in the process. From the crowdsourcing aspect it is important to communicate the message clearly, so that a wide variety of audiences will feel like they can participate.
Not yet, but the process could be easily replicated. We are currently writing a policy brief on the topic, so that other organisations could use a similar bottom-up approach when setting challenges/missions.
Bottom-up approaches can be slow and challenges, but also extremely rewarding. The key thing is to combine different types of knowledge (for example citizen and expert) during the process. How precisely to facilitate this is the hard part.
Furthermore, it is important to consider who should wield the decision making power during the process. In our care, the power was with the citizens more than the experts. Regardless of who this power is given to, it is important to communicate clearly why the decision has been made. Each project must consider what the division should be in their respective case. Most likely there is no one size fits all.