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Last month, I was invited to speak to the Unlikely Allies crowd in Berlin, a select group of 150 change-makers from around the world brought together by Impact Hub. Here's what I told them about how we're CrowdSolving global problems:
How do we ensure technology generates more prospects than it destroys? How do we sustainably feed 9 billion people? How do we ensure that digital transformations don’t widen income inequality?
These are just a few of the many challenges our world faces as it changes at an exponential speed, and we must find ways to keep up. Exponential change calls for exponential collaboration: so how do we collaborate exponentially? Read on for strategies inspired by our work at Solve, where each year we issue four challenges, and use open innovation and collaboration to find and support the most promising solutions.
1. “If we include everyone, we can solve everything”
Have you ever used the app Duolingo to learn languages, or edited a Wikipedia page? If you answered yes, then you have taken part in mass collaboration. You’ve contributed free time to building a reliable translation engine, or the world’s largest encyclopedia.
There are more examples of mass collaboration leading to solving problems. Online gamers collaborate for discoveries, such as figuring out the structure of an AIDS-related enzyme in 10 days on Foldit—a breakthrough that took scientists a decade. Data sharing on collaborative platforms has enabled widespread improvements in well-being such as real-time traffic sharing that saves local drivers time and gas on their commutes. Additionally, purpose-driven organizations are using crowd-sourcing to achieve their core objectives, from Kiva crowd-vetting loan requests to Ushahidi crowd-mapping elections and human rights violations.
At Solve, we believe these collaborative talent, ingenuity, and creativity exist everywhere. To find them, here are three things we do when sourcing solutions to our challenges:
- A) Anyone, anywhere can apply: There are no pre-requisites for our Solvers—some are pro-bono experiments, others are a cash-positive, venture-backed companies.
- B) Worldwide outreach: To ensure our call is heard worldwide, our outreach strategy includes holding independently organized Solve-a-Thons in cities like: Beirut, Ho Chi Minh, Berlin, and Portland, ME. You can host one by filling out this short application form.
- C) Frictionless collaboration: Our online innovation platform allows contributors to interact, build teams, and vote up and down solutions. Join in on the fun here.
Our goal is to include as many people as possible. As Megan Smith, 3rd Chief Technology Officer of the U.S., said during our Solve flagship meeting, “If we include everyone, we can solve everything.”
2. Engineering and supercharging trustworthy partnerships
To really unlock the power of open innovation to catalyze scalable solutions and systemic change, partnerships must be cultivated. Building partnerships is an art as much as a science. It is an exercise in trust that cannot be coded. Solving the complex problems of our world takes participation at all levels across industries, governments, and civil societies. Take for example Kiron, one of our solutions to Solve’s Refugee Education challenge. Kiron is a Berlin-based open education start-up that allows refugees to earn free college credits and degrees. It reaches thousands of refugees because its programs are recognized by governments and certified by global universities. Through its multi-stakeholder partnerships, Kiron has established the credibility and support to scale.
Solve helps broker similar partnerships for Solvers, to support the most promising solutions submitted on our open innovation platform. Here are three ways we do this:
- A) Curated community: The Solve network is made up of selected technologists, social entrepreneurs, business leaders, policymakers, researchers, and other change-agents who have a shared purpose of supporting the most promising solutions to pressing challenges.
- B) Dedicated support: Relationship officers get to know community members’ social and environmental impact goals to develop a targeted support plan.
- C) Convening: Our meetings supercharge the community. Through carefully engineered working sessions, we see conversations blossom into commitments at a rate and speed they wouldn’t otherwise.
So, here’s our challenge to you: Have you been working on solving challenges related to youth and skills, tech for women and girls, brain health, or food and water sustainability? Submit your ideas and work on our open innovation platform at solve.mit.edu/challenges—anyone can take part. You can build teams and get help on our platform. If you’re selected by our judges, we work with you to broker partnerships that will help you develop and scale your solution.
If you don’t have a solution, but want to join our efforts, you can make a difference by becoming a member of the Solve community.
Let’s Solve together. Join the movement today.