Challenges FAQ

OpenIDEO Challenges Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What are OpenIDEO Challenges?

Challenges are guided idea accelerators that give people worldwide the design tools, connections, and support to build solutions for a tough societal problem. This is a great place to start if you’re getting to know OpenIDEO. Explore our Challenges.

OpenIDEO Challenges—developed in partnership with a Sponsor organization—surface and support innovative solutions for pressing social and environmental issues. Hosted on OpenIDEO’s online open innovation platform, Challenges begin with a call for ideas and guide participants through phases of the design thinking process to advance their projects. Challenges expand on the power of crowdsourcing, bringing together diverse, collaborative communities that share insights and build on the ideas of many to accelerate impact. Challenges may include events, mentorship, tools, funding and other opportunities to help participants scale and implement their solutions.

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Who can join Challenges?

Anyone! No matter what field you work in, what level of experience you have, or what country you’re from, if you're ready to work with others to tackle big issues, we'd love for you to join us. You may join as an individual, as a representative of an organization, or as part of a team. We believe that by sharing our diverse perspectives, talents and ideas with each other, we’ll be better equipped to tackle issues in innovative ways.

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What do I have to do, and how long will it take?

We welcome you to share your ideas and help develop solutions with people around the world. The primary goal of Challenges is to invite people to create and advance ideas over the course of 3 to 5 months, ideally spending at least a couple hours a week building solutions. The more you put into the process, the more you can expect to get out of it. There are lots of ways to get involved depending on your skills and capacity, from sharing quick feedback to hosting events. Be sure to read the Brief for every Challenge, as each one may offer different opportunities to jump in as the Challenge progresses.

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What are the Challenge Phases and how can I participate in each Phase?

Our typical Challenge will go through a number of Phases, inspired by the phases in the design thinking process. Check the Brief on the Challenge you are interested in to see which Phases are included, or the Challenges page for a general overview of our process. Each Phase may last from a week to more than a month, so be sure to note big deadlines on the Challenge Brief timeline. 

In each Phase, you’ll have the chance to try out a different part of the design process, and we’ll share tools and activities to support you along the way. The Brief will include a description of the activities possible in each Phase: from sharing research and ideas to participating in events and collaborative feedback. Some activities—like submitting ideas or editing posts—may no longer be possible after certain Phases are completed. Throughout, you can always help improve submissions by sharing feedback in the comments.

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Do I need to have an idea already?

No existing idea required. Each Challenge is different: some look for existing concepts backed by established organizations, while some seek brand new ideas to develop. If you would like your submission to be considered as a Top Idea contender, be sure to check that it satisfies the eligibility criteria found on the Challenge Brief. Regardless, you can add anything from back-of-the-napkin sketches to ready-to-scale projects to every Challenge, and, no matter the stage of your idea, you’ll gain access to helpful insights and tools going through our process.

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Who will see my idea?

When you post your idea, it will be shared openly with the Challenge community. Why? We've seen that the best innovation comes from co-creation amongst people with varied skills and experiences—people like you and the thousands of talented individuals that make up the OpenIDEO community. We encourage you to welcome feedback, share your expertise, and build on each other’s ideas. We call this open innovation, and trust us: it works.

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How can I make my submission a Top Idea?

Top Ideas are the ideas that best answer the Challenge question and that we believe have the most potential for impact in the world, selected by our Challenge Sponsor and our team according to the evaluation criteria listed on every Challenge Brief. Top Ideas may be awarded funding and other implementation support by our Sponsors. Even if your idea isn’t ultimately selected, though, there’s still so much you can gain by participating in the Challenge.

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Who works on Challenges at OpenIDEO?

Each Challenge is created in partnership between the OpenIDEO team and a Sponsor organization working to drive social innovation. Together with the Sponsor, we’ll review and evaluate every submission, identifying Top Ideas for celebration and support. Interested in sponsorship? Learn More.

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Challenge Process

How are OpenIDEO Challenge topics selected? Can I suggest a Challenge topic?

We select our social impact Challenge topics in partnership with a Sponsor organization. We work closely with our Sponsor to develop an open innovation program around their goals, and together define the Challenge question and criteria to accelerate change around the big issue our Sponsor seeks to address. Currently, all our Challenges require financial sponsorship to launch, so we cannot accept topic requests from the general public. However, if you've got a burning social issue and creative ideas for sourcing funding, let us know in an email and we'll be sure to keep it in mind as new opportunities arise.

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Will the OpenIDEO team be available to help guide me during the Challenge?

Think of the members of the OpenIDEO team as facilitators. We’re here to make connections and encourage you to collaborate, help you focus on what’s important, and give you human-centered design tools to get the most out of your experience. On the OpenIDEO platform, you will often see OpenIDEO Community Managers engaging with ideas, and we sometimes host Office Hours during Challenges to answer questions and provide guidance. While we don’t aim to comment on every post or join every conversation—we do hope to spark discussion, reflection and action, and help our OpenIDEO community thrive.

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What do Top Idea winners receive?

It depends! We work with our Sponsors to define prize opportunities for Top Idea winners, and these change from Challenge to Challenge. All Top Ideas will receive community feedback and celebration, including features on OpenIDEO social media, email newsletters, and the Challenge Top Ideas page—which will live on past the close of the Challenge to inspire future visitors. Winners may receive post-Challenge design or implementation support, funding, mentorship, opportunities to develop ideas in-house with our Sponsor, and access to special events, networks, and accelerators. Check the Challenge Brief to learn more.

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Can I participate in more than one Challenge?

Yes! We highly encourage you to participate in any Challenge that interests you, and have seen many participants gain unique skills, connections, and inspiration after participating in multiple Challenges. Just make sure to read the eligibility criteria in the Challenge Brief to ensure that your organization and idea are a fit if you’d like your submission to be considered as a potential Top Idea. 

And remember—while encouraged, you don’t always need to submit an idea to join a Challenge—your feedback and insights are valuable to the community when you don’t have the capacity or expertise to develop an idea.

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Using The Platform

How do I join an OpenIDEO Challenge?

There are three primary ways to join a Challenge: submitting an Research or Ideas post, sharing comments, and taking on a Challenge community leadership role.

  1. You can join any Challenge by submitting posts to the Research or Ideas Phase while they are active. Navigate to the Phase page in the Challenge, and look for the orange or green button under the introduction to create your submission. Once these Phases have closed, no new submissions will be accepted for that Challenge.
  2. If you don't have ideas to share, we encourage you to join the Challenge community by building off the ideas of others, providing feedback, and collaborating in the comments section on ideas that interest you. You can also use the heart button on submissions to show your enthusiasm and support.
  3. Some of our Challenges include opportunities to volunteer for community leadership positions to help participants around the globe connect, prototype and refine their ideas. Interested? Explore our current leadership positions.

If you’d just like to follow the Challenge and get key updates, sign up for the mailing list on the Challenge Brief or join us on Facebook and Twitter.

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How do I find my submission?

First, we recommend that you bookmark or copy the link to your submission in each Phase for easy access! If you lose track of your submission, here’s how to find it:

  1. Log in to OpenIDEO.
  2. Navigate to your profile using the button in the top right corner.
  3. At the bottom you will see a link to all your submissions.

If you are looking for your submission in the Refinement Phase of a Challenge, it may not be immediately visible. To find your concept in the Refinement Phase, follow the same process above to navigate to your idea. Look at the url of the post. Change "ideas-phase" in the url manually to "refinement-phase" and you will be taken to the editable, Refinement Phase version of your idea. Let us know if you have trouble.

What is the Design Quotient (DQ)? What about the heart button?

The Design Quotient is something our founding team put together to measure your participation on each Challenge in four different areas: Research, Idea, Evaluation, and Collaboration. The idea of measuring it in this way is partly to give you feedback on your contribution to Challenges, but also to recognize that everyone has different skills and ways to contribute. Whenever you add a research post, share an idea, or evaluate a concept, you gain points in each of those areas. You gain collaboration points by applauding, commenting, or building upon others’ submissions. Finally, if someone applauds or builds upon your inspiration or concept, your score in those areas goes up.

The heart button is one way to share appreciation, admiration, or support for an idea. Also known as applause, we encourage you to use this button throughout the platform to help elevate ideas you think have great potential for impact.

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Does my DQ, submission views, hearts etc. affect my chances of winning a Challenge?

Short answer: no. We are not using the DQ, views, or applause for judging or evaluating ideas at this point in time. We do look to see how ideas evolve and improve throughout the Challenge, however. It is important that you keep up with the required activities in each Phase, and we like to see you engage with the community, whether that's responding to comments, encouraging others on the platform, or sharing a resource.

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How and when can I edit my submission?

A useful feature of OpenIDEO platform is that you can continue to refine and update your idea until the close of the Ideas Phase. Hitting Publish means that your post is now available for the OpenIDEO community to see and comment on, but you are still able and encouraged to refine your idea until the close of the Phase.

If you are having trouble editing your submission, try this:

  1. Log out, then log in to OpenIDEO using your email and password manually instead of one of the login shortcuts.
  2. Navigate to your profile using the button in the top right corner.
  3. At the bottom you will see a link to all your submissions. Click on the submission you want to edit.
  4. In the top right corner of the page you will see a grey button that say "Edit Contribution." Click that and you should be good to go!
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How do I collaborate on the OpenIDEO platform?

We love to see collaboration on the platform. You can do this by:

  • Commenting on other community members’ posts. Share appreciation, feedback, encouragement, questions and insights!
  • Tagging community members or other ideas in your submission. Tag using the @ symbol followed by a person's name or by @ followed by the name of the post. Check that the content you want to tag is colored blue to ensure they are tagged.
  • Adding additional team members to your idea as you progress through the Challenge (see how below).
  • Meeting up. We’ve seen many community members on the platform meet up virtually and physically to collaborate, prototype and test their ideas. If this sounds interesting, be sure to check out if any Challenge events are coming up, or explore OpenIDEO Events near you.
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How do I add a team member to my idea?

First, have your team members sign up on the OpenIDEO platform. Next, when you are editing your idea, scroll down to the bottom of your submission. You will see an option that says, ‘Team: Recognize contributions from community members by making them a Team Member.’ Click this button and you will be able to search for your team members by name. Pro tip: Make sure team members add their first and last name so it’s easier for you to add them.

Please note: only the person who submitted the idea will be able to make edits and receive email updates. If you would like your team members to be able to make changes on your submission, please share your OpenIDEO login information with them and they can log in to make changes on your behalf.

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Are there benefits to submitting an idea in advance of the deadline?

If you add your concept early, you’ll have the opportunity to receive feedback from the OpenIDEO team and peer participants. You’ll get more support to make your submission the best it can be, while also learning design thinking in the process.

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Can I submit more than one idea or research post to a Challenge?

Yes. If your organization or team is working on a few projects on the topic, you are welcome to include them as long as they answer the Challenge question and fit the evaluation criteria found on the Brief.

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Who from my team should submit the idea?

As long as you are authorized to submit an idea on behalf of a team or organization, it doesn’t matter who submits the idea. You can also create a profile for your organization, add team members, and submit as a group. Ultimately, the person who submits the idea should be available to respond to community and OpenIDEO feedback and work to refine the idea should it move forward in the Challenge.

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What if I'm concerned about intellectual property?

At OpenIDEO, we believe that by openly sharing and building upon each other’s ideas we can accelerate social innovation. However, we understand that there may be special cases where highly sensitive or technical information may be difficult to share publicly. For participants in this position, we encourage you share a high-level conceptual explanation of your idea on the platform; we don’t need every detail to get a sense of its potential, and this gives our community the opportunity to offer valuable feedback on your idea. 

If you are concerned about intellectual property, there may be opportunities to privately share sensitive information directly with our team. Look out for special terms and conditions when you join a new Challenge, or send a message to the specific Challenge or Alliance email address on their respective pages. If you need extra support, reach out to us.

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What happens to my idea after the Challenge ends, particularly if my idea is not a Top Idea?

After the close of a Challenge, we encourage you to continue to work on your idea out in the world. Building on the momentum and community created during the Challenge process, you’re already off to a great start in finding the partners, mentors, and resources you need to make your idea a reality. Even if your idea wasn’t selected as a Top Idea, it may still have great potential for impact—it just might not have been the exact solution our Sponsor was looking for in that Challenge. We’ve seen many participants go on to achieve great success with their ideas, and our hope is that you’ll be inspired to continue your journey as a social innovator. Always keep an eye out for new Challenges as well: your idea could be the perfect fit to answer a related Challenge question.

All ideas will continue to be proudly displayed on our platform to for the benefit of our community and future visitors. Your idea can help inspire new innovations—we’ve seen brand new ideas come out of insights from Challenges that ended years ago. If you’ve continued to work on your idea and would like to share important updates, create a post in the Impact Phase or let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

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Additional Questions

Where can I find more information about OpenIDEO?

Check out our General FAQ for more.

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What if I have another question?

If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for in our General FAQ, email us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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