Challenge Module 1: Prize History, Prize Theory and What Makes a Good Prize

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Two powerhouses in the Challenge and Prize community came together at GSA for the first in a seven-part learning series recently. Chris Frangione, Vice President of Prize Development for the XPrize and Alexis Bonnell, Innovation Evangelist at USAID offered insights and background into what makes a great ideation competition, sharing case studies and the history of prizes during the webinar.

Frangione kicked off the session with a little background look at the world of competitions and prizes, pointing out that ideation competitions have been around for centuries. “If you’ve got a problem, there’s a solution out there,” he says, adding the solution to a prize competition often comes from an unlikely source.

Charles Lindbergh, for example, was called a fool by reporters in his day. He was not an inventor or engineer, yet with his successful crossing of the Atlantic, he won a $25,000 prize and was at least partially responsible for launching a multi-billion dollar aviation industry that continues to thrive today. Through his infectious enthusiasm, he offers this advice: “The purpose of a prize is to make everyone a hero. Why try to find the needle in a haystack? Let the needle find you.”

Frangione shared his four-step process on developing a good prize:

  1. Ask—can a prize help?
  2. Find the sweet spot on the key spectrums of goal, difficulty, follow-on business/end market, IP encumbrance/open source, purse size/operational cost.
  3. Build your prize on a solid foundation.
  4. Offer operational incentives to drive participation.

Bonnell’s insight and expertise echoed Frangione’s in terms of learning that solutions come from places you would never imagine. “We’re never smart enough to put the right person in the room to help us solve this,” she says. “By offering up a competition that is open to all, the perfect person to solve the problem can contribute individually or join a team to come up with something that no one individual had ever considered.”

She introduced the Global Innovation Exchange during the webinar. The website, currently in BETA, connects the community of innovators, collaborators and funders in a single, FREE location. You can get the username and password to access the site by viewing the webinar. Bonnell inspires action saying “You have the power to change the world.”

Alexis Bonnell and Chris Frangione discuss Challenge and Prize competitions during the GSA-sponsored webinar: Prize History, Prize Theory and What Makes a Good Prize.

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