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Innocentive and the Rockefeller Foundation Partnering to Provide "Open Innovation" Solutions to Nonprofit Problems

Innocentive_logo A few days ago, I wrote about my growing belief that the value in Web 2.0 for nonprofits may lie more in the underlying principles, than in the actual tools.  An announcement made yesterday by Innocentive and The Rockefeller Foundation supports my case.

The Rockefeller Foundation and     InnoCentive today announced that the Foundation will create a non-profit area on InnoCentive’s     global scientific network, specifically     designed to spur science and technology solutions to pressing development problems.      The non-profit Rockefeller Foundation area on InnoCentive’s scientific platform will bring to     bear the talent of thousands of world-class scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs in solving     the most pressing and complex humanitarian challenges posed by non-profit entities selected by     the Foundation.

This “open innovation model,” which InnoCentive has pioneered in the “for-profit” arena using challenges posed by R&D-focused companies, will now be turned, for the first time, toward technological problems faced by poor or vulnerable people in the developing world.  The new agreement is the first step in a larger Rockefeller Foundation initiative aimed at promoting innovation in a manner that spurs development, and that specifically increases access to proven innovation models for work on behalf of poor or vulnerable populations around the world.  In some cases, the initiative will also help to advance access to, or distribution of, specific innovations that can be of important benefit to poor or vulnerable people.

Innocentive's process for solving scientific problems is simple--companies submit details on a scientific problem or issue they wish to have solved, along with a dollar amount they are willing to pay for the solution. Award amounts range from $10,000 to $100,000.

Researchers may then register at the Innocentive site and get detailed information on the problem to be addressed. If they wish, they can then develop a solution and submit this to the company, which reviews all of the options and then rewards the researcher(s) who provide the solutions that meet the company's guidelines.

Innocentive intends to apply the same process to resolving nonprofit issues with The Rockefeller Foundation footing the bill.

This "open innovation model" is pure Web 2.0 and I think will be interesting to watch. As a long-time consultant in the nonprofit world, I find that consulting contracts are as much based on relationships as they are on actual solutions. I've watched a number of nonprofits form relationships with consultants who, in fact, never really resolve the issues they were hired to solve, but they're so good at the relationship piece, they're consistently called back.

This model will flip things on its head, I think, putting the focus on the solutions and pulling together the best ideas. It also has the potential to harness the power of collective intelligence as you get many minds working on the same problems, but with different perspectives. Organizations would then have a range of solutions from which to select, as well as the option of combining some very different solutions that they might not otherwise receive. Seems to me to be a very viable and interesting approach that I'm looking forward to watching.

Thanks to The Business Innovation Insider for the tip.



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