Ashoka Advances Ideas for Social Change

Dates of Project: 2009–2011

Field of Work: Open-source competitions to identify innovative ideas for tackling complex health and health care problems

Problem Synopsis: The United States and many other countries face entrenched social and health problems. At the same time, local innovators often operate in isolation, with few resources and little access to insights from their colleagues around the world. An open–source, online platform can help address this problem.

Synopsis of the Work: Ashoka sponsored two worldwide online ideas competitions that were managed by Ashoka's Changemakers initiative.

  • The first competition focused on programs helping people make better decisions about their health and the health of others.
  • The second competition focused on system-changing solutions that move past narrow perceptions of mental health to expand understanding and involvement.

Key Results

  • Three entrants—one from Venezuela, one from India, one from Peru—won the first competition, called Designing for Better Health. The competition drew 280 entries from 29 countries and stimulated over 330 discussions by the online community.

    Three entrants—one from the U.S., one from Bhutan, and one from Liberia—won the second competition, called Rethinking Mental Health: Improving Community Wellbeing. The competition drew 338 entries from 42 countries and stimulated over 300 discussions by the online community.

    Some 14 private and nonprofit organizations have raised more than $400,000 to support good ideas proposed by innovators through Changeshops.

    Ashoka also designed and developed Changeshops, a new open-source platform for social innovators, providing them ways to describe their projects, find resources, and receive feedback on their ideas; it appears on Ashoka's website. Its further development is supported by a German corporation.

    Two sidebars at the end of the report tell stories from the project.