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Impress Bill and Melinda Gates With Your Idea, Win $1 Million

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a message that they want to get out; “foreign aid really works.” And the foundation, in conjunction with the Cannes Lions Festival is funding a million-dollar contest to see who can best get that message out.

The submission is pretty straightforward and is limited to just two pages. The entry deadline is 15 May 2012.

What might the judges base their decision on? The rules list the following as a start:
  • “New ways to collect and share first-person stories from those impacted by aid in the developing world;
  • “Data collection and visualization that demonstrates the “how” and “what” of aid, e.g. where funding goes and how it impacts people and communities; money spent on development relative to other areas; measurable progress against the Millennium Development Goals. (The foundation is particularly interested in MDGs 1,4,5,and 6.);
  • “Creative distribution mechanisms to deliver stories, data, and information to key audiences;
  • “Concepts that spark active engagement and collaborative problem-solving, e.g. games, crowdsourcing, and other projects that move the field from one-way communications towards authentic engagement;
  • “Revolutionary ways to humanize the challenge and the solutions and to connect communities receiving aid to those who provide it.”
As many as 10 ten semifinalists will get $100,000 to develop their ideas. They will be flown to Seattle to confab with the “Cannes Chimera,” a panel of super-creatives in a learning environment. The winner will get a $1 million to execute their idea.

Judging will be based primarily on two things: How well it lines up with the topic and how innovative or creative it is. Approaches like lobbying public officials are specifically disallowed.

Contests of this sort have a fantastic history.

A way for ships to get a fix on their longitude while at sea came about thanks to a contest sponsored by the British admiralty. Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic in part to claim the $25,000 Orteig Prize. The splendid British aircraft the ‘Spitfire’ was inspired by a contest. The Ansari X Prize opened up near-earth space flight to non governmental entities. Qualcomm is sponsoring a $10 million ‘tricorder’ prize to get to a version of the Star Trek medical tricorder. There’s a half-dozen more such contests organized under the aegis of the X Prize.

Such contests create a multiplier effect, inspiring many people and organizations to spend their time and treasure on winning the prize.

Good luck! And if you win, remember who told you about it.

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