I've written a lot lately about contests (Chase Community Giving and Pepsi Refresh) here in the United States that are focused on "social media for social media." The core of the design is "popular vote" - the group whose idea gets the most people to vote for them wins. I've questioned whether or not this a good way to find the best solutions for complex social problems, although it can certainly add a halo effect and spread a brand's message. How can these goals be balanced?
I've just returned from a trip to India where there is a different approach to solving complex social problems using social media and the Internet. My new friend, Paritosh Sharma, pointed me to Ennovent, a for-profit company that promotes entrepreneurs who find solutions to help people at the Bottom of the Pyramid. He told me about their crowd sourcing for social good strategy to find an affordable, and clean energy solution for India's poor population.
While Ennovent, a social enterprise, is very different from a major consumer brand in the US, I think we can learn a lot about the design of the contest.
Let's unpack it:
(1) Use of Connectors: They are reaching out to "connectors," people who may know of people working on projects ("solvers") who might be eligible to submit a winning proposal. They are offering a small case incentive. This is a smart idea because it leverages a networked approach to finding potential applicants.
(2) Submission Process: They are looking for companies to submit a proposal that they could fund to scale in India up to $500,000. The submission form is simple.
The decision process is a closed and judged by experts, but they are using social media and networked approach to identify solutions near and far.
What is the best way to integrate social media into challenges and contests to find solutions for social change?