Competitions to encourage innovation have spread around the world and they play a significant role in facilitating and promoting social innovation. For example, the Dell Social Innovation Competition has been running since 2007 and has produced over 4,500 ideas and Ashoka’s Changemakers claims 5,000 “high-impact” solutions since 2004 from over 145 countries. Corporations, foundations and governments are often the sponsors of competitions, with targets and prizes, on a diverse range of issues from climate change to gender equity. The stakes are often very high: The European Commission is banking on its Social Innovation Competition this year to generate solutions to its unemployment crisis – to find work for over 25 million unemployed citizens.
So much seems to be resting on these types of competitions, but what do we really know about them? Why are they growing in popularity? How are they most effectively organized? How might they change in the future?
Researchers from Cass Business School in London and the Newcastle Business School, Joseph Lampel, Pushkar Jha and Ajay Bhalla, sought to answer these questions*.