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Building an Intake Valve for New Ideas

By SUSANNAH FOX

Imagine this: You and your colleagues know there are problems to be solved. You have resources to offer, such as funding, access to experts, and publicity. 

You are pretty sure there are people with great ideas out there, asking questions, defining the scope of the problems you care about, seeing things that you can’t see. Some people are even forging ahead, developing solutions on their own, but you don’t know how to connect with them.

You need an intake valve for new ideas, a honeypot to attract problem-solvers. So you launch a prize competition. 

If you have escaped all the buzz around prize competitions and grand challenges over the last decade or so, don’t worry. KidneyX has a wonderful FAQ, including:

What is a prize competition?

A prize competition is a method of problem-solving that describes a problem (usually to the general public) and offers a prize or prizes to whoever comes up with the best solution(s). Prize competitions are a good way to attract ideas and skills from a wide range of fields.

I served as a volunteer judge for the KidneyX Patient Innovator challenge and was bowled over by the creativity of the submissions, both those who won and those who did not. It reminded me to welcome people into the health innovation conversation who may not think of themselves as inventors, but who deeply understand the community at the center of a crisis. The “need-knowers” as Tikkun Olam Makers call them.

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