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How to make innovation camps Work: admission by competition

Published Date: 26 January 2012

An Australian SI Camp Weekend: admission by competition

Stuart Conger explores how competition can impact on the effectiveness of an SI Camp's design and delivery

The call

The Australian Social Innovation Exchange made an open call for ideas for web-based projects and received 35 ideas across a range of segments including education, health & social justice. A panel of judgesselected the projects to be developed at the Social Innovation Camp. Those that were selected immediately worked to elaborate their ideas.

Participants were not expected to be technically skilled, “you just need to know about a social need that you have encountered in your personal or professional life where the web might be used as a tool to help tackle this problem or issue”. From the ideas submitted, a panel of judges selected half a dozen of the most promising to be developed at the Social Innovation Camp weekend.

The call included the following advice

What’s the social problem you’re aiming to solve? Your idea can be either a specific solution to a problem, or simply identify a need in a particular area. You might be inspired by personal experience, or you might simply have spotted an issue that interests you. Think out of the box. We’re interested in ideas that really push the boundaries. Stuff that will shake things up and create new models for solving social problems.

Web-enabled people power, Web-based social software must have a significant and central use in the implementation of your idea. We’re looking for ideas, which have the potential to use technology in an innovative way, but they must also be user-centric and friendly. We’re interested in designing tools for ordinary people to use, not just creating something cool for the sake of it. We want to extend the benefits of technology to reach new audiences. We are interested in cheap, simple, effective, easy-to-use tools.

Make it original! Do your homework and check out whether your idea has been done before.

Feasibiliy and Potential. We will be thinking about the likelihood of getting the idea off the ground, as well as the potential to scale-up or replicate the idea when we make our selection. Have a think about how your idea might sustain itself in the long run. We’re looking for ideas, which might:

1. Help a pre-existing not-for-profit or governmental organisation.

2. Become a social enterprise, charity, community Interest company or other business in its own right.

3. Become a stand-alone venture, which you could just run in your spare time as well.

Stage of development. We are looking for very early stage ideas: the kernel of something interesting; back-of-the-envelope stuff. If you already have a team of developers and some early funding, you’re a bit ahead of us. Ideally, we want you to take your idea forward. We’re after people who are able to devote some time to getting their idea off the ground after the Social Innovation Camp weekend.

At the camp

The people behind the selected ideas, together with software developers and designers, those with business and marketing skills, as well as individuals with expert knowledge of social needs are invited to the Social Innovation Camp weekend. From a Friday evening to a Sunday afternoon, participants are asked to organise themselves into teams around the selected ideas and then set five challenges:

1) What is the problem they're trying to solve?

2) Build the technology with which to do this.

3) How will you sustain your idea?

4) How will you build a community of users?

5) What are you going to do after the Social Innovation Camp weekend?

As the weekend comes to a close, all participants regroup to pitch what they have built and the judges award a small prize to the projects, which have shown greatest potential.

After the Social Innovation Camp weekend, some teams continued to grow their ideas, while others decided not to take anything forward. Those teams who continue are given support to do so.