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The role of contests in philanthropy

07.29.2013
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Contests have been one of the great innovations of the last decade or so.  Their operation has allowed tremendous progress to be made in areas such as space travel or medicine.  One of the foremost organisations in this field is the Knight Foundation.  They have run or funded around a dozen open contests since 2007, with around 400 winners from almost 25,000 entries in that time.

They’re adamant in their belief that projects, and indeed democracy, flourish when communities and stakeholders become active, informed and engaged.  They’ve produced areportdocumenting some of the lessons they’ve learned along the way that should be required reading for anyone looking to utilise contests, be that for philanthropic or commercial means.

Their belief in the power of competitions was echoed in a 2009 McKinsey & Company Report, “And the winner is…, ”, which said

“Every leading philanthropist should consider the opportunity to use prizes to help achieve their mission, and to accept the challenge of fully exploiting this powerful tool. ”

Despite that, competitions remain under-utilised, so these six lessons should help organisations wishing to head down that path.

Six lessons learned by the Knight Foundation

  1. They bring in new blood and new ideas.
  2. They create value beyond the winners.
  3. They help organizations spot emerging trends.
  4. They challenge routines and entrenched foundation behaviors. 
  5. They complement existing philanthropy strategies.
  6. They create new ways to engage communities.

If you’re more of an audio-visual kinda person, the findings are summarised in the video below.



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