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Socialab blog: Open innovation calls – a silver bullet for creating public & private value

July 14, 2017


Open innovation calls : a silver bullet for creating public and private value

Nowadays we have enough tools, technology and talent to generate radical changes and, what is more, Millennials are coming forward to solve the world’s greatest problems. Open innovation calls fulfil precisely the role of challenging and inspiring a community of changemakers to propose disruptive solutions to real problems. In addition it is a great way of getting both public and private sector organisations involved in public problems and their solutions.

So what is an open innovation call and how do they work?

An open innovation call seeks and coordinates actors from all sectors to apply themselves to an altruistic and selfish objective at the same time: to put their talent to the service of others and in the process to find a sustainable way to live doing what most fascinates them. Genuine sustainability of any proposal occurs when personal interests are aligned with the collective, when the ego synchronises with altruism.

Open innovation calls are not competitions, and they are much more than a contest. They are a universe to themselves, spanning different ecosystems and giving life to improbable encounters:

  • the challengers, who launch the call and articulate the problem
  • the challenged, social entrepreneurs who come from all around and are motivated to make the world a better place
  • support organisations, who offer insights, expertise, technical advice, connections
  • juries, who appraise, feedback and strengthen ideas
  • communities living the problem, who share experiences and knowledge to deepen the understanding of a given problem
  • broadcast media and society at large, who can support, spread and promote any and all of the above.

All connected via an open innovation call, these groups are collaborating under the same dream of devising the best sustainable solutions for a better world.

A clear example is Antofaemprende, which began as a call for entrepreneurs seeking to build the region they dreamed of. Today it has progressed into a program that transformed the Antofagasta region (North of Chile) into a pole of global innovation. A call for open innovation is, in itself, a great Research and Development laboratory for the common good: the process of selection of solutions is based on different filters and deliverables that allow the projects to develop in phases, thus participants complete the design process with more developed value propositions, regardless of whether they win or not.

Innovation, of course, but why open? In many parts of the world, there are some misgivings about open innovation and collaboration, because it has not yet been fully acknowledged that collaboration is better than competition. Yet open processes such as these add more value than they take away from the entrepreneurs. Ideas are not static, they evolve whenever they are shared; sharing ideas with a community of innovators and creators results in better projects. An idea does not exist until it has been shared.

Over the past 5 years, we have learned at Socialab that the greatest value is not in the idea itself but in the person who has the passion or motivation to come up with a solution for a specific problem. In this case the idea becomes a means and not the end, so it is more valuable to have your idea in a collaborative, creative community, rather than to store it on a beautiful pitch deck never to be seen or implemented. The world needs many good ideas that solve real problems, but above all it needs people who are able to execute them, because good ideas only change the world when they are executed and their impact is realised.

This working methodology has allowed us, together with our partners, to unravel otherwise invisible problems as varied as: access to responsible banking, the inclusion of people with disabilities, or the need to develop solutions for the first 72 hours after a natural disaster. Furthermore, the winners of Socialab’s open calls obtain a personal validation and a positioning of their projects that allows them to open unique doors and enhance and strengthen their proposals.

There is another important aspect of open calls: the democratisation of access to opportunities, since it puts the entrepreneur and his/her project ahead of any other aspect that discriminates by origin, level of studies or socioeconomic profile. The triumph of the entrepreneurs does not depend on their economic means or background nor the university from which they graduated, but on their skills, the passion, the good ideas, and the capacities being put to the test.

Socialab’s open innovation calls have now transformed into a living community of creatives. Knowing that the potential of this tool is immeasurable, our dream is that anyone can approach it as an open and self-regulated space in order that their passions and talents become actions that help solve the main problems of humanity. We want to be a tool for civil society to be an active part in solving the great problems of mankind.

Innovations contests belong to the last century. The future of innovation is open and collaboratively iterative.

Do you want to change the world through open innovation? Write to Socialab




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