Innovation Success Is Uncertain – Or Is It?

Posted by Gretchen Hoffman at 10:52 AM, March 27, 2015


Every enterprise is chock full of people with great ideas...that are never realized. Unless, of course, that enterprise has an innovation framework in place to elicit, vet and implement these ideas. Many do not though, unfortunately. And this needs to change.


The race to innovate first is real, and it crosses every vertical – from technology to financial services. Consumers aren’t just expecting the latest and greatest from their computer software these days, they’re expecting the most efficient methods when they bank, shop, travel or create – and their loyalties lie with the vendor(s) providing it.

The key to innovating first and capturing those fantastic people-powered ideas and acting on them before your competitors do requires organizing your innovation efforts. And this organization takes much more than a spreadsheet listing ideas and assigning someone to follow up.

Organizing Your Innovation Efforts

We know that organizing your innovation efforts isn’t easy – and offer innovation program options that manage the process from ideation to implementation. Brightidea provides customers with the key to unlocking enterprise innovation, offering innovation software powered by a methodology that sets the bar for harnessing ideas. We stay ahead of trends, so our customers naturally do as well.

But we also know that telling you about ourselves isn’t compelling, so we’ve gathered our customers’ innovation stories, by way of a survey and case studies, for you to scan through instead: Straightforward observations from Fortune 500 companies around results realized from using Brightidea’s innovation program platform – along with the challenges they faced and how they were able to overcome them. In fact, 95% of Global 500 companies surveyed by TechValidate saw improvement in their innovation program with Brightidea.

Independent Survey Stats

A third party vendor, TechValidate managed the survey, which includes feedback on innovation program features that can mean the difference between success and failure: ROI analysis, Innovation Challenges, Organizational Culture, and Overall Goals.

The clients come from a range of industries, including heavyweights Accenture, Exxon, Motorola, Quicken Loans, Hewlett-Packard and Walgreens, and they share responses to key questions most enterprises ask – and stats that flesh out the narrative, like:

  • Humana experiencing $6.2 million in cost savings from a single innovation challenge campaign.
  • More than 75% of Nielsen’s innovation challenges resulting in an idea that was implemented.
  • BT increasing the quality of their innovation program by 100%-200%, generating over $250 million between new revenue and cost savings from the ideas sourced company-wide since 2005.

The eBook provides answers to questions enterprises most frequently ask, with insight around practices, benchmark metrics and methodologies that we see leading enterprises to success, along with what worked, and why, with quotes directly from these industry leaders around their experiences using our software.

Customers say we are the most knowledgeable contender in this space – and we would love to show you why that is. Click here to download the eBook and then reach out and let us know if you’d like to be the next success story we share!

Ways to Win as Enterprises Race To Innovate

Posted by Gretchen Hoffman at 1:46 PM, March 06, 2015

Brightidea_ebook_oneinnovation-1Although you’ll hear many businesses talk about innovation lately, they’re finding it hard to move beyond brainstorming great ideas to sorting out what could work and then implementing. So they aren’t actually innovating – yet. And they need to be.


Keeping pace with new trends isn’t enough. Disrupting someone else’s space isn’t enough either. Today’s enterprises must do both of those things AND innovate, because getting out ahead of a trend and innovating a worthwhile advancement first is what wins the day. Businesses know this. you know this. So why isn’t it happening?

The struggle starts and ends with the way in which the enterprise approaches innovation – sporadic or systematic. Although many recognize that sporadic innovation doesn’t work, those with innovation programs or systems in place either don’t fully understand how to use them or don’t have the right system in place.

Sorting it all out is a time-consuming process. And that’s why Brightidea created this ebook – to help you assess your innovation program to hit the ground running and ensure it delivers on the best outcomes possible.

This ebook explores characteristics of innovation programs that will keep your efforts moving forward – and help you attain buy-in from stakeholders, including:

  • Why a systematic approach is critical, and how to adopt one
  • Six steps to improve (and establish) enterprise innovation
  • Success stories from Fortune 500 companies
  • The future of innovation and how you can prepare for it

Download One Innovation Program To Rule Them All and you’ll soon be tracking successful innovation outcomes, while your competitors are stuck sorting out their process!

We welcome feedback and your top innovation tips in the comments.

IBM Institute for Business Value: More than Magic

Posted by Gretchen Hoffman at 2:21 PM, March 04, 2015


IBM Institute for Business Value: More than Magic

How do the most successful organizations innovate? IBM Institute for Business Value set out to answer this seemingly complex question, surveying more than 1,000 C-suite executives in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit. Interestingly enough, results displayed that the top 9 percent of organizations in operating efficiency and revenue growth aim to execute distinct strategies in innovation organization, culture, and process.

IBM’s report shares how the top dogs approach innovation, and specific practices you can implement in your individual organization to drive future success.


Contrary to popular belief, current innovation breakthroughs are achieved through science & numbers, data, and insight...not magic. The necessity of becoming open and integrating collaboration is becoming evident today as well as practicing transparency throughout all levels of an organization.

Here at Brightidea, we foster this trend of transparency amongst our customers, allowing collaborative communication between everyone as we walk through the best methods to bring innovation programs to a whole new level. We partner to position our customers and potential customers to succeed and potentially become outperformers, which IBM defines in the study as utilizing three key steps to differentiate themselves from the pack:

  • Build an organization that encourages innovation
  • Create a culture that fosters innovation
  • Design processes that enable innovation

To implement all of these key factors, outperforming organizations generally rely on dedicated innovation teams. These teams are responsible for being a “center of excellence” in facilitating company-wide innovation activities and keeping the ideas flowing. At Brightidea, we call this model “Innovation as a Shared Service” as our innovative program software allows organizations to monitor and track the innovation process for specific projects, ultimately generating trackable results for these teams. This virtual environment of collaboration will increase depth and relevance to innovation initiatives which IBM has said is deeply connected to success. Company culture is something that can only be driven from inside an organization, and building innovation into the culture nowadays has become a normality. Employees will naturally collaborate if given the time and space they need to innovate. To further feed this climate, companies can offer incentives and recognition to promote this innovative behavior and hopefully generate excitement.

To become an innovation leader of the future, analyze these guidelines that IBM has extracted from a successful, impressive collection of industry innovation executives and implement them as your own. Using software tools and Brightidea’s innovation program methodologies, we can guide you on your innovation journey. We welcome having our innovation experts help your company better understand what ideas to invest in moving forward, how to set up challenges, host a hackathon, and how to develop an effective innovation program as a whole. You will then know why having dedicated innovation teams is your biggest differentiator over your competition. Please share what is working for your innovation program below.

To hear more about ways to develop a culture of innovation so you can unleash the power of innovation at your company, listen to our recent webinar with Aragon Research.

If You Want To Unleash Innovation, You Need To Put Your Community to Work

Posted by Gretchen Hoffman at 9:05 AM, March 04, 2015

AragonlogoYour enterprise might be ready to innovate, but is it stuck in a perpetual “ready to innovate” loop? If so, it’s time to take action. And our recent webinar, with Jim Lundy, CEO and Lead Analyst of Aragon Research, offers lots of insight around how to move forward – and why.

Lots of organizations are ready to innovate, and can’t understand why they’re being disrupted by competitors – especially when they know they have a superior product or service. The reason why this happens is simple – and preventable: They were MORE ready to innovate than you. They approached innovation in an organized way and that allowed them to bring their ideas to market ahead of your team.

We had 68% of webinar attendees who said their management considers innovation as critical to the success of their business. This is a growing #. Jim shared Aragon Research’s 2015 Technology ARC diagram representing companies less than 5 years old. Innovation Management is a top priority. He commented that “companies need a pragmatic approach to help them get in front of the tidal wave of change” and “companies need to have tools to allow them to manage innovation”.

The webinar discusses how to beat your competition the next time around (or get out there first if they haven’t bested you yet!): outthink the competition and identify the next big thing by developing a community and corporate culture of innovation! But how can you do that, specifically? Well, we cover that in detail in the webinar, including:

  • How Innovation Management Programs and other technologies are giving enterprises an edge
  • Key innovation and mobile trends you need to be aware of
  • Examples of markets being disrupted and why digital businesses are projected to outperform others
  • Understanding the Internet of Things and why it matters to you
  • How to harness those great ideas inside your company and put them in action before your competitor does
  • Ways to nurture innovation in your company via multiple channels

You’ll also learn about two distinct innovation models – organic and the “fast follower” approach – and decide which one is right for you to help fast-forward your efforts so you get ahead of the changing tidal wave headed your way.

View the full webinar here – we welcome your comments!

2015 CFO Sentiment Study – Growing Importance of Innovation to CFO’s

Posted by Gretchen Hoffman at 5:04 PM, March 02, 2015


Each year the CFO Alliance conducts a CFO Sentiment Study, providing exclusive insight and measurable statistics that are critical to the strategic planning and financial outlook of CFO’s across the United States.

The best practices and statistics shared in this study will help companies identify challenges and ways to move forward and innovate in 2015.

The CFO Alliance is comprised of senior financial leaders and decision makers, spanning a wide range of industry groups, company sizes, and geographies. The survey data comes from more than 600 responses solicited from financial leaders in private industries and also public and non-profit sectors.

The results of the study speak to positive expectations for the US economy in 2015, and specific business industries. Other revelations include:

  • Projected spending increases to keep pace with technological advancements and innovation trends, more specifically increases will be seen in employee wages and benefits, data security and cloud computing, social media marketing, and primarily in hardware and software purchases.
  • In addition to spending, 95% of those surveyed agreed that organizations must encourage communication and create a culture of innovation moving forward to successfully achieve objectives.
  • Collaboration between the CFO and marketing will be essential, as 61.5% said their marketing initiatives will be the number one factor impacting their company’s success in 2015.
  • The leadership role of the CFO is changing too, with the value of being “social” taking precedence and projected to have positive implications this year. Along with this new “social” role CFOs should pay close attention to the importance of customer engagement and human capital optimization goals as well.

The role of the CFO is continually broadening to accommodate emerging growth initiatives and deliver impactful results that are critical to all aspects of business operations. And CFOs are playing a greater role in determining corporate direction, strategies, and ultimately creating long-term shareholder value.

Are there any stats in the study that surprise you? We’re guessing there are a few! We’d love to hear your thoughts on the study in the comments.

And feel free to enjoy our analyst webinar on Unleash Innovation – Put Your Community to Work which discussed more innovation trends and ways to help create a culture of innovation.

Get ‘Inno-spired’ by Our Forrester ‘Innovation Trends to Watch’ Webinar

Posted by Gretchen Hoffman at 5:55 PM, February 17, 2015

ForresterGenius may be “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” according to Thomas Edison, but that one percent can be the difference between taking action now and waiting. And when it comes to innovation these days, waiting is the wrong move – because it gives your competitors that much more time to disrupt the space and send you reeling.

Successful enterprises have always known they need to continuously reinvent themselves to meet the demands of new generations of customers, but it’s even more important now as the manufacturing, distribution, and information ages have given way to the current Age of the Customer. Keeping up with trends and expectations is no easy task, and innovation must be a constant goal.

To keep the inspiration happening we recently hosted a webinar on Innovation Trends to Watch and Inspire You featuring Chip Gliedman, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. Gliedman’s IT background helps him serve CIOs using research focused on “IT investment strategies, innovation, justifying technology investments, business technology alignment, and IT satisfaction. He is a frequent speaker on innovation for Forrester.

On our webinar he shared innovation trends in a way that will inspire you to act. Here’s just some of what he shared:

  • How to explore current innovation trends and decide on actions
  • How to exploit market opportunities to create business value
  • How to maximize profits by perfecting innovation processes
  • The questions to ask for specific innovation goals, whether product, process, organizational and market
  • How to use sustained innovation to avoid disruption
  • Common barriers to innovation
  • What skills to sharpen for innovation success
  • Benefits of open or “collaborative” innovation
  • Tips for getting started with your innovation program and for stepping up your game

And getting started is important! In fact 41% who attended the webinar shared that they are “struggling to get their innovation program ramped”. You can always tweak your innovation process down the road, but once you take those first steps it will become easier and easier to keep walking – and eventually run. Brightidea has a methodology we would welcome sharing with you to help get your innovation program up and running if you CONTACT US.

Or take the first step by watching the webinar here: Innovation Trends to Watch and Inspire You.

The Best Innovation Programs Aren’t Magical - The People Behind Them Are

Posted by Gretchen Hoffman at 8:13 AM, February 13, 2015


This is the 1st in a series of blogs where, Gretchen Hoffman, VP of Marketing at Brightidea, interviews Innovation Program leaders to understand their challenges and how they solve them, their thoughts on design thinking and hear their success stories. This series also captures years of innovation program expertise to help enterprises enhance – or create – a culture of innovation.

An innovation program needs to be designed in-accordance with a company’s specific strategy and goals in mind in order to be a success. Defining an innovation program is useless without the right people driving it, regardless of how well the platform is designed. This is something Ann Marie Dumais understands better than most.

Dumais was at Nielsen where she led the development, integration and deployment of the New Product Introductions (NPI) process. NPI is a global, Nielsen-wide, end-to-end (ideation through post-launch). Tollgate product development process, integrated with all key functional areas and activities. Dumais led the creation and establishment of a worldwide innovation platform, powered by Brightidea, that feeds the NPI framework, as well as other key strategic Nielsen initiatives. She is now a Brightidea advocate and strategic client advisor.

Check out her insights from her role as an Innovation Program leader at Nielsen. Gretchen (GH) and Ann Marie (AMD) hold an informative conversation which is captured below:

GH: Let’s jump right in and talk about pain points. What is the biggest challenge organizations face when it comes to systematizing innovation?

AMD: The biggest challenge is employee engagement, but it doesn’t have to be – it’s all about education.

GH: Let’s explore that – how should businesses be educating employees around innovation?

AMD: Innovation has to be an everyday discipline – it doesn’t grow on trees (nor in think tanks), so step one is really creating a culture of innovation whereby innovation is literally embedded in the DNA of a company. And THAT largely falls to the innovation program team, as it’s their (initial) primary task when launching an innovation program.

GH: So innovation program team structure is pretty important then?

AMD: Team structure and make-up is very important. Optimally, an innovation team should be led by someone with a dynamic, varied background. This person needs to be able to market and sell the innovation program internally, they need to be very self-directed, good listening skills and okay with pushing the company to explore and take calculated risks. Other important roles on your innovation team include:

  • Doers to execute and get stuff done, get programs going
  • Challengers to kick tires and pick ideas apart
  • Helpers to take care of social interactions, bring different people together and smooth relationships
  • Creators to offer imaginative, no holds barred ideas (that haven’t necessarily been thought through)
  • Combine all of those folks together and you have a team built for success!

GH: Looping back to your thoughts around employee education – can’t we just introduce a well thought out innovation program and get everyone onboarded?

AMD: We can’t actually. I remember we made the fatal error of assuming everyone knew what we meant when we said “innovation” when we launched our innovation program – but they didn’t. Global, regional and even local differences drive varied perspectives on the meaning of this word, so step one was to ensure we defined what Innovation meant to Nielsen and then ensure that definition was shared broadly and frequently. Second, we needed to reinforce, provide the employees the confidence, that everyone is an innovator, regardless of their company role.

It’s not enough for CEOs to send messages out about the new innovation program (though having that support is crucial). A successful innovation program launch requires a multi-tiered marketing strategy. The word “innovation” can be intimidating – so it’s important to ease users into it. Define what innovation IS and provide examples. And start conversations around what it means to be innovative and how they can become innovative.

And starting out with light-hearted, low-risk engaging polling activities to introduce them to the platform itself helps as well. Create a seamless experience and ask daily questions like “If you could live anywhere, where would that be?”.” Then when you start to ask about business concerns, they’ll be more comfortable responding and participating.

GH: Can you provide some tips beyond education for increasing employee adoption rate?

AMD: Creating a seamless user experience is critical. Your innovation program should look and feel like it’s part of their day-to-day desktop, offering the very best and intuitive experience, down to the smallest detail like the colors and button styles. The user shouldn’t realize they’ve entered a separate platform because that can be enough to make them click away. And fortunately, Brightidea seamlessly integrates with other software tools via APIs. I would also highly recommend creating fun vignettes that reinforce what role the company believes Innovation plays, and how specifically they expect employees to be innovative.

GH: Why would employees click away?

AMD: So you’ve successfully completed the gargantuan task of educating and everyone is in the “innovator mindset” and ready to go – Your next biggest hurdle is to ensure that when they enter the innovation portal for that first challenge, it is simple, straight-forward and self-directed. The Brightidea software is extremely powerful and enables you to customize greatly – the caveat is you need to monitor the complexity of content/site layout you are putting forth. If the site layout requires training – it will not drive scalable employee engagement. The site needs to be intuitive and easily navigable.

GH: How can an innovation team ensure a consistent experience across business functions?

AMD: When working across business functions, it’s important to enable the various groups flexibility but not at the expense of consistency. Each group should be empowered to and encouraged to – run their own innovation challenges, and the role of the innovation team is to govern to ensure the user experience is consistent and that naming conventions are consistent to ensure data accuracy and later metric reporting.

GH: So the innovation team doesn’t own the process?

AMD: The innovation team oversees the process, but the process itself is owned by all the key functional stakeholders. The best thing an innovation team can do is partner with project managers in each business function tasked with moving their goals forward; whether their goals be around ideas for new product, productivity or even employee engagement Setting these functions up to be successful – and helping them establish a cadence for gathering and executing ideas - is really the overarching innovation team role. The innovation team are the facilitators of the process and govern the overarching function, but they can’t micromanage it.

GH: What is the biggest challenge once the innovation program is in place and starts to pick up steam?

AMD: The biggest challenge is creating – and having everyone stick to – process flows. An innovation program can become overwhelmed with ideas if there aren’t well-thought out evaluation criteria, but even more potentially damaging are “back door deals.” If there are other ways for a new productidea to obtain funding/or get approved outside of the innovation program process flow, the whole program can fall apart. Everyone in the company MUST commit to the process and understand compliance drives visibility, which in turn drives innovation transparency.

GH: Any final thoughts for innovation program teams to put them on the right path?

AMD: Yes, mapping out how you’ll evaluate and triage ideas that come in is essential. Think this through thoroughly before launching a challenge or risk being overwhelmed with thousands of ideas that go nowhere.

Please share your ideas for delivering successful innovation programs in the comments. And check out our new paper Start a Collaborative Innovation Program.

It's Time to Start a Collaborative Innovation Program - Tell Your Boss!

Posted by Kate Pietrelli at 10:07 AM, February 11, 2015

Innovation is the driving force behind growth and progress in any industry, and the core of any long-term business strategy. While companies do many different things to stimulate innovation, crowdsourcing has the highest leverage among small teams. Crowdsourcing and Collaborative Innovation lets leaders harness the creative capacity of employees, get quick wins, scale impact and have measurable outcomes. With market competition at an all-time high, maximizing impact from your Collaborative Innovation program is mission critical.

Why is it so important to always be innovating? If you don’t do it, someone else will, and you’ll find yourself in an unenviable position - like Kodak.

Kodak used to kill it – till it died. Kodak dominated the photographic film industry from its inception in 1888 all the way through the 1980’s. As digital photographic technologies emerged in the 1990’s, many of which were developed by Kodak itself, the company was painstakingly slow to incorporate these new developments in its products and get them to market. It soon found itself eclipsed by other digital camera and imaging companies, many of which were even using Kodak patents. By 2007, Kodak was no longer turning a profit. It struggled until 2012, when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Don’t let this happen to your company.

Even the most established businesses are at risk of disruption. Dedicated Collaborative Innovation programs save the day.

Now you can convince your boss it’s time to start your own Collaborative Innovation Program. Download our new paper to explore:
1. Collaborative Innovation is Proven, Predictable and Repeatable
2. Innovation is Scalable
3. Ad Hoc Efforts Aren’t Successful
4. Your Competition Is Doing It
5. Employee Productivity and Resource Management are Enhanced
6. Employees are Inspired
7. Disrupts the Status Quo
8. Continuous Improvement IS Innovation
9. Implementation is Easy and Success Will Happen

Download the full whitepaper here: It's Time to Start a Collaborative Innovation Program - Tell Your Boss!

Innovation Programs By Design

Posted by Gretchen Hoffman at 8:13 AM, February 09, 2015


In this series, Gretchen Hoffman, VP of Marketing at Brightidea, interviews team members about innovation program pain points, design thinking and success stories, capturing 15+ years of innovation program expertise to help enterprises enhance – or create – a culture of innovation.

The biggest struggle most enterprises face when it comes to innovation is making the leap from talking about great ideas to putting those ideas in action. It’s difficult because harnessing people-powered innovation requires an in-depth understanding of the pain points, goals and capabilities specific to your enterprise – plus the solutions speaking to each.

Fortunately, Genevieve Wang, VP of Product at Brightidea, recently examined each area, extensively. And she shares key insights around each in the interview below!

GH: Please share some stories that help frame why innovation is necessary.

GW: There are quite a few examples of opportunities lost and businesses going under due to their failure to innovate. An example everyone will remember is Kodak. For decades, it was the market leader; if you were taking photographs, you were likely using Kodak film or a Kodak camera. How did they miss the boat on digital photography? Kodak’s failure to innovate in digital ultimately caused it to be forced out of a market it helped create. Another example is Blockbuster. The video market moved to an on-demand model, and Blockbuster remained brick and mortar-focused for too long. Most of its stores have since closed and it’s now chasing after competitors when it could have been leading them.

GH: So if innovation is necessary, and most enterprises recognize that it is – why isn’t innovation happening across the board?

GW: Innovation IS happening to some extent at most large companies, but it isn’t always being done well. Managing innovation and taking it beyond a brainstorming session to action is an extremely difficult task. Many companies support one-off innovation efforts that experience varying levels of success, but these random acts of innovation fail to capture the lion’s share of great ideas waiting to be explored in an organization.

Beyond that, while there are ready metrics for pretty much every other function in an organization, how does one measure innovation success? It makes it difficult for one person or team to own the process, because doing so seems like a risk that offers little reward for their efforts.

GH: How – and what - are we changing this for enterprises? How are we adding value to this process?

GW: Our goal at Brightidea is to improve the enterprise’s overall innovation experience and success rate. We’ve built a powerful innovation platform that allows the enterprise to manage every aspect of innovation, from identifying and rating ideas through creating business cases, tracking outcomes, and reporting analytics. The surgical tools we provide allow innovation leaders to do precisely what they need to do to engage participants, from organizing hackathons to crowdsourcing creative solutions – and they’re all housed in one place. It’s really everything an enterprise needs to effectively manage innovation and see measurable outcomes.

GH: Is that what we mean when we say “design thinking?”

GW: Design thinking means deeply understanding the customer – their daily lives, struggles, and how they try to overcome roadblocks – then synthesizing that information to see patterns, and finally generating potential solutions that can be iteratively tested with the customer. Design thinking is messy. We pick up nuggets as we talk to people, we develop personas that allow us to live a day in their lives, and we create concepts and mock-ups on the fly as we learn about their specific needs.

We also take feedback really seriously. We want to hear from our customers, and we reach out to ensure we have their feedback. If a customer is suggesting a feature, we explore it from multiple vantage points, to try to get to the underlying need that’s driving the feature request.

GH: So you’re saying we are practicing what we preach?

GW: Yes! We’re always innovating on the platform and our own products. We support a very agile product methodology, pushing product updates every two weeks.

Is your enterprise innovating effectively? Share your successes below! And be sure to reach out to learn more about how we can help you make innovation part of your organization’s culture. You may also find our paper on “7 Must Haves for Achieving Innovation Management ROI” of interest.

BrightWorks Platform Powering 2015 Rathmann Innovation Challenge

Posted by Gretchen Hoffman at 10:20 AM, January 27, 2015


Brightidea's BrightWorks Platform Powering 2015 Rathmann Innovation Challenge

What is the point of innovation? Simply to break new ground because we can? Some might argue that’s as good a goal as any, but innovation is probably best applied to improving the human condition – at least, that’s the point of the Rathmann Challenge, which aims to inspire innovators to change the world by rewarding big ideas.

So it made sense for Rathmann to partner with Brightidea and use our innovation platform, BrightWorks, to harness these ideas - because our mission goes beyond providing solutions for companies and organizations seeking a more efficient innovation process. We, too, seek to help advance people-powered ideas that will make the world a better place.

Our collaborative software, in conjunction with next generation architecture, will streamline the lengthy and multi-step application review process, allowing the greatest time and attention to be focused where it belongs: on the ideas submitted by innovative applicants.

About the Challenge

The chief project of the Rathmann Innovation Center, the Rathmann Challenge awards up to $300,000 to one winning organization - $100,000 for a past outstanding idea, and with it the possibility of $200,000 to pursue an Even Bigger Idea – all within an annually rotating theme (science, technology, arts, education, environment, health, human services, public affairs and international aid).

This year’s Rathmann Challenge asks applicants to focus on “Provisions for Personal Necessities in Preparation for Learning.” The goal is to “assist educators in addressing issues which interfere with PreK – 12 students’ ability to be fully present in the classroom.”

These needs include obvious items like classroom supplies, but also less obvious (but equally crucial) basic personal necessities like food, clothing and shelter, as well as health- and legal-related needs – the absence of which can put debilitating stress on students.

U.S.-based, legally-formed organizations are eligible to submit an application outlining past work, including an Even Bigger Idea aimed at improving the ability of students to be fully present in the classroom.

Each year one grant of $100,000 will be awarded based on past accomplishments, with a potential additional $200,000 to bring an Even Bigger Idea to fruition over the following two years. This Even Bigger Idea can be something new (still within the above-mentioned theme), or build upon past ideas that fit the theme’s criteria.

The application process is open from January 5, 2015 through February 12, 2015, or until 200 applications are received.

As the Rathmann Challenge awards past accomplishments, innovators should take note that next year’s challenge will be focused on “Environment – Managing and Harnessing the Data.” Get to work now on creating next year’s “past” in the present, as well as applying to this year’s challenge as part of the Rathmann Innovation Center’s effort to make great ideas a reality. You never know – the next Even Bigger Idea could be your own!

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