As part of our ongoing series of posts about the history of InCommons, we will be highlighting specific InCommons resources and opportunities, discovering their philosophical underpinnings and explaining how each resource helps support courageous leadership and problem solving. For the next two weeks, we'll explore InCommons Challenges.
"The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell
Where does one find solutions to the toughest community problems? City Council chambers? University lecture halls? Policy "think tanks?" What if the solutions are right here in our midst, and they simply need a little "nudge" to be visible?
We've found that when the going gets tough, the best place to turn for innovative solutions is the community. That's where InCommons Challenges come in. They provide a way for people to share innovative ideas and solutions to tough community problems. Challenges:
- Recognize innovative ideas for solving problems
- Let community members determine what's important
- Help identify and connect people already working on tough problems
- Shed light on solutions in overlooked places
- Provide a transparent process for grant-making
We like to think of InCommons Challenges as the spark that problem-solvers need to ignite real and lasting change in their communities.
A key tenet of the InCommons philosophy is the belief that the best solutions often come from members of the community, usually those who have not been anointed as positional leaders.
A 2004 book by James Surowiecki titled "The Wisdom of Crowds" explores this concept in detail, with research and anecdotes supporting the theory that leadership-by-committee can indeed be a productive and creative way to solve problems.
So, how does it work? It starts with an organization, company or group identifying a problem that could use the community's best thinking. Then, they work with InCommons to create a Challenge unique to the issue and need.
Once the Challenge goes live online at InCommons.org, people like you share their best, most creative and innovative ideas. Submissions can take many different forms, depending on the Challenge - they often include videos and/or a written narrative about the solution(s).
Finally, the "wisdom of the crowd" gets put to the test, as the InCommons community votes for their favorite submissions and a panel of judges, determined at the beginning of the Challenge, picks the winning entries - it's that easy.
Keep an eye out for next week's newsletter, where we'll highlight some success stories and share even more information about how you can get involved with InCommons Challenges.
Learn more about InCommons Challenges by visiting our Challenges website. If you know someone who should be profiled here, please send us an email.