IDEASCALE BLOG

Insights and sneak peeks into innovation and IdeaScale.

Top Themes from Open Nation DC

IdeaScale Gov hosted its first-ever Open Nation DC April 12 at the WeWork White House location. For us at IdeaScale, Open Nation is always our favorite week of the year. We’ve been hosting a company-wide Open Nation event in Berkeley for three years now. Open Nation DC was the first spinoff, a gov-focused version situated in the heart of IdeaScale gov work: Washington, D.C.

Much like its inspiration, Open Nation DC brought together an energetic, eclectic group of IdeaScale customers and prospects to knowledge-share, network and collaborate. The day was split into customer presentations in the morning, and IdeaScale-led workshops in the afternoon.

Customer presentations in particular are one of the coolest parts of any Open Nation. For those of us in the weeds every day, they represent a refreshing opportunity to take a step back and reflect on how the work of our customers is making people’s lives better, every day.

First up was Michael Contreras, president and CEO of Ensemble Consultancy. Contreras was formerly an IdeaScale customer in his role as an AAAS Fellow at the Department of Energy. More specifically, Contreras was an integral part of the success of DOE’s SunShot Catalyst program. Contreras dived into the importance of goal-setting and quantifiable metrics to any innovation program. However, he cautioned against avoiding “vanity metrics,” a term coined by “The Lean Startup” author Eric Ries. Instead, focus on “actionable metrics,” which are “leading indicators of achieving the aligned objectives of your innovation program.”

A key takeaway was aligning the objectives of not only the direct stakeholders but also those with “indirect influence” over the program: “Make program decisions based on metrics that are correlated with the aligned objectives of those having both direct authority and indirect influence over the continuation of the program.”

Next up were Kim Taylor and Mark Ascione of the Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Taylor and Ascione have long been champions of crowdsourcing, as they’ve built their program from the ground up, despite that not being part of their job description. They’re two shining examples of the intrapreneurial nature of open innovation champions.

Their presentation focused on the ecosystem they’ve built from scratch internally to host sponsored challenges. Despite not having a full-time FTE on crowdsourcing, they’ve developed a system to scale into hosting nearly 100 challenges over the past four-plus years.

Their system, which includes a robust communications plan and a challenge checklist, also results in some of the best participation rates we’ve ever seen. One challenge in particular resulted in 95 percent of their target audience participating.

Batting third were the Dream Team of Concepts Communications and the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. Hope Adler and Katia Albanese of Concepts Communications have long been hosting dialogues within IdeaScale that engage citizens and stakeholders to help inform disability employment policy. They’ve recently been joined by rising star Lindsey Teel from the Department of Labor. Together, they encompass the ePolicyWorks crowdsourcing team.

While their presentation focused on the nuts and bolts of running online dialogues — the importance of moderation, a robust outreach program, and idea evaluation — they also discussed the cool potential outcomes of engaging the public around this conversation. While idea “implementation” in their context can often take a while because it’s typically a policy change, Teel, who’s visually impaired herself, stressed the personal impact these changes can have: “We’re changing lives. We’re making it so people can work.”

Up fourth was a slight detour from government in Edwin Goutier, senior director of Innovation at United Way Worldwide. United Way Worldwide employs IdeaScale to source ideas both externally from the public and internally from their employees worldwide. They then rapidly prototype promising ideas, iterate upon them, and either formalize or sunset them.

Two of the key takeaways from Goutier’s presentation and UWW’s program were 1) pay close attention to participation data and pivot engagement efforts accordingly, but also 2) don’t forget to put a human face on what you’re doing. Data are informative and absolutely necessary, but you also need to “become a storyteller” when reporting up to leadership and out to the target audience.

Closing out the morning sessions was Commander Andy Howell from the U.S. Coast Guard. Commander Howell’s leadership has been integral in growing the innovation program at the U.S. Coast Guard. A turning point for the program, known as [email protected], came when they launched a Hurricanes Lessons Learned campaign to try and institutionalize knowledge gathered in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria in 2017.

A few key lessons identified by the Coast Guard in these campaigns include the efficacy of leveraging social media and cloud-based solutions in asset tracking and rescue efforts. These findings were game changers for the Coast Guard, and they’re currently being evaluated as potential fast-tracked policy changes internally.

To watch the full presentations, you can view them in our Open Nation DC resources library

The afternoon sessions were comprised of two hands-on workshops conducted by Innovation Strategist Sonja Sulcer and myself. Sulcer’s workshop focused on developing and tracking innovation metrics, and mine focused on developing and reporting outcomes. Both workshops were heavily participant-driven and were geared toward proving the value of an open innovation program in a quantifiable and lasting way. For more information on how to run a similar workshop with your innovation team, talk with your IdeaScale contact. Planning for Open Nation DC 2019 is already in the works! To learn more, get in touch with your friendly local Innovation Strategist or Sales Representative.

If you can’t wait until then, please consider joining us in Berkeley for our industry-wide Open Nation on October 25, 2018.

Will Blockchain Change How Financial Businesses Innovate?

Blockchain will change finance, even if you never buy a bitcoin.

The world’s financial system was never built to do the things that it does. If twenty years ago, you’d told your average investor that stock markets would see billions of trades made by amateur investors over their lunch hour, that little bits of computer code would be valued for more than a new car, that trillions of dollars would travel around the world digitally, automatically converted from one currency to another; they’d laugh at you. But yet, the system works. It’s far from perfect, and that’s where innovation from blockchain can change everything.

Fighting Fraud

Modern finance faces a growing problem in the form of crime and fraud. A teenager in one country can steal a credit card from an adult in another, use it to buy a pallet load of televisions, sell those TVs off at a profit, and leave the financial institution and the merchant to sort out the mess, and this happens a dozen times a day. And that’s just the least complicated scam that the financial industry deals with. There’s high-end theft, money laundering, wire fraud, and a host of other issues.

Blockchain is an intriguing solution to these problems. It’s built from the ground up to deal with fraud, after all. In bitcoin and altcoins, the blockchain is a sprawling, public ledger shared with everyone in the altcoin’s network. From the moment an altcoin enters circulation, its provenance and history are carefully tracked. Everyone on the network can always tell you exactly where a specific coin is and where it’s been. It’s a radical form of transparency that even financial institutions unsure of altcoins are ready to embrace, because it’s much harder to hide your money when you have to tell millions how you move every penny. But this is a massive shift many banks are uncomfortable with, where ledgers are visible not just to clients, but law enforcement, reporters, and the curious.

Blockchain can help stop fraud. But that’s just the start.

Better With Blockchain

To be sure, the decentralized nature of blockchains might leave some institutions wondering where they fit in. After all, if two private individuals can engage in a transaction with absolute confidence in its quality and security, where does a bank fit in? But that’s where innovation is important. Part of the problem is banks refuse to see themselves as anything other than filing cabinets for money.

Applying blockchain to traditional financial institutions is still in its infancy. But increasingly the role of a bank is to provide the technology and the support, to be the pillar finance leans on. Most millennials, for example, simply never go inside their bank, and increasingly don’t even pull cash out of an ATM; they transfer money using apps, use auto-debit to pay their bills, and use apps like Venmo to split checks and cover expenses. Banks are the backstop of all these technologies, but they don’t serve the same role as they did even ten years ago. The banks that innovate will survive, and the others—well, they’ll become part of the banks that innovate.

The same is true of blockchain. The public ledger that serves to verify transactions will change finance in a host of ways. It’ll make account details more public. It’ll create more opportunities for customers to automate their finances and investing, making a personal quant for every person closer to reality. The only way for innovators to be at the center of it is to embrace the technology and figure out where they fit. To get a better sense of where your bank fits, join our newsletter for the latest on innovation strategy.

Is Your Innovation Program Changing Employee Sentiment?

Employee SentimentMany people launch an innovation community as a way of improving their employee engagement scores. But how do you know if you’re moving in the right direction? Many IdeaScale customers are interested in gathering sentiment analysis. This is actually possible directly within IdeaScale using the survey tool, which can pose questions to every member of the community, but before you do that, you might want to think about what it is that you want to measure in order to find out how people truly feel about your innovation program. Here are a few things to consider:

Set a Baseline. This means that you’ll have to wait to find out how you really did on the test. You need at least two data points in order to chart progress. Even if you’ve already launched a community, measure their responses now and again in three to six months. So get started now and set up a regular reminder for the future.

Figure Out How You Want to Measure. Is it NPS? A 5-star satisfaction scale? Pass/Fail? Determine your metric to know how you’re doing and use the same measure each time you reach out to measure innovation sentiment.

Know Your Audience. It’s all very important to know who you’re talking to. If you’re reaching out for feedback using the IdeaScale built-in survey tool, you can even target particular groups within your community, but it’s good to know who they are (old employees vs. new employees, men or women, how are they using the software in the first place).

Get Beyond Your Own Sense of Value. Yes, of course you get value by accessing and combining people’s ideas, but what value are you providing to your community? Is it the intrinsic joy of connecting or is it that they’ve seen a lot of organizational change since they joined the community? What is it that your community comes to your innovation program for?

Learn more about measuring innovation sentiment, by downloading our complimentary infographic on the subject.

Your Next Innovation Campaign

Your Next Innovation CampaignYou’ve got some new ideas! Great job! But now what? Well, there are two very important things that need to happen to make your crowdsourced innovation community a success. First, you need to make sure to implement ideas. And if you’re not sure how to make that happen, give our idea implementation webinar a watch! But while you’re doing that, you have to keep your crowd engaged with new problems to solve and active listening on their suggestions. So if you’re thinking about launching your next innovation campaign, there are a few formats for other problems that need solving at your organization. Here are some formats to choose from.

Better, Faster, Cheaper. Pick something (really, anything) at your organization and ask for a way to do it better. It could be your product, it could be a way that you’re conducting business. Since nothing’s perfect, you’ll be surprised at the number of ways that you can go about improving it.

Incentivized Challenge. Do you have a big goal to meet or a new challenge to overcome? Offer a reward to someone who pitches a complete solution and see what your network comes up with.

Trend Tracking. Look for new trends and hear what other people are thinking about. Is it a new business model? Are people particularly interested in a new technology. What are your front line employees hearing from your customers? Start organizing the trends that are going to impact your future.

Groundtruthing. Maybe you already have some ideas that have come from another team or the company leadership. Test them out in your community. Share them, get feedback and find out what resonates with your crowd.

What should our next campaign be about? Still not sure what needs to be changed? Well, ask your crowd. They probably have some problems that they’d like to see addressed. Turn one of their suggestions into your next innovation campaign.

For more ideas about what to address in your next innovation campaign, download our infographic here. 

Finding the Ideation and Product Development Balance

Ideas are great, but what about the followup?

The value of an idea is limited by being able to execute it. At some point, you have to stop ideating and start putting those ideas into production. But for many businesses, finding the line between ideation and product development can be tricky. An idea sometimes needs more time to fully bake, and that may not be clear until you’ve tried it, or you might only start product development and get beaten to the punch. So, how do you strike that balance?

What Are Your Resources?

Anybody can come up with an idea like “We should launch our own satellite!” And that might even make sense for your business, for any number of reasons. But getting something into space isn’t a cheap proposition. This is an extreme example, but we’re using it to emphasize one of the bigger concerns about ideas vs. product development. You need to be able to commit enough resources to execute those ideas.

A good corporate inspiration is Nintendo. Nintendo works on the principle of “lateral thinking with withered technology.” Nintendo rarely develops cutting-edge technology, but it’s a masterful user of well-known technologies and combining them in new ways. That gives them a good understanding of resources and lets them make a profit in an industry driven by loss leaders.

Can You Execute Pieces?

Some aspects of an idea are useful on their own. A good example of this is bitcoin. Even if you’ve got absolutely no interest in bitcoin, you’ve likely heard quite a bit about blockchain. And there’s a reason: blockchain technology is essentially a useful way to create a digital ledger with hundreds or even millions of copies. If you’ve got a document you always need to know the custody of, or if you’re a car dealership that wants to keep track of their vehicles (and ensure nobody’s trying to sell you a totaled vehicle) or any of a host of other functions, blockchain is fascinating. So are there aspects of your idea you can implement now, that stand on their own, and allow you to introduce your product in stages? Are there aspects that are more ready and could stand to be put on the market to test how “road-ready” they are?

Turn it up to 11!

Is There A Rush?

Not every industry is in a massive rush to innovate, and there’s an important distinction between getting to market first and getting the right product to market. For example, the iPhone was undeniably innovative and brilliant, but it took years for the smartphone to penetrate certain markets. It simply wasn’t able to meet the needs of clients such as businesses that needed cryptographically secure communications, for example. Even just basic enterprise sales, a sector of IT Apple spent years trying to break into, was a struggle that the company took nearly a decade to get to any sort of viable solution.

Especially with niche markets, or markets with a low tolerance for products that haven’t been thoroughly tested, it may be worth remembering that first to market isn’t necessarily a guarantee of a first-place finish.

Want to learn more about balancing your ideation and product development processes, and how a great platform can help? Join our newsletter!

Strengthening Democracy using Real Time Governance

Real Time GovernanceWhat is real time governance?

Real Time Governance is an ideal democratic and citizen empowerment process where citizen involvement is amplified using online feedback platforms such that “opinion” translates into governmental policy.

The first such initiative was launched by the the Obama Administration in 2009 under the name of Open Government Initiative (OGI). This created the framework for subsequent citizen involvement platforms under OGI such Change – a citizen petition online platform, Challenge, Open Data and more!

Citizen experience and feedback management

Sometimes, policy initiatives started by one entity are implemented even better by others. While the Obama administration laid the first foundation work for real time governance, other nations have taken it much further towards true implementation in policy making. For instance, in Dubai, the government has set up one of the World’s most “measurable” scores for “citizen happiness.” Its simple but highly insightful Citizen Happiness Meter a simple Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) survey to get powerful feedback on citizen satisfaction.

One of the critical reasons why this program has been so successful in Dubai is because the government understood something – citizen satisfaction must be prioritized as highly as customer satisfaction.

However, if a nation wants to truly create a real time governance platform – they need to focus on comprehensive citizen experience and feedback mechanisms where metrics for each industrial sector have to be different.

Specialized insights with specific industry-based feedback surveys and polls will play a far greater role in drilling down into the specifics of citizen experience.

For example, a person in the Mining industry will be far more involved in providing valuable feedback to the government if the survey questions are specifically oriented towards understanding pain points and satisfaction for people employed in that specific industry.

Similarly, most questions for the Mining industry will be irrelevant for the IT industry where a different set of questions will be required to get a comprehensive understanding in the software industry.

How to make real time governance truly effective?

The simplest answer will be – through a complete 360-customer satisfaction metrics mechanism for citizens. This doesn’t just mean sending a generic poll to people asking how their day went using public resources – it means that a government needs to deploy comprehensive feedback collection and management platform.

In a broader sense, there need to be two types of citizen feedback mechanisms for it to be truly effective:

Citizen feedback for private resources: This is particularly geared towards understanding employee satisfaction with organizations, how fairly private businesses treat employees, do their companies follow minimum wage policies, work hours, access to maternity leave and so on. This will also include satisfaction while using and purchasing basic consumer products from private businesses.

What is important to note here is that private businesses stand to gain (not lose) through governmental oversight. Private businesses depend on customer satisfaction to drive their businesses and if the government can provide additional industry insights as well as benefits for serving people well, it’s a win-win!

Citizen feedback for public resources: Public resources feedback will cover all resources controlled by the government and utilized by the people. This includes all public sector businesses and public resources such as parks, sanitation, transportation and so on. Historically, public sector resources are viewed as inefficient and inadequate by most users of these facilities. A citizen feedback mechanism in real time governance is the key towards identifying pain points and creating action plans for effective implementation of solutions.

9 Ways Bailey’s Irish Cream Can Help You Innovate

Help You Innovate

 

It’s a cold, wet Spring, so let’s take a moment (and a sip or two?) to reflect on how great ideas become reality. Specifically, let’s consider the invention of Bailey’s Irish Cream and what it can teach us about idea management strategies that can support and amplify successful ideas.

On December 3rd, 2007, Diageo announced the sale of the billionth bottle of Baileys since it was first introduced in 1973. In the decade since, you can estimate that they’ve sold a further 250 million bottles. If we assume that every bottle of Baileys delivered eight generous servings that suggests that over 12 billion glasses of Baileys have been poured since it all began!

cheers

But the story of its invention is both informative and fun (highly recommended). But I’ve taken nine portable innovation lessons from it. Here they are:

Lesson One: Instantaneous Ideas Are Really Ideas With Great Groundwork

“The initial thought behind Baileys Irish Cream took about 30 seconds. In another 45 minutes the idea was formed. Baileys was like that for me. A decade of experience kicked in and delivered a great idea. It wasn’t as instant as it seemed.”

At IdeaScale, we provide an environment so that ideas (and idea fragments) have a place to grow, combine, and mature so that there is an actual place where inspiration can happen.

Lesson Two: Ideas Need a Chance!

“Where Hugh was more likely to intellectualise and think through the appalling consequences of dropping cream into Ireland’s beloved whiskey, I was all for doing it there and then.”

Make sure your idea management process is set up to avoid the trap of prevailing assumptions and encourages participants to feel comfortable proposing out-of-the-box ideas.

Lesson Three: Good Ideas Require Experimentation and Refinement

“We mixed the two ingredients in our kitchen, tasted the result and it was certainly intriguing, but in reality bloody awful. Undaunted, we threw in some sugar and it got better, but it still missed something.”

“We went back to the store, searching the shelves for something else, found our salvation in Cadbury’s Powdered Drinking Chocolate and added it to our formula. Hugh and I were taken by surprise. It tasted really good. Not only this, but the cream seemed to have the effect of making the drink taste stronger, like full-strength spirit. It was extraordinary.”

Good ideas hardly ever arrive fully formed. How are you tracking updates, improvements, and allowing others to build themselves into the process?

Lesson Four: Good Ideas Need Champions

“Over the years I have come to the conclusion that the real heroes of ideas are not the people who have them – they are the people who buy them.”

“Whatever we were doing, no matter what he thought of the taste, he knew what we were aiming for. Just a nod, that’s all he gave us. Not a yes but better than a no. Mac would be the man who would have to run with this. And he did.”

Good ideas need to exist in a marketplace where leaders and people with authority can learn about them and then take a chance on and invest in good ideas. How else are they going to discover them?

Lesson Five: Ideas Need to be Marketed

“Names can be tough and often really easy to reject with a comment like “I just don’t like it”…Being words, not graphic designs, they are within everyone’s purview so anyone can reject them. Getting to Baileys as quickly as we did was unusual. Indeed, as I discovered in later years, it was incredible.”

But it’s not just about the name, everything with a new idea needs to be packaged!

Lesson Six: Rapidly Prototype

“The next step was packaging, and we needed a bottle. Not being confident enough in the overall idea to suggest spending money on a new mould which could have run to several thousand pounds, we looked around for an existing bottle and Tom found one for an Irish whiskey brand that the company distributed called Redbreast. We decided we’d use that.”

Turn your idea into a potential reality as quickly and easily as possible so that your audience can have a better chance at understanding and contributing to your idea. Feedback starts the moment you’ve left the blank canvas behind.

Lesson Seven: Involve Others

“I wrote out a design brief and asked Amy to show it to him and get him to submit some designs as soon as he could…. A couple of days later Bob delivered… he had sent about 20 for us to choose from. Amy laid them out on our table and Tom, Hugh and I looked them over and immediately lit on one.”

“There was a huge buzz seeing an idea begin to assume a physical form. I was no designer so depended on other people to perform this magic.”

Good ideas become great ideas when you build a team around them.

Lesson Eight: The Role of Feedback

Feedback and validation is, of course, critical to the selection of an idea but the lesson here is to make sure you know what feedback you’re looking for. When Baileys finally had a potential bottle, label and name, the team took it to a bar for some market research. They served it to a group of men who declared it to be a “girly drink”. While it seemed like this could be a disaster for their new idea, they paid attention to all the feedback this group produced:

“After this what man was going to openly lay claim to liking “a girl’s drink”? It was an absolute no-no. But when we looked at their glasses every one of them had been drained. It might not have been their kind of drink, but there was nothing wrong with the taste.”

It was this keen observation that helped give the Bailey’s team the confidence they needed to take their prototype to Dublin and present it to executives.

Lesson Nine: The Best Ideas Take On Their Own Life

“No matter how well an idea is received, it is a complex entity and changes are inevitably made. The Baileys team now had to make its own imprint. The first thing they did was to remove the word “chocolate” from the description Irish Cream Chocolate Liqueur.”

Here’s why it matters, “As soon as they started making an imprint on this strange new idea they began to assume ownership. And once they owned it they would commit to it.”

Cheers to great ideas!

Can Ideation Build Community?

Ideas pull us together.

The history of communities shows they’re formed around ideas. Those ideas can be anything from colonizing space to just the idea that this particular place on the ocean would make a good port, but underlying any community is a strong idea. And gathering and refining ideas can be a good way to construct a community around your brand.

Ideation As Community

A good example is EA Sports. Video games are a notoriously tough market to work in, sitting squarely at the intersection of art and science, and sports gamers are a tough market to cater to in of themselves, as they’re not just gamers, but enormous fans of leagues and athletes. That makes getting a sense of the broader community particularly crucial. EA develops exacting simulations of international soccer leagues with the FIFA franchise, American football with their long-running Madden series, combat sports with EA Sports UFC, and basketball with NBA Live. Their work reaches millions of fans, and even the smallest changes are heavily scrutinized by critics and players alike.

The problem is that feedback only arrives after the game comes out, meaning players have to wait at least until an update for minor changes and for an entirely new version of the game for major ones. So EA decided to take it to their audience directly with their sports games and set up a site to collect and refine ideas from their thousands of players. They asked players both to contribute ideas and to vote on the ones EA thought were interesting or workable.

The result was a community that was built out quickly. 10,000 ideas hit the platform, and they gathered over 200,000 votes from the 17,000 active users who checked in with an opinion. It was a reaction EA wasn’t expecting, and it quickly meant players were more invested in the games and their ideas. So how do you build that kind of community for your brand?

Working together forms stronger bonds.

Building Communities With Ideas

First, pick goals and deadlines. EA’s site worked so well because the goal—improving the games and involving the players—was clear and easy to grasp on both sides. Having a goal gives your community a direction to form in, and deadlines give your community more of a sense of urgency.

After that, consider the back end. What are your criteria for ideas? Can anybody submit ideas publicly to be considered, or will ideas be submitted privately, considered by your team, and posted on the site for further comment? The same is true of the real-life backend: Have a strong software platform that’s flexible enough to change with your ideas.

Finally, look at the ideas you’re already getting from your community to “seed” your platform. Loyal customers and casual shoppers alike will offer ideas, or point out issues, and if they log in and see that you’ve been listening, that’ll build a stronger sense of commitment on their part. There’s nothing more powerful than being heard.

Communities form around ideas, and that means ideas are the most powerful way to connect you with your customers. Need help building a stronger community? Contact us about building an ideation platform.

IM Award Lessons: Rapidly Iterating on Promising Ideas

Rapidly Iterating

This year, QED won the Innovation Management award for best innovation realized. The reason that they won this award is, because they were able to collaborate with other crowdsourcing platform TopCoder to test and prototype promising solutions right away – a great use of crowd resources. So we asked QED a few questions about their program and here’s what they had to say:

IdeaScale: Why is innovation vital to your organization?

QED: As a firm that is celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, it is essential that we remain nimble, inventive, and open to change. The QED Group has been a pioneer in the area of Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting, an approach designed to foster continuous improvement through stakeholder engagement and change management. By embracing innovation in our corporate culture, we are able to practice what we preach and discover new ways to serve our clients and shape a more collaborative world.

IdeaScale: What’s the most important piece of advice that you can give to someone launching an IdeaScale community?

QED: Make sure to think out your process past Ideation. We ran into some challenges in keeping the rest of our community up to date on what happened to their ideas, which led to a drop in enthusiasm. It’s natural to think about what happens to successful ideas, but it’s also important to consider the path for those ideas that either need more research or are not relevant.

IdeaScale: What are you most proud of in your innovation program?

QED: Winning this award is definitely up there! But overall it would be the experience of showing people the prototypes that we have developed from ideas that began on IdeaScale and seeing their excitement, enthusiasm, and spark of creativity that comes to them when imagining other ways to use the prototypes.

 To learn more about QED’s award-winning efforts, download the case study today!

 

 

Last Day to Submit to the CEC’s Youth for Innovation Challenge

Last year, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation launched a fantastic challenge with inspiring results. Youth from across North America shared incredible ideas that included creating concrete from recycled plastic or powering grocery stores on food waste, and more. To learn more about last year’s challenge and winners, you can read the full case study here. But they’ve launched the challenge for a second year in a row and it’s exciting to see the ideas so far!

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) was established by the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States through the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, the environmental side agreement to NAFTA. An intergovernmental organization, the CEC brings together citizens and experts from governments, nongovernmental organizations, academia and the business sector to seek solutions to protect North America’s shared environment while supporting sustainable economic development.

This year’s innovation challenge aims to harness the creativity of college and university students and young entrepreneurs by eliciting bold and innovative technology, science and business ideas that can advance green growth in North America.

Today, however, is the last day to propose ideas and post comments on the ideas of others. So if you’re between the ages of 18 – 30 and you have an idea that will help meet North American sustainability goals, submit it today! We’re excited to see the bold new ideas that come in this year. Here are some of the ideas that we think are most exciting:

Recycling Materials for Bike Gear. This project is fun and engaging, and we love it, because it not only tackles reusing existing materials, but it encourages more green transport on bikes.

An Express Kitchen Composter. Move over KitchenAid – this is about to be the most valued kitchen appliance! It can compost food waste for your garden in under three hours.

An Environmentally Responsible Air Conditioner. Did you know that air conditioning ranks number one for energy consumption and air pollution in Mexico? This student has created an air conditioning unit that uses 80% of the energy required by regular air conditioners and this new unit is completely free of refrigerants.

Which ideas are you most excited about?