Challenge Canadians by Issuing Challenges

Question:What more can be done to cement Canada's place as a leader in social entrepreneurship?
on 06/22/2016







Many of today's social "challenges" have a department, agency, or other organization devoted solely to tackling the issue. This has had a limited track record of success due to a number of reasons, including myopic thinking, only having the "usual suspects" of stakeholders at the table, and large and slow moving bureaucracies.

My proposal is to harness the collective brainpower of all Canadians to help solve some of these social challenges through the issuance of Grand Challenges similiar to the challenges issued by the U.S. Government's website. By having a Government of Canada website that publishes a list of challenges: i.e. how to solve homelessness for veterans, how to increase affordable housing, how to issue microloans to Canadians, how to increase the birth rate in Canada, etc... and asking Canadians to submit solutions to them is a low-cost and innovative way to reach a much broader audience who may not even know about some of the social challenges in Canada. 

Benefits of having a Grand Challenges website:

- Government and/or non-government organizations may submit challenges to the general public

- Can have sponsors (The Alzheimer's society may sponsor a challenge that tries to develop new innovative ways to reverse dementia) for some of the challenges and could potentially offer prizes (monetary, recognition, contract) 

- The first step in solving a problem is identifying the problem. Not all Canadians are aware of the pressing social challenges of the day. Having a central website will allow more innovative ideas to germinate as Canadians with different perspectives have an opportunity to share their knowledge.  

- Once you have a list of plausible solutions to a challenge, then publish these potential solutions and have Canadians comment on them, add to them, in an iterative process etc...Think of it like a "Wikipedia of Ideas" where the best solutions are based on a foundation of previous ideas.   

The new solutions that will be developed will ultimately benefit all Canadians. Challenges stimulate markets and create industries, build communities of citizen scientists and change people’s lives.


Comments »

Christopher Bush by Christopher Bush

Paul, have a look at the heroX website (, and the XPRIZE foundation ( ISED (this work we are contributing to) has listed "Super Clusters" as one of the outcome goals. These clusters could run challenges, and back teams in the global challenges.

We are pressing to create Canada's first super cluster here in BC, where we will bring agriculture and agri-foods together with the entire BioIndustrial complex, using the tools of a program called Industrial Symbiosis. (NISP Canada) I think the NISP tools will help us develop challenge, and to build teams to conquer them.

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Paul Ma by Paul Ma

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your comments. Having challenges with prizes has been done before, however, from what I have seen, they tend to disappear out of the public consciousness after a couple of years (like the X Prize) or are targeted to a very niche audience (i.e. The Millennium Prize Problems). Just having a portal that a wider audience would be aware of would bring in new thoughts and ideas (i.e. people may not know whats a popular new book to read, but they know about the NYT Top 10 list as a starting point to look at). The second part of creating "challenges" is the submission component, it would be nice to have the winning submission(s) published and have them commented upon. Social challenges unlike some other challenges, may have multiple approaches to reach the same outcome. It would be nice to build a "library of solutions" i.e. think Wikipedia, where people/experts can add in further iterations of the initial solution. Ultimately, the concept is about crowdsourcing and having 1 million br

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