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Challenge Process

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Challenge Process

Each year, we receive entries from 60-80 teams during one or more of the IDEAS Social Innovation Challenge initial entry rounds. Different than past years, up to 20 teams that meet our eligibility requirements will be invited to enter the final round with a seed grant of $1,000 and our 16-month implementation support program. Of those 20 teams, three teams may receive up to $16,000 in additional IDEAS grants to pilot their projects.

1. EXPLORE: If you are new to IDEAS and the concept of social innovation or social entrepreneurship, you can attend our IDEAS Panel on September 18, 2019 or our Chat & Chew luncheons on October 16, 2019 and February 5, 2020! If you need grants to further research your solution, to travel to your community, or prototyping, apply for the opportunities provided by Sandbox, ProjectX, or Legatum Seed Grants!

2. IDEATE: Do you and/or your team feel that you’ve got a good handle on the challenge that you care about most, that you and/or your team are best suited to address? Do you and/or your team have some solutions grounded in the perspective of those most directly impacted but want some more thought partnership? Are you looking for teammates? Are you looking for a team? Our IDEAS Generator Dinner on Thursday, October 3rd. If you missed this event, you may be able to connect with teams that pitched that day and potential team members here.

3. REGISTER: yourself and your team, and fill out your profile at

4. PREPARE: a thoughtful proposal based on what you have learned and initially co-ideated with those most impacted by the challenge. You may find our Proposal Writing Workshop on Monday, February 3, 2020 from 6 - 7:30 PM

5. APPLY: Submit your initial proposal (on FluidReview) by at least one of the two deadlines:
  • October 27, 2019
               ***NEW: $1,000 Sandbox-IDEAS IAP funding for up to five October submissions***
  • February 11, 2020
    • We've created a proposal template that you can use to facilitate your drafting process. To access this resource, you must ensure that your MIT Certificate is current. 
6. IMPROVE: After each entry round you’ll receive feedback from a team of reviewers. You’ll also pick a time to meet with IDEAS staff to discuss your ideas and the reviewer comments. Incorporate the feedback to improve your ideas. When possible, attend “Get Good Stuff Done” workshops: or access a complimentary student social innovator resource library from +Acumen.

7. FINAL SUBMISSION: Finalists will be announced on Monday, March 9, 2020. If selected, your team will be invited to submit your Final Proposal to the judges by Saturday, March 21, 2020. Upon submitting your final proposal, your team will be immediately eligible to receive a $1,000 seed grant!

8. HONE: In the time leading up to the big showcase, as a finalist, your team will attend a three workshop seminar series called Tackling Social Change: Approaching Complex Problems from March to April. This series is designed to help you carefully plan your next steps and to practice presenting your effort compellingly. Mark your calendar for the following sessions:
  • Session 1: Systems Approaches –Thursday, March 12 | 12:00 - 2:00 PM (attendance required by at least one team member)
  • Session 2: Office Hours with Mentors – Thursday, March 19 | 6:00 - 8:00 PM
  • Session 3: Developing a Theory of Change and Impact Metrics – Thursday, April 2 | 12:00 - 2:00 PM (attendance required by at least one team member)
  • Session 4: Office Hours with Mentors – Thursday, April 9 | 6:00 - 8:00 PM
  • Session 5: Office Hours with IDEAS Staff & MIT.nano Info Session – Tuesday, April 14 | 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
  • Session 6: Crafting a Compelling Narrative – Thursday, April 16 | 12:00 - 2:00 PM (attendance required by at least one team member)
9. AWARD: Your team will pitch the idea to judges and the audience at the Final Showcase and Award Ceremony on Sunday, April 26. Find out whether you are one of the top three awardees who will receive an additional prize grant of $7,500, $10,000, or $15,000

10. IMPLEMENT: As a grantee team, you will have the benefit of a continued support system while implementing your idea over the 16-month grant (through August 2020). Grantees will receive their prizes in two disbursements. You will be matched with one or more mentors. You will also benefit from support from the IDEAS staff as a sounding board during your implementation stage.

Get started by setting up your team account on FluidReview. MIT student team leader must sign up with address.