There are more than 70 million displaced people—refugees—around the world. A social impact and innovation contest called the BridgeBuilder Challenge identified five social enterprises around the world making a difference for that huge population.
The challenge was organized by OpenIDEO, the social impact arm of IDEO, in partnership with the GHR Foundation, which focuses on design-build models for philanthropy.
In each of the past three years, the partners have issued a new challenge intended “to invest in building and repairing bridges between people, organizations, issues, and beliefs to promote meaningful engagement and sustainable, community-led change,” explains Alex Nana-Sinkam, who manages the program for OpenIDEO from her office in Kenya. Previously based in San Francisco, she has spent much of the past nine years living abroad, working in the social sector.
The 2019 challenge focused on the “the urgent and emergent needs of a global population directly impacted by a lack of peace, prosperity, and sound environmental conditions—in other words, migrants and people on the move.”
One of the winners of the 2017 BridgeBuilder challenge was NaTakallam, a professional translation services company run and staffed by refugees. To ensure that this year’s challenge captured real life impact for the target community, OpenIDEO and the GHR Foundation worked with NaTakallam.
The team received 440 applications from 165 countries and chose 40 high potential semi-finalists. All of these “received one-on-one feedback from a mentor with lived experience as a migrant or refugee, IDEO design support, and toolkits to support internal capacity-building,” Nana-Sinkam says.
“The final selection was informed by mentor feedback, engagement from 12 thought leaders and experts in the space,” the Stanford graduate explains.
The GHR Foundation put up a $1 million pool of prize money that was allocated equally to the five chosen “Top Ideas.”
“From supporting Senegalese ‘manteros’ (street vendors) in Spain, to creating employment opportunities for migrants in Paris’ cultural sector, to redesigning a safer, more inclusive ID card system in the U.S. South, the 5 Top Ideas represent a geographic breadth and spectrum of perspectives on a topic that influences every corner of the world,” says Nana-Sinkam.
“We are especially excited that a number of Top Idea organizations are led by people who have experienced displacement themselves. Alongside the GHR Foundation, OpenIDEO is eager to continue supporting these concepts as they scale globally,” she concluded.
Chris Berger, Director of Communications for the GHR Foundation, says of the program, “We again set out to serve people and their limitless potential for good. By prioritizing the voices of people on the move this year, the BridgeBuilder community witnessed the power of their expertise, ingenuity and optimism.”