In February 2014 we started work on the Longitude Prize. How we approached this project and what we learned along the way is the topic of the following posts:
A challenge prize is a very simple idea. A problem is identified and publicised along with the offer of a reward to the person or organisation who can find the first or best solution. Identifying the problem, however, is a challenge in itself.
When we started working on the Longitude Prize in early 2014, the term ‘challenge prize’ was unfamiliar to us. Yet we resonated to the underlying concept – engaging with experts to design competitions that could advance scientific inquiry and, hopefully, the discovery of solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.
One of the first things we learned while working on Longitude was that not all problems can be made into good challenges. The problem identified for a challenge prize needs to be:
1. Simple to understand and articulate
2. It has to be a real problem, not a manufactured one
3. There need to be people interested in solving it
4. It has to be soluble
5. It can’t have been solved already
We were given six broad challenge areas: Antibiotics, Dementia, Flight, Food, Paralysis, and Water. As our involvement in the project grew, our task became that of crafting good challenge prizes out of these areas.
We are not experts in any of these fields but we were lucky enough to work with expertise sourced from an international group of advisors. What we needed was an understanding of the key challenges within these areas, the likely areas of opportunity, and the motivations of potential participants in the challenge.
Our work on the Longitude Prize 2014 ended up being divided into three stages: challenge mapping, challenge prototyping, and challenge reporting. In the upcoming Longitude posts we will explain these phases individually to illustrate some of the materials used, their application in practice, and their outcomes.
We are a close team of designers and researchers who are passionate about tackling ambitious and important problems. If you’re looking to grow your impact, we’d love to hear from you!