This week, we sit down with Alex Amouyel, Executive Director of MIT Solve, and Matthew Swift, Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO of Concordia, to gain a deeper insight into the two organizations’ joint initiatives towards addressing global challenges and positive social impact.
I think it’s extremely important to work with educational institutions. By putting a spotlight on young people and people who are studying these challenging subjects for the first time, we’re able to discover fresh ideas and perspectives on how to go about tackling these large-scale issues. MIT Solve is a special kind of organization, due to its work with individuals who approach problem-solving from a myriad of angles and ultimately break through old and tried habits of thinking to actually discover new solutions to these challenges.
Every year, Solve staff consult with hundreds of academics, investors, corporate and nonprofit leaders, students, and entrepreneurs to identify trends to shape our next set of Challenges. We host Challenge Design Workshops on the MIT campus with faculty and students and also in partnership with other like-minded organizations across the U.S. and the world. We use an iterative human-centered design process to whittle down hundreds of potential challenge ideas to one question for each thematic area. Those who are interested can also participate online via our open innovation platform — last year, we received 12,000 votes. Once we have four Challenge questions, we launch these in the spring and anybody, from anywhere around the world, can apply!
One of the facets of our partnership that I’m most excited about is our joint hosting of MIT Solve’s Challenge Design Workshop. This workshop will delve into creative solutions and partnerships that can solve the major global issues in question. From this workshop, I hope to gain insight into new areas for Concordia to explore in order to create partnerships and communities, start engaging them, and ultimately work with the Solve community to actually create tangible impact in the future.
Hearing from the Solver teams themselves will certainly bring a fresh mindset into the dialogues at the Annual Summit. On the plenary stage, we usually hear from leaders of organizations, high-level individuals, and heads of state, but hearing new brilliant ideas from Solve’s Solver teams, ideas that arose from the ground up, will bring a necessary new angle to the conversation, providing the Summit with a full spectrum of voices and approaches that we are then able to leverage for social impact.
MIT Solve is a marketplace for social impact innovation, and on September 23, during the Solve Challenge Finals in New York City (watch it live here), we will be selecting this year’s class of 30+ incredible Solver teams from 1,150 submitted solutions. Some of the 60 finalists joining us have never traveled to New York City, let alone left their countries, so to introduce them both to the Solve community and to the Concordia opportunity during their trip is incredible. Solve is all about connecting our Solver teams with leaders around the world who can partner with them in advancing their work. What better stage than Concordia to introduce the work of selected Solver teams and promote opportunities for the Concordia community to partner with them!
For each Challenge, Solve convenes a Challenge Leadership Group comprised of more than 20 experts and leaders from MIT, corporations, foundations, multilateral organizations, and governments. Each submitted solution is evaluated online by the Challenge Leadership Group against Solve’s Challenge judging criteria, which includes alignment, potential for impact, scalability, feasibility, and innovative approach or novelty. We invite the top 15 finalists per Challenge to come to Solve Challenge Finals in NYC (this year, SCF is the day before Concordia’s Annual Summit on September 23; watch it live here) and to pitch their solution live to the Challenge Leadership Groups and a live audience of more than 350 leaders. The Challenge Leaderships Groups will choose 30+ Solver teams. It’s a rigorous process, but ultimately, our Solver class represents a most promising portfolio of solutions to some of the world’s biggest Challenges. During Solve Challenge Finals, the selected Solver teams will be eligible for nearly $1 million of prize funding in total, thanks to a number of our great partners, including General Motors and the McGovern Foundation.
This is just the beginning for the Solver teams: after Solve Challenge Finals, we conduct a needs assessment with each Solver team to understand their financial and non-financial needs, assign them a mentor if desired, and connect them with Solve and MIT community members. The goal is to forge connections and partnerships throughout the year to support the Solvers to accelerate their work and impact. Solver teams’ capstone experience is Solve at MIT every May on the MIT campus where over 500 cross-sector leaders come together to share partnerships and discuss the new set of Challenges.