Kennisland develops effective strategies for complex social problems. Instruments such as challenge prizes and accelerators have an important place in our toolkit. With these tools, we offer innovators in society a platform and work together with them on growth, innovation and knowledge exchange. Innovators are always at the heart of our designs, specifically in relation to other players who can create institutional, legal or financial space. That’s why we never offer a standard programme, but always made-to-measure solutions.
A challenge generates and collects innovative ideas and initiatives from across society: from residents, local authorities, companies and education to social organisations. Many problems lend themselves to a challenge, such as ++Our New SchoolKennisland shook up the education sector with the Our New School challenge, in partnership with the municipality of Amsterdam. This allowed residents themselves to propose ideas to establish a new school. or designing a ++HyperloopThe successful American entrepreneur Elon Musk organised a challenge to realise his Hyperloop high-speed train.. A challenge can either take the form of a competitive process or a contest with prize, and may or may not offer access to a support programme, otherwise known as an accelerator or incubator.++Accelerators and incubatorsAn accelerator is usually used to accelerate initiatives that are already ongoing, while incubators start at the ideas stage.
A challenge facilitates “supported innovation”, as it:
- creates connections between parties
- stimulates movement at the grassroots (bottom-up) level (crowdsourcing of innovation) and links this to policy objectives (top-down)
- stimulates co-creation and multidisciplinary working
A challenge offers space to the unusual suspects: a new crop of innovators, who emerge from within society to find solutions based on their own capacities.A challenge offers space to the unusual suspects: a new crop of innovators, who emerge from within society to find solutions based on their own capacities. This delivers a wealth of knowledge and experience that as yet remains largely unseen and underutilised. It also appeals to institutions and other parties to create space for innovation, so their own capacity to innovate can grow. A sustainable movement becomes possible through a process in which policy and practice come together and concrete initiatives meet long-term visions.
Collaborate to compete
The ++InstrumentsSuch instruments are available in all shapes and sizes. Their origin lies in the tech industry, where companies use these structures to link up with start-ups. This type of growth trajectory is now also in use beyond the world of business, for example by governments wishing to stimulate innovation. Although the goals and content differ for each programme, there are several common features: a limited timescale determined beforehand, with intensive support and guidance, which is linked to a competitive element. that Kennisland designs and implements facilitate growth at the individual and collective level. Because we devote a great deal of attention to exactly what participants need, we are able to offer concrete help and support. Our experience has taught us that cooperation is crucial and that participants can actually learn a lot from one another. As such, dealing with the competitive element requires sensitivity. Aside from the benefits of a competition, it is important to make sure that participants work together to ultimately achieve greater progress: “collaborate to compete”. This is why we use our challenges and accelerators to create sustainable networks of innovators and other relevant parties.We use our challenges and accelerators to create sustainable networks of innovators and other relevant parties.
With our challenges:
- we make initiatives visible by giving them a platform (digital and physical)
- we improve quality by offering participants professional support
- we share knowledge accumulated in practice in networks and make it usable (for example) to help form new policy
KL has organised challenges since 2002. Digital Pioneers was the most well-known forerunner of the challenges we now organise. In recent years, we have made use of challenges in areas such as ++Innovation in educationRead about the Our New School challenge and Education Pioneers here., the ++Bottom-up movementFor the Challenge City of the Future, we organised an intensive support programme for city-makers in partnership with Pakhuis de Zwijger. in our cities and ++Radical Innovators We are campaigning for Radical Innovators together with Vrij Nederland and the Vandejong creative agency. of the Netherlands.
Our initiatives are appreciated by both our clients and participants. Thanks to our programmes, they have learned to know and understand each other better. What’s more, concrete results have also been achieved. For example, a number of initiatives have successfully become economically viable, have found their first customer (launching customer) or have broadened their support.Initiatives have successfully become economically viable, have found their first customer (launching customer) or have broadened their support. The media attention that challenges generate has led to new partnerships and knowledge exchange.
A challenge, accelerator or incubator can be a valuable tool to stimulate innovation. As with any tool, it’s important to use it properly. Each programme has its own emphasis, for example on learning, competition or network development. Challenges can also differ in intensity. For example, we developed a support programme for the European Social Innovation Competition in which participants from across Europe receive coaching remotely and are immersed in a Social Innovation Academy for three days. Radical Innovators emphasises a short and intense campaign. On the other hand, the Challenge City of the Future and Our New School programmes lasted six months, which meant that momentum had to be built up over a longer period.
In recent years, we have gained a lot of experience with the issues raised when stimulating innovators. How should we deal with the differences between initiatives? What are achievable goals for a growth trajectory? And how can the results become more sustainable than a short-term impulse? We would be happy to advise you about this!