Student Crowdsourcing Project Delivers World-Changing Ideas

Published Nov-17-13

How the power of a global student crowd is creating and developing projects and companies that change lives.

Dell/University of Texas at Austin, United States

The Story:

Student Crowdsourcing Project Delivers World-Changing Ideas Using the principles of crowdsourcing, numerous organizations are encouraging social innovators to work together on their big ideas to change the world.

Ever since 2007, the Dell Social Innovation Challenge (DSIC) has been inviting students from everywhere to crowdsource solutions to help improve the lives of millions of people. The program is run by the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.

Making a Difference

The initiative started as a winner-takes-all $50,000 contest. Today, students can win a share of $350,000 in prizes to bring their social innovation concepts to life.

Ideas are accepted at any stage, from the smallest seed of a thought all the way to a non-profit program that is already up and running.

Participating students create a webpage for their idea on and community members and visitors view and vote for their favourite ones. Judges score the projects and those that advance to later stages receive one-to-one tuition prior to the Finalist Week in Austin, Texas.

Thousands of students from more than 100 countries take part. They can create their own projects and invite others to join, or they can connect with existing projects.

Hotbed of Creative Activity

It’s a richly creative environment where collaboration is encouraged, rather than thinking competitively. Participants scan the DSIC current needs and then jump in where they think their skills, knowledge and talents will be of most benefit. Any one project can have students from numerous countries, diverse backgrounds and vastly different skill-sets contributing to it.

Numerous prizes are awarded every year from the Audience Choice Award ($1,000) and Outstanding Innovation Award ($5,000) to the Grand Prize ($60,000). Past winners have used their winnings in a number of ways, depending on the state of their project. For some the money has been used to launch the business or non-profit, for others, the funds have helped take it to the next stage of growth.

Among the winning projects in 2013 were:

Solar Conduction Dryer won the overall Grand Prize. They provide solar-powered food dehydrators to rural farmers to curb food spoilage and create secondary income from preserved produce. Solar Conduction Dryer also won the Audience Choice Award.

Foot Soldiers picked up the Second Prize of $40,000. The project is tackling rubber tire pollution by recycling old tires into hand-crafted rubber shoes for low-income rural people.

Third Place and a check for $20,000 was given to Good Benefits. This initiative helps companies to streamline their corporate giving programs.

Dell’s Social Innovation Challenge in Numbers

In addition to the prize money, winners receive training and a large network of mentors to draw from. Since the Dell Social Innovation Challenge launched, more than 15,000 students from 105 countries have taken part. They have proposed approximately 4,500 ideas and more than $450,000 in prizes has been awarded. Currently, there are plans to grow the competition to 20,000 entries per year to 2016 (figures as of October 2013 via

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