Open Innovation

Open innovation methods involve publicizing your interest in a problem and extending an open invitation to the broadest possible community to participate in solving it. Some open innovation methods incentivize participation through awards; others tap existing excitement around solving a particular problem. This model is effective in generating ideas that are at the early stages of proof of concept from unusual sources, and to promote new ways of networking and connecting among donors and organizations.

Open Call for Participation

Open Innovation methods are built on voluntary participations and contributions from people. Therefore engaging the potential participants’ interests is a key to success of this method. Incentives can be monetary, but also acknowledgement or a sense of pride.

Funder as: Judge & Advocate

The risk inherent in open innovation methods is that you cannot always predict or control the outcome. Your vision and knowledge will play a key role in identifying the most promising ideas, and to utilize internal & external expertise appropriately, such as inviting the right vertical experts as judging panel, or to engage internal experts to devise the way to take the ideas forward.


Methods at a Glance

When it's best to use
When it goes well
When it goes wrong


seek entries that address a previously unsolved problem with rewards promised for winners

  • Your problem is clearly defined but there are no known solutions yet.
  • You want to raise the awareness of the issue to the broader audience.

  • Incentivizes participation by people whose time and effort has a high opportunity cost.
  • Yields a great number of ideas that are mature enough to be developed

  • Fails to engage the right participants or receive enough number of entries
  • Quality of entries falls short of expectation.


solicit ideas relevant to a particular challenge without declaring any winners, especially when the topic is already well known and of public interest.

  • You don’t have a lot of resources to devote to uncovering innovations.
  • You have an engaged and active community around your challenge.
  • Your challenge is linked to a widespread, well-known issue.

  • You tap into knowledge of people that you cannot normally reach.
  • Produces unexpected solutions or directions to explore further.
  • Creates a new network of collaborators.

  • Derives biased outcomes due to the limited participation.
  • Contributed ideas may not give any conclusive direction, but raise questions on credibility.


gather people with relevant skillsets and interest to create solutions to a given challenge in an event

  • Your problem requires specific technical skills to come up with plausible solutions.
  • You want to engage the broad network of people with relevant technical skills to become interested in the issue.

  • You get concrete, feasible solutions that are mature enough in a short time frame to get investment for further refinement.
  • You promote the topic in the community that can contribute to solution development later.

  • No remarkable outcome to take forward
  • Low enthusiasm among participants due to lack of motivation


uses an open and participatory process to work with communities to identify the right problems and opportunities within their community

  • You would benefit from simultaneous input from a large number of users to understand problems they are facing and opportunities to innovate which might not be obvious from the outside
  • You can set up a platform that users can reach independently

  • You get a different perspective on the issue with the vast amount of data that you could not get hands on otherwise, e.g., disaster situation
  • May highlight structures that are invisible to external organizations

  • Derives biased outcomes due to the limited participation
  • Produces controversial outcome but it’s difficult to verify data