OpenIDEO: A Platform to Harness Collaboration for Social Good

A few years ago, IDEO launched Open IDEO, a crowdsourcing platform where people from across the world can collaborate to solve tough global issues. [1] We’ll explore how OpenIDEO is using crowds to generate value, and the challenges it may face when looking ahead.


As we learned in TOM, IDEO is a design company that uses the “Design Thinking” methodology to solve problems and create new products, services, and experiences. Design thinking utilizes elements from the designer’s toolkit like empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions. [2] It consists in 5 steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test, and requires to diverging and converging ideas through the process before arriving to the final solution.

IDEO created OpenIDEO, an on-line community where people can come together to generate ideas to solve world’s problems. As the company mentions, the goal of OpenIDEO is to use the tools of design thinking to create social good.

“The OpenIDEO platform gave the 11th Hour Project access to a huge network of global individuals and organizations with great ideas, passion, and insights. It took us out of the realm of philanthropy-as-usual, exposed us to new ways to accelerate solutions, and was an inspiring process.” [3]

How does it work?

Creating challenges: OpenIDEO partners with worldwide companies (such as Nike, Unilever, among others) to create a Challenge. A challenge is a social problem that the companies want to solve, for example: “How might we build better employment opportunities and pathways for young people around the world?” Normally, stories or research accompanies the questions, to build inspiration and generate empathy with those affected by the issue. [4]

Engaging users: Users are encouraged to participate in solving the challenge. They can help by sourcing research, providing ideas, giving feedback, refining the ideas, and voting for the best ideas.

Generating impact: Ideas that get the highest number of votes are picked to be implemented. After the process OpenIDEO and the partner company share the stories of implementation and impact.

For examples, you can click here.


Who benefits and how?

The ultimate goal of the platform is to create value and benefit to the society as a whole, by bringing ideas that will solve real problems. In addition, we could say that it creates value to users by creating a community that wants to do social good. Note that users are not paid, it is just the “emotional” satisfaction of participating on the challenges.

However, we could also think it more critically, and it can be said that OpenIDEO and the sponsors/partner companies the ones who are benefiting the most. They are capturing value from this platform by crowd-sourcing ideas from users, who are basically working for free in their projects. They are also benefiting from free marketing on their CSR initiatives.


Challenges looking forward?

  1. Increase user base, user participation and quality of ideas: One big challenge is how to generate more users to participate in the platform. Since users are not rewarded with a tangible prize, there are little incentives to contribute with ideas and feedback in multiple challenges. One solution could be to implement a gamification tool, where users could earn digital badges/points/titles as they generate more content. To increase the quality of ideas, OpenIDEO could offer cash rewards and/or real engagement of the winners in the implementation of ideas.
  2. Sourcing challenges and generating impact: If the company doesn’t find enough partners interested in generating challenges, the company could limit its ability to generate impact. OpenIDEO could bring along non-profits and find ways to crowd-source funding to help more people around the world. The challenge will this idea will be then, how to disentangle user’s funding with IDEO’s profit in a transparent way.


Impact created Worldwide

I feel optimistic of the work OpenIDEO is doing, setting a path for crowd-sourcing platforms to generate social good. I’m glad to know that thousands of users are participating with ideas and it makes me believe that the world will have a better future 🙂











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