Building a Home for a Global Community of Innovators

Born out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2015, Solve is an initiative to discover, evaluate, and advance technological solutions to global problems. Each year, Solve announces a set of specific challenges to the public—everything from improving brain health to building sustainable communities—and solicits innovative and collaborative solutions. Its goal is to reduce the time from initial idea to deployment by connecting innovators to the essential resources.

The Challenge

Breaking the Mold

After its first year, Solve realized it had an opportunity to go beyond the traditional model for open innovation competitions. Instead of awarding an exclusively monetary prize, selected Solvers become part of a community that will help them refine their solutions and establish sustained, long-term partnerships to implement them. Solve favors collaboration over competition.

While Solve’s approach makes it very attractive to participants, it initially presented some distinct communication and functional needs. These included:

  • Clearly articulating the value of participation, without a tantalizing cash prize
  • Creating an application process that was rigorous, but could be submitted in manageable pieces and refined over time
  • Providing innovative ways for people to find ideas similar to their own and to join together as a team to co-create solutions.

Solve already had a website for its challenges, but it lacked a content and digital strategy to truly foster an online community. It needed a way to better manage Solve members from the private, public, academic, and non-profit sectors; to build and maintain momentum around its competition year-round; and to establish its own thought leadership around solving world challenges.

The Path Forward

Facilitating Open Innovation

Atlantic 57 partnered with Solve to launch a new digital platform for open innovation problem-solving—a place for the Solve community to contribute expertise, explore ideas, and create connections to advance solutions in the world. The platform is an experiment in global collaboration, a digital community for diverse minds to tackle the world’s most complex challenges, and an incubator for leaders and changemakers to partner together and pilot real solutions.

Fostering a Vibrant Community of Innovators We designed Solve’s site for its participants. We wanted to construct a seamless and enjoyable process for the people submitting their concepts, prototypes, pilots, or business plans—the most important part of Solve’s mission. Instead of a long, onerous application process, participants can post their solutions one piece at a time, opening their work up for feedback, input, and refinement along the way.

The platform delivers a meaningful and engaging experience for applicants, judges, partners, and the general public throughout the lifecycle of challenges. Participants can comment on other solutions, message each other, and join together on Solution teams. Solution team members around the world can co-edit their proposal on the platform, truly enabling global collaboration to solve these important challenges.

Empowering Big Ideas

Solve’s platform easily enables people around the world to contribute solutions, join collaborative teams, and share ideas. Of these contributions, the most promising solutions are selected by a panel of expert judges. Those chosen “Solvers” gain access to everyone in the Solve community—from other Solvers, to Solve staff, to MIT faculty, to leaders from the tech industry, business, philanthropy, government, and civil society.

Solve works with contributor teams to provide match-making within the Solve community, creating opportunities for partnerships to fund, pilot, and scale each solution. It facilitates direct connections between solution teams and corporate and NGO partners through an interest-based algorithm. It also provides mentorship and training opportunities to help teams workshop and pitch their solutions, and access to Solve’s flagship annual event, Solve at MIT, where Solvers and Solve community members come together for presentations of the latest solutions and workshops to pilot, partner, and implement solutions.

Structuring for Future Success

Solve’s digital platform has attracted hundreds of users. It is a flexible system that supports future iteration and growth, as Solve continues to grow and scale its mission. The platform provides activity dashboards and communications for each type of community member, keeping them informed and engaged on the platform over time. Using real-world data and analysis of user behavior, the product can be built upon in years to come. These features position Solve as a standalone catalyst for collaboration and innovation.

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