Minnesota Idea Open tackles weighty problem


With more than 25 years of philanthropy under its belt, the Minnesota Community Foundation (MCF) is used to hearing good ideas. With the launch of the Minnesota Idea Open, however, they’re hoping they’ll hear them from people who haven’t been part of the conversation before. 

The Idea Open is an online challenge directed at all Minnesotans to innovate solutions to obesity in the state by answering the question “How could your community use $15,000 to eat smart and be active?”

Idea Open’s website is designed by Ashoka’s Changemakers, a company that has previously designed online grant competitions for philanthropic heavyweights such as the Gates Foundation. It combines the idea submission process with commenting tools, discussion forums and eventually public voting on the top three ideas as determined by a panel of judges.

Jennifer Ford Reedy, VP of Strategy at MCF, hopes that through the Minnesota Idea Open, MCF and its partners are creating a discussion on issues affecting the state with a tool that is “so fun Minnesotans want to care about it.”

“We’re taking this amazing cool thing they’ve developed for the world, and localizing it,” says Reedy. Plans for the tool don’t end with this challenge; they hope to run similar competitions at a smaller scale, allowing cities or counties to use it to generate solutions to local-level issues.

The site has already received over 250 idea submissions with three days remaining until the April 9 deadline. Ideas range from creating outdoor playground equipment for adults for public exercise to creating exercise “safe havens” for the obese. Some propose revamping unhealthy institutions like school lunch; others return to the tried and true such as the expansion of already successful programs such as the Youth Farm and Market Project or going back in time to the 1950s.