Discovering What Works: Using Prizes

Solutions Journalism Network

The stories in this collection (one of three about Discovering What Works) provide an overview of how prizes can be effective in encouraging social innovation and change, as well as a few very different examples of prizes as a social change strategy.  Begin this collection by listening to the BBC Podcast Problem-Solving Prizes, where you'll learn that when the world needed something new—say, a way to calculate longitude at sea—a prize was offered. Then dive into the other stories to learn how prizes are back and are pushing innovation like never before.

Read Innovation for the People, By the People, by David Bornstein to learn about how the Obama administration initiated the use of prizes to mobilize new ideas from outside of the governmental sector. In her follow-up piece, Prizes with an Eye Toward the Future, Tina Rosenberg takes a wider view to consider the benefits of using prizes as a mechanism to encourage cross-sector innovation.

We also see how prizes can be used to promote individual growth and positive behavioral change. In the battle against addiction, rewards are a vital component of a strategy known as contingency management.

NOTE: Not everyone agrees that prizes are a cost effective and efficient method for cultivating social change. This collection includes a link to an article where the author, a highly esteemed leader in the field of social change, argues that some competitions and prizes are a waste of time and money.


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