Define the Challenge
After completing and validating your system maps, you will use these insights and visual representations to pinpoint leverage points. These leverage points are the places in the system where innovation can lead to significant system-wide changes. Leverage points hide in the system’s rules (such as policies or incentives), the system’s goals, or the mindset or paradigm from which the system arises. The range of leverage points can often surprise those involved, as they are sometimes obscure.
Not all leverage points are equally effective, and some may be easier to influence than others. Prioritize your leverage points based on their potential impact and feasibility within the context of your program. Choosing leverage points outside your network’s influence, energy, or competencies will frustrate participants.
You might sometimes represent these as hypotheses, for example, “If we solve X, we anticipate Y as the outcome.” This framing will clarify why you are selecting these particular challenges for the broader network and how they fit into the context of the map you have created together.
One organization alone will rarely be able to tackle a leverage point with a single solution. The collaboration that would need to take place may require out-of-the-box partnerships, but participants need incentives to form them. Finally, many leverage points involve power holders whose participation is necessary to effect change. Yet, participants are unlikely to have the necessary connections or influence with these individuals.
No solution and no defined collaboration: Organizations have the skills and influential roles within the system to impact a leverage point. However, the necessary solutions don’t exist. The innovation challenge will support organizations to collaborate and develop a solution together.
Defined solution(s), but no collaboration: Organizations have existing solutions to address leverage points, but need partnerships to scale and create systems-level impact. The innovation challenge will support them to collaborate to achieve systems change.
No solution, but existing collaborations: Organizations within the system already collaborate. However, there are no existing solutions to the identified challenges. The innovation challenge will support the development of a shared solution.
As the convener of an innovation challenge, you will possess a certain degree of power and influence to:
These aspects have yet to be central features of innovation contests and will require thoughtful design to execute.
Decisions that will set your direction
People you will need to find your way
It’s still helpful to have systems thinking experts at this process stage. Bring them together with those who have experience with open innovation challenges to grapple with defining the challenge.
To decide which leverage points are most feasible and how to bring in power holders, you’ll need to have local experts as a guiding force.
Co-Design with participants is a best practice. Innovators and potential challenge participants should participate in crafting and selecting challenge statements.
Review your plan for these critical elements
See the warning signs first
These resources can help you on your journey
See the Example Challenge Statement Slide Deck for an example of a participatory exercise to determine the Challenge Statements – i.e., the goal of the challenge competition. Adapt the deck to create your own workshop, or choose a different method for moving from systems mapping and leverage points to Challenge Statements. Also, see the Challenge Statements created by AI4R example .
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