Two weeks ago our team gathered in Austin, Texas for the annual SXSW conference. A few of us were speaking, a few of us live there, and a few of us came for a Ushahidi design team hit team meeting. Altogether we had nine team members in Austin at different times throughout the week. We ate brisket, huddled around outdoor coffee shops for sunny coding sessions, visited the manufacturing floor of BRCK, and braved the lines of the festival. Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.03.20 AM I gave a talk about Making All Voices Count’s Global Innovation Competition (GIC). Specifically I spoke about how Ushahidi, together with our Fund Manager partners Hivos and IDS, crafted the competition in a way to 1) reach the unusual suspects, and 2) make a competition that has value for all participants, not only the winners. That is a hard thing to do. In venture funding VCs usually look for either a) a strong leader and team or b) a strong idea and market. Typically an investor looks for both, but as our colleague Chris Albon says, if Elon Musk comes up and says he wants to invent a spoon, you would still write him a check, because that would be the coolest spoon ever. For Making All Voices Count however, we want to find new people with new ideas that can positively impact the relationship between citizens and their governments. To try and support this we have a low-barrier to entry, which leads to an open voting process. The top 50 applicants go to stage 2, in which there is peer review, meaning the 50 applicants give feedback to each other. They receive that feedback, with the purpose of solving issue number two. 30 applicants make it out of this stage and proceed to the third stage which consists of a dialogue between Making All Voices Count staff and applicants designed to better understand the ideas/proven concepts. The screening reviewers will then nominate applicants to the GIC Committee, who then decide which applicants make it to the final. The GIC 2015 final, the Global Innovation Week, will be hosted in Jakarta, Indonesia. The finalists will meet each other and go through an intense mentorship programme, before making final presentations of their ideas/proven concepts. Invitation and attendance to the GIC Week is a prize in itself, as it opens up a world of networking and other opportunities to all finalists. At the end of the GIC Week, Making All Voices Count will host the Global Innovation Gala night, where the winners will be announced and will receive grants from a pool of GBP 300,000 to turn their ideas into reality. Ushahidi is 7 years old. We still apply to competitions, and we do not win all of them. We won the Netsquared award for $25,000 6 years ago, and that was one of the first sets of funding that kicked us off. We still remember the pain of the competition hussle. It’s a lot of work with no guarantee of output or value. We don’t want others to have to go through the same pain that we did. As such we are making an effort in the Global Innovation Competition to create value for applicants throughout the application process. Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.03.38 AM Ushahidi has always been about trying to make it easier for the next person walking the same path. That is why we made our platform open source, so next time someone wanted to do this they wouldn’t have to start from square one. When we created the iHub, we did so because we wanted others to have a community too. The reason we are doing Making All Voices Count is because we want to make the path a little easier for the next innovators out there. Our goal is to have a lot more stories’ like Ushahidi’s in the world.