A couple of weeks ago I had the honour and the privilege of attending and speaking at an event hosted by The White House and The Department of State. The event was organised by John Kao and his Institute of Large Scale Innovation and attendees included heads of innovation for 28 different countries. The purpose of the i20 was to create a global conversation about the large-scale issues that affect all of us. Using OpenIDEO, we placed a challenge to the global community to voice their opinions on what global challenge should be addressed today, in order to help inform the agenda of the event. Here’s the call to arms that our challenge posed:

“Although citizens of many countries can appeal to their own publicly elected officials, people rarely get to help shape the global conversation, particularly at a forum of world leaders. This OpenIDEO challenge and the i20 summit mark one of those rare opportunities to speak your mind — and be heard — on the important issues of today.” Full description here.

During the symposium we had the opportunity to present the six ‘grand challenges’ that the OpenIDEO community generated. The challenges ranged from increasing openness and citizen participation in government decisions to shifting the measurement of national progress from GDP to wellbeing. The full presentation can be viewed here.

At the event I only had six minutes to present, but managed to get the audience to vote on the different challenges. This was particularly interesting as the audience and the OpenIDEO community had some comparative dissimilarities in how they each voted. Check the photos below for a comparison.

One person in the audience noted the largest disparity: the most popular challenge in the OpenIDEO community was  the idea of redesigning government for increased openness. This was the least popular within the i20 group. Despite this disparity, change in education was something both grounds agreed upon. The empowerment of women in low-income communities was more popular at the i20 event. This was something that was talked about in side conversations frequently (amongst all of the other issues raised).

The big question I and many others asked was ‘did we impact the conversations?’ There’s no question of that, but what was interesting was how. The event seemed to center on both the how and the what of innovation. Our presentation managed to cause conversation that fell into both these categories: which problems should be addressed certainly; but also the idea of tapping into the global creativity and potential of communities like OpenIDEO to understand where the real issues lie, and potentially, in addressing those issues.

One of the delegates shared with the group that in his country a study had been commissioned recently and an expert group of economists, policy makers, and other members of a government think-tank had tried to come up with what the global issues were, and they had arrived at almost exactly the same list.