€1m-plus fund for ideas to move Ireland forward

Earlier this week, President Mary McAleese launched a search to find two “game-changing” ideas that will help secure prosperity and jobs for Ireland.

The initiative comes in the form of a competition – Your Country, Your Call – that is offering two winners a cash prize of €100,000 each and up to €500,000 for implementation of their ideas.

The initiative describes itself as “a competition to ignite imaginations and inspire thinking.”

The goal is to pick two truly transformational proposals so big that, when implemented, could secure prosperity and jobs for Ireland. Proposals that could help change the way we do things, allow businesses to grow, employment to be created and prosperity to flourish.
[…] Your Country, Your Call is all about Ireland. It’s about helping to create sustainable employment and prosperity, whilst at the same time generating hope, confidence, and positive thinking.

Economic gloom

On launching the initiative President McAleese said the mood of the country was currently one of pessimism and deep disappointment. Unemployment in Ireland currently stands at nearly 13%, the highest in more than 15 years. This, along with a recent budget of severe cuts to public services, has led to deep public anger and resentment with the state of the economy.

The President, however, said Ireland had “formidable brain power” and, if utilised, the country could go forward again:

We need fresh thinking and action to shake off these doldrums and get us into forward gear. Ireland has formidable brainpower and a determination forged and tested over many generations. Your Country, Your Call is a challenge to this generation to come up with workable proposals capable of helping to put Ireland back firmly on its two feet.
[…] It is hoped that Your Country, Your Call will become a “mind meitheal,” which will generate interest and debate in families, workplaces, clubs, organisations, institutions, schools, colleges, communities, promoting positive thinking, faith hope and confidence in our country’s future.
[…] Your Country, Your Call is essentially an act of faith in our brain-power and our ability to create an exciting and realizable landscape of opportunity for our country and our people. It is now officially open for your proposals. So get talking, thinking and proposing.

President McAleese, who is patron of the initiative, said the winning projects might involve new ways of doing everyday things or might identify a completely new industry or service. They could be in any area, from education and sport to science and tourism, from agriculture and religion to arts and industry.

Process

Those interested have until April 30th to lodge their idea through the website YourCountryYourCall.

The thousands of ideas expected will be sifted throughout the summer. These will be distilled down to the 20 most viable which will be considered at the semi-final stage of the competition. These finalists will be assigned a coach for a 6-week period, who will work to help them develop their proposals.

Following the 6 week coaching period, each semi-finalist will be interviewed. Out of these interviews 5 finalists will be chosen to participate in a two-day event that will conclude with awards being presented by President McAleese.

Ideas

In the first two days after the site was launched it received over 40,000 hits. More than 1,700 users have registered, submitting some 650 ideas, nearly 900 comments and over 2,600 votes. The current most popular idea, with over 230 votes, surrounds the creation of a Talent Tank where businesses can get in touch with people who have the skills they need and will work for free to showcase their talents.

Other ideas which have received popular support include: how the Health service can save money, the creation of an Irish sea Tunnel and the development of the railways. Some ideas, however, such as relocating the Vatican to Cavan look less certain of achieving popular support.

Competition backing

The competition is being governed by a charity, An Smaoineamh Mór, who will oversee the idea process and also coordinate the development of the two winning ideas.

The initiative is being largely supported by “corporate entities” and a “small amount” from government. An Smaoineamh Mór, chairman Dr Laurence Crowley said the identity of those who are providing the funds – capped at €150,000 – would be revealed in due course, but that €2 million of the estimated €2.5m required had already been secured.

Cisco and other IT companies based in Ireland are expected to be supporters of the imitative.

Get Thinking!

A television advertising campaign began this weekend to encourage people all over Ireland to enter the competition. It features prominent Irish personalities such as singer Christy Moore, writer Cecelia Ahern and broadcaster Olivia O’Leary.

Summary

While the use of Idea platforms has been widely used within corporations and other countries – witness the Open Government movement in the US – such a campaign soliciting ideas from citizens is relatively new in Ireland. While we’ve had the Ideas Campaign, it did not offer a prize fund, nor significant development opportunities for proposals.

The fact that this initiative has an engaged and powerful patron, along with significant financial resources, suggests it will be able to engage people in a way other requests for ideas on economic renewal have not.

While the process conforms to suggestions from experts on how to solicit ideas and engage the public, more transparency is needed on how ideas will be brought forward to solutions. Innovation platforms need to have 3 distinct phases. Citizen involvement in each phase – other than in the Participation stage – is not outlined, nor is the relevance of the voting mechanism i.e. we don’t know if the ideas with the highest number of votes automatically go through to the semi-finals, or if there is a judging panel involved. Having citizen involvement throughout the engagement and implementation phases could be a significant tool in successfully implementing the winning ideas.

Overall the initiative is a welcome and positive development. I’ve already submitted an idea and hope to help develop others on the site. The competition is not just restricted to Irish people, but is open to anyone who has suggestions on how to create sustainable employment and prosperity for Ireland.

It’s time to get thinking. Over to you – Is leatsa e.

More about ‘Your Country, Your Call’

About Richard Fahey

Richard Fahey has a Masters Degree in Information Technology and Management, and is currently working as a Senior Business Intelligence Consultant at a large Consulting firm. He has a keen interest in Open Government and especially the use of Crowdsourcing platforms for citizen engagement. While a native of Ireland he has a great interest in US Government developments in the areas of Transparency, Collaboration and Participation. For more information follow me on Twitter @faheyr.

4 Responses

  1. i have to agree with you .. the competition started with great enthusiam to help the irish people and the irish economy get back on its feet.. some good ideas and some points of view..!! we had our own idea removed through spam etc and re-entered with idea 3429.. basically we do have the job creation business to employ 1 million irish.. we are so far out in the wings that we have no chance of being seen and as you pointed out the most supported will not create any jobs and not solve economic problems.great drug awareness blog and forum and helping many sufferers. similar to the venus project idea.. great mass organisational support from the members of the movement .. no interest in the competition just a membership and awareness drive that probably netted 10,000 new members from ireland.. so the competition might be remembered for doing just that and being very effective at it.. just a thought have a look at my ideas if you get a chance..?? thanks pete fox

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