DC Social Innovation Project


Identifying and investing in creative, new ideas that tackle pressing social issues in DC

Bright Idea Challenge

The Bright Idea Challenge seeks proposals for new or early-stage, innovative ventures (non-profit or for-profit) addressing a social issue in Washington, DC. The top two ventures will share a prize package of $50,000 in funding, services, and resources. The next Bright Idea Challenge is scheduled to open in 2013.

In 2011, the Bright Idea Challenge is sought proposals for ventures in two categories: Healthy Living and Employment Opportunities for DC residents. We searched for innovative ideas for ventures to help DC residents live healthier lifestyles (e.g. by increasing access to healthy food, increasing exercise, helping prevent diet-related diseases, etc.) or to secure stable employment (e.g. by providing job training and placement to low-skilled workers or vulnerable populations such as the differently-abled or formerly incarcerated).

The prize package includes:

- Up to $10,000 in funding (for the grand prize winner)

- Legal services provided by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP:

- Fundraising consulting provided by Mindfarm:

- Social media software and consulting provided by Small Act:

- Promotional video production from Onanon Productions:

- Coffee from Chinatown Coffee Company (to fuel your bright ideas):

- Discounted office and meeting space at Hub DC

- Management consulting provided by our volunteer consultant corps


- Proposals may be submitted by an individual or a team; team size is not restricted

- Individuals submitting proposals must be between the ages of 18 and 35 years old; teams submitting proposals should be comprised of at least half of this age group

- The proposal may be to establish or expand a non-profit organization, a for-profit organization with a significant social benefit, or a project under an existing organization, and its primary purpose must be to address a social issue in Washington, DC; if already in existence, the venture should be operating for fewer than 24 months

Selection criteria:

Finalists and winners will be determined based on the following factors:
- Potential social impact
- Financial feasibility and sustainability
- Collaboration with local government agencies, non-profits, or businesses
- Leadership ability of the individual or team
- Boldness and originality of the idea
- Enthusiasm and connection to the community to be served

Finalists will be selected by DC Social Innovation Project's directors and advisors. The winners will be selected by the following judges:

- Max Brown, CEO of Bravery Corporation
- Robert Egger, President of DC Central Kitchen
- Casey Golden, CEO of Small Act
- Steve Schulman, Pro Bono Partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
- Neil Shah, Executive Director of Compass Partners
- Maya Enista Smith, CEO of Mobilize.org


- Visit dcsip2011.istart.org
- Click the "Register" button on that page. Once registered and logged in, click "Submit A Business Idea" to access the application.
- You can complete parts of the application and click "Save", then return to it at any time before the deadline to complete or update it.
- Complete and submit the Executive Summary Round application on or before October 21, 2011. Early application is encouraged as it will allow us to contact you with any questions or concerns that you can address prior to the deadline.
- Finalists will be selected and notified by November 14, 2011. Finalists will have until January 6, 2012 to submit a business plan.

Questions about applying? Email us at info[at]dcsocialinnovation.org

Dates & deadlines:

September 7, 2011: Executive summary round opens; first day to submit
October 21, 2011: Executive summary round closes; last day to submit
November 14, 2011: Finalists selected and notified
January 6, 2012: Deadline for finalists to submit venture plans
January 2012: Finalists' presentations to judges
January 2012: Winners selected and announced

Our Search Partners:

Hub DC
Ashoka U
Compass Partners
University of Maryland, Center for Social Value Creation
George Washington University, Center for Civic Engagement & Public Service
Serve DC
Starting Bloc
DC Net Impact

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