Have Novel Solutions to Intersecting Global Challenges? Talk to These Folks

OpenIdeo and the GHR Foundation recently announced the launch of the BridgeBuilder Challenge, an open innovation platform aimed at addressing “urgent global challenges at the intersections of peace, prosperity, and planet in radically new ways.” With $1 million in funding behind it, this effort is drawing attention to the intersections of many of the most pressing global health and development challenges—and solutions to those challenges are unlikely to be found in isolation.

This isn’t completely unchartered territory for either the GHR Foundation or OpenIdeo. Both groups are keen on tackling some of the most entrenched global development problems.

As a grantmaker, the GHR Foundation “seeks transformational change in education, health, and global development” by investing in organizations applying novel approaches to complex global development challenges. Priority topics in this space include preventing children from being separated from their families, helping kids in need of family care, and advocating for systemic change in the child welfare practices and policies.

GHR does tend to back organizations that share the same Catholic values of its founders but not to the point of exclusivity. The foundation awards plenty of grants to secular groups as well.


OpenIdeo operates as more of a facilitator, partnering with leading development organizations “to drive collaboration, innovation, and impact around the world’s toughest problems.” OpenIdeo works toward this goal through programs with long-term partners and the launch of challenges like BridgeBuilder.

OpenIdeo approaches new challenges by asking “How might we...?” In the past, the organization posed questions like “How might we expand economic opportunities for youth in East Africa?” and “How might we use the power of communities to financially empower those who need it most?” For the BridgeBuilder Challenge, OpenIdeo and the GHR Foundation are asking the world, “How might we address urgent global challenges at the intersections of peace, prosperity, and planet in radically new ways?”

The challenge process has a number of different phases and takes around six to seven months from idea submission to funding. Here’s how it works.

Once the submission period ends, submissions are reviewed by the OpenIdeo team, who offer constructive criticism and feedback for the contributors that have made it to the shortlist. This is followed by additional feedback from experts and a two-week time frame during which the shortlisted teams work on improvements. After that, a final evaluation is conducted and the top ideas are announced.

The possibilities that could be presented for this challenge are extensive. Think about the interconnectivity of a couple of these topics for second. Conflict resolution and peacebuilding cannot occur without addressing matters like resource scarcity. Economic prosperity cannot be addressed without also considering things like environmental sustainability, population density, and resource scarcity.  

One last thing: OpenIdeo and GHR are seeking out groups thinking about innovative solutions that will ultimately help communities thrive in a sustainable manner, a mantra we hear a lot from funders these days.