In October a group of for-profit and nonprofit players concerned about the safety of online communities launched the Digital Thriving Challenge, an open call for proposals, frameworks, and tools for innovative ways of evolving digital spaces. One hundred seventy nine ideas were submitted from around the world and this month ten winners of grants from $5,000 to $50,000 were announced. 'The global response that we've received from the Challenge has been overwhelmingly positive with individuals, nonprofits, universities and companies all coming together to work to build a better digital world for future generations,' said Jeffrey Burrell, Head of Social Impact for Riot Games which funded the competition. 'Creating a future where online communities are safe, inclusive, and thriving is no easy task but that's why we did this. Reading through all of the ideas that came in from around the world has given me a lot of hope for the future and those whose hands it is in.' It's terrific that such open calls to broaden the pool of entrants into searches for social impact solutions has grown over the years, but that doesn't mean that running such competitions is simple. Burrell shared these insights when asked to reflect on lessons learned from the process. With open calls for submissions, organizations can cast a wide net to capture a large variety of ideas - with the possibility of finding some really interesting diamonds in the rough. Or, they could use a narrow approach and request ideas for solving specific problems or technical solutions. I believe this approach worked well for us as we wanted to encourage solutions across a wide variety of participants, but then wanted to make sure we had some reasonable way to compare apples to apples and that finalists could learn and share key insights with each other in the future. Understand your risk tolerance for the submissions and how baked you want ideas to be. We had submissions that ranged everywhere from raw concept ("Wouldn't it be cool if we did...") all the way to existing products needing funding to scale. Our goal for the challenge was to accelerate a larger spectrum of ideas so we were willing to entertain the idea of giving funding to small teams (1 - 2 people) with concepts given the strength of their proposal and previous track record. That said, we found that most of the strongest proposals had at least some proof of concept with a clear plan for growth. Coaching sessions and adding a refinement phase for top submissions is invaluable. We quickly pivoted our timeline to add in a refinement phase for our 25 finalists to meet with a variety of coaches from multiple industries around the world to receive feedback and better understand how to differentiate their idea. These sessions were invaluable as several of the proposals were quickly improved, while others stayed the same, providing a deeper level of confidence with the judges. All partners got some inspiration as to how we might include some of these ideas or approaches into our existing work and how we might be able to partner with some of the winning submissions in the future - far beyond what we would have been able to decide on our own.