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Grand Challenges | Explorations

Don’t miss the FAQ’s at the end of this article.  (Additionally, see Grand Challenges – FAQ)

Increasing Interoperability of Data for Social Good

Sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Partnership with Liquidnet for Good

Rewarding Innovation: Each Winner to Receive $100,000 Grant

The social sector is full of passion, intuition, deep experience, and unwavering commitment. Increasingly, social change agents from funders to activists, are adding data and information as yet one more tool for decision-making and increasing impact.

But data sets are often isolated, fragmented and hard to use. Many organizations manage data with multiple systems, often due to various requirements from government agencies and private funders. The lack of interoperability between systems leads to wasted time and frustration. Even those who are motivated to use data end up spending more time and effort on gathering, combining, and analyzing data, and less time on applying it to ongoing learning, performance improvement, and smarter decision-making.

It is the combining, linking, and connecting of different “data islands” that turns data into knowledge – knowledge that can ultimately help create positive change in our world. Interoperability is the key to making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with Liquidnet for Good, is looking for groundbreaking ideas to address this significant, but solvable, problem. See the website for more detail on the challenge and application instructions. Each challenge winner will receive a grant of $100,000.

Applications will be accepted from March 4, 2013 through May 7, 2013 11:30 AM PST.

For updates on the competition, follow #MFGChallenge on twitter andSubscribe for updates from Markets for Good.

Interested in developing a solution but don’t know where to find social sector data?


Have a dataset to add to this list? Email us!

Stay tuned. We’ll post more commentary on the the Challenge and ways to get involved. For starters…


FAQ  ::  Grand Challenges Explorations: Data Interoperability


Q:  What about a project which is started and funded partially by other grant? Can we apply?

A: You can apply with a project in process —  proofs of concept, pilots, prototypes, and  full solutions welcome.


Q: Is the Challenge limited to health-related projects? (I noticed the header “Grand Challenges in Global Health”on this page:

A: No. Your data interoperability project submission is not limited to health-related projects. On that same page, in the section labeled “Opportunity”, note that the Challenge is open for “solutions that span issue areas (e.g. education, health, etc.) and/or geographies to the widest extent possible.” Grand Challenges | Explorations was begun as part of the Grand Challenges in Global Health efforts, but it has been and is now being used to solicit ideas for a wider range of ideas beyond health – including data interoperability for the social sector.


Q: Do we need to specify exactly what we are going to achieve in the $100K in a separate budget sheet?

A: The application asks for more information on how the funds will be used, but does not request a separate budget sheet.


Q: Another funder will give us funds if we are selected.  Should we mention this in the application?

A:  Applications can include information about additional sources of funding.


Q:  The overall Rules & Guidelines note: “Applications are sent to reviewers without personal or organizational information. Do not include this information in the body of your proposal. Proposals that include personal or organizational information in the body of the proposal are at risk of being automatically removed from the review.” The separate document detailing the “Increasing Interoperability of Social Good Data” challenge says “Successful Proposals Will Include…Explanation of why the organization or group submitting the proposal has the capacity to achieve success.” 

How do I describe capacity without including identifying information?

A: Applicants should describe the capacity of their organizations – strengths, etc. But do not include any specific, identifying information. Do not provide the name of your organization or institution or your individual name.  Applicants can describe their services and programs, share impact data (and/or constituent feedback!), revenue model and sources, staff and management teams, organizational history, governance, etc.


Q:  Can I name my partners, intended partners, hoped for customers/clients, etc?

A: According to the Rule (above) regarding exclusion of personal or organizational information, please do not name official partners in your application.  You can describe the type of organization your partner/partners are.


Q:  Do you encourage early-stage startups (in alpha or beta phase) to apply?

A: Start-ups are welcome.