• Harry Sangree

The Global Crowd Is Always Working – Habitat for Humanity’s First Challenge Closes with 80 Entries

Habitat for Humanity (www.habitat.org) launched their first global challenge on 7 October 2020, with SeaFreight Labs serving as Project Advisor. The challenge’s solicitation period ended on 5 January 2021 after 90 days of open solicitation. The challenge was sourced from the Philippines with the goal of “Increasing Resilience to Earthquakes and Typhoons for Homes with No Foundations”. It was seeking low-cost ways to retrofit existing homes built without foundations so they can better survive the frequent earthquakes and typhoons in that country. Click HERE to visit the challenge.


This was Habitat’s first use of open innovation to look for novel ways to improve the effectiveness of their work. They were looking to dramatically expand the number of people thinking about their problems AND the diversity and backgrounds of these people. The data in Figure 1 suggest that both goals were met in this challenge. The challenge had 278 registered solvers from 50 countries. This large group submitted 80 unique submissions from 23 different countries.

Figure 1. Daily Counts of Submissions (top) and Solver Registrations (bottom) for the 2020 Habitat for Humanity Challenge Seeking Ways to Make Homes with No Foundations More Typhoon- and Earthquake Resilient.


We are optimistic about the quality of the submissions because over half (42) were submitted in the last week of the open period, with half of these (24) submitted on the last day. A person or group that uses the full 90 days and waits until the deadline to submit is likely to have a thoughtful and complete proposal that will merit serious review.


Think of the internal effort that would be required to create 20-40 different serious proposals to resolve an important issue. It would have cost Habitat for Humanity a lot of time, money and management bandwidth to do this with internal or consulting resources and it likely would take significantly longer than 90 calendar days. Instead, open innovation leverages the fact that the global crowd is always working and always thinking. Tapping into the global crowd truly is a cost-effective way to solicit many diverse proposals in a short amount of calendar time.


Our hope in this challenge is that this large set of multi-skilled people will have proposed new ways of solving a problem that affects more than 1 million people in the Philippines and countless more around the world. The judging process will begin shortly with a review of all 80 submissions and a winnowing of the set to a group of semi-finalists that will attract dedicated review from the judging panel. My next blog will provide an update on the results of this process.

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