Around the Institute

The Aspen Ideas Award: A New Space for Innovation and Collaboration

May 14, 2015  • Brett Howley, Guest Blogger

The idea behind the first-ever Aspen Ideas Award was simple: provide funding to a meaningful project that would have a lasting impact on a local or global community. The Aspen Ideas Festival would put out a call to action to all Festival presenters and scholars asking for their best ideas. A group of judges would then evaluate all submissions until five finalists were chosen to take the stage, live, at the Festival with one finalist ultimately walking away with a $25,000 award. Our vision was straightforward. However, in just the few short weeks that the Aspen Ideas Award has been live, it has grown to be much more.

With 103 entries, 212 comments, 1,803 votes, and 2,828 active users, the Aspen Ideas Award, developed with Booz Allen Hamilton, has become a space of admiration, collaboration, and innovation. The comments section, ranging from commendations to advice, has become a means of connecting the Aspen Ideas Award community through a mutual desire to change the world for the better. One note lamented, “This initiative is so necessary for our World,” while another suggested looking into a different organization’s similar initiative in order to help better inform the project. All comments, whether constructive or celebratory, have been well received.

“Receiving comments is a useful way to gauge how people are understanding and resonating with the core ideas of my venture — an opportunity that isn’t generally available in awards competitions,” said Sanda Balaban, a Festival 2 Scholar who submitted an application for her organization CityPathways

It is this welcome and unexpected product of the Aspen Ideas Award that we hope will allow all applicants to feel encouraged about the value of their work, regardless of whether they are selected as a finalist or even as the eventual winner. 

The Aspen Ideas Award will be open for voting until June 1st and public comments until July 3rd. The live event — where five finalists will pitch their ideas to a Festival audience — will take place for Spotlight Health on June 27th, for Festival 1 on June 30th, and for Festival 2 on July 3rd.