Cultivating Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities

Cultivating Innovation

Solutions for Rural Communities

Competition Information

Competition News

Changemakers is proud to announce the winners! The three winners will each receive a prize of USD $5000. You may continue to read and comment on all entries. As always, we welcome your feedback.

Welcome Letter

Dear Changemakers Community,

Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people—the 1 billion who live on $1 a day or less—rely on agriculture to feed themselves and their families, yet many cannot grow enough to sell or even eat. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its partners are providing small farmers with tools and opportunities to boost their productivity, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families.

Innovative solutions that span the entire agricultural value chain – from seeds to sales – are necessary to accomplish these goals. We encourage you to take part in Ashoka Changemaker’s “Cultivating Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities” competition to help bring about innovative, creative solutions for small farmers in the developing world.

"Cultivating Innovation" Guidelines & Criteria

Welcome to the “Cultivating Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities” collaborative competition, which aims to find innovative solutions toward improving the quality of life in rural and farming communities.

For more information on entering the competition, the online review of entries, the voting process, and prizes, please view the competition criteria and timeline below or contact us at

Eligibility Criteria

The competition is open to all types of organizations (charitable organizations, private companies, or public entities) from all countries. We consider all entries that:

  • Reflect the theme of the competition: “Cultivating Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities.” Entries will demonstrate system-changing solutions in agriculture and in the lives of rural citizens in Sub-Saharan Africa and India and around the world.
  • Indicate growth beyond the stage of idea, concept, or research. At a minimum, entries should be at the demonstration stage and indicate success. While we support new ideas at every stage and encourage their entry, the judges are only able to evaluate programs that are beyond the conceptual stage, and have demonstrated a proof of impact, even at small scale.
  • Are submitted in English, Spanish, French or Portuguese.

Please complete the entire entry form and submit before the deadline.

Assessment Criteria

The winners of this Changemakers collaborative competition will be those entries that best meet the following criteria:

  • Innovation: This is the knock-out test. The entrant must describe a systematic and/or disruptive innovation in farming and rural communities. The innovation should be a unique model of change, demonstrating a substantial difference from other initiatives in the field and ready for large-scale expansion.
  • Social Impact: It is important that the innovation provides a system-changing solution in agriculture and in the lives of rural citizens. The entry must demonstrate impact on the target population it addresses, either a specific underserved community or the society at large. Some innovations will have proven success at a small level, while others will have grown to engage millions of people. Regardless of the level of demonstrated impact, it is important that the innovation has a potential for application globally. This will be judged by considering the innovation's potential for scale and replication, in addition to the entrant’s ability to formulate a clear “road map” to reaching larger goals.
  • Sustainability: For an innovation to be truly effective it must have a long-term plan for securing financial backing and community support. Entries should describe not only how they are currently financing their work, but also how they plan to finance their work in the future. The most successful entrants go beyond discussing whether or not they will charge for services and describe a business plan. They should also demonstrate that they have strong partnerships and support networks to address an ongoing need, and to aid in scalability and the maintenance of a clear financial strategy.

Competition Deadlines, Procedures, and Rules

Online competition submissions are accepted until May 13, 2009 at 6pm, U.S. EST. At any time before this deadline competition participants are encouraged to revise their entries based on questions and insights that they receive in the Changemakers discussion. Participation in the discussion enhances an entrant’s prospects in the competition and provides the community and the judges an opportunity to understand the entrant’s project more completely.

There are three main phases in the competition:

  • Entry Stage, February 25 – May 13, 2009: Entries can be submitted until 6 pm US EST on May 13, 2009 and throughout this stage anyone can participate in an online review discussion with the entrants.
  • Online Review and Judging, May 14 – June 23, 2009: Online review and discussion continues. Simultaneously, a panel of judges who are experts in the field and a team of Ashoka staff select the competition finalists.
  • Voting, June 24 – July 8th, 2009: The Changemakers community votes online to select the three award-winners from the field of finalists. The Changemakers collaborative competition winners—the three finalists that receive the most votes—will be announced on July 13, 2009 and will each receive a cash prize of USD $5000.

Participation in the competition provides the opportunity to receive feedback on your blueprint from fellow entrants, Changemakers staff, judges, and the Changemakers community. Showcasing your blueprint and the challenges involved in creating social impact advises potential investors about how best to improve funding/investing patterns for the sector and to maximize the strategic impact and effectiveness of their future investments.


Early Entry Prize: The best entry submitted by 6pm EST, April 13, 2009 will win a cell phone and digital camera (Equal value of USD $1000). Being an Early Entry Prize winner does not preclude you from winning the competition in any way, or guarantee finalist status—all entries will be equally evaluated per the Changemakers criteria at the completion of the entry period.

Competition Winners: The top three entries will win USD $5000 each. After the judges select the 10-15 finalists from the entire competition, the Changemakers online community will vote for 3 winners from among the finalists.

CyberMedia Award: CyberMedia is the largest speciality media house in South Asia and amongst India's top five magazine publishers. With 15 publications, 12 websites, more than 100 events and weekly TV programs, it reaches out to a community of over 1.5 million people. Its Media Services include market research, job board, content outsourcing and distribution. CyberMedia has announced that it will do TV programs on select entries from India. For more information on CyberMedia, go to:

Rural Innovations Network Award: Rural Innovations Network (RIN) believes that many rural innovations can be successfully commercialized as micro-enterprises that benefit rural consumers and contribute to sustainable wealth creation. To further this goal, RIN has offered to mentor and incubate select competition entries from India. Essentially, this means that RIN will: a) put in money into the innovation, b) mentor the innovator, c) network on their behalf, d) help to pilot the innovation, and e) grow the innovation to become a self-sustainable enterprise. For more information on RIN, go to:

The Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) Opportunity: MoPR, Government of India, is interested in working with Changemakers in mobilizing post-competition investment in India based on mutual interest through their Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) and Rural Business Hubs (RBH). For more details on BRGF and RBH, go to

Disclaimer—Compliance with Legal Restrictions

Ashoka complies fully with all U.S. laws and regulations, including Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations, export control, and anti-money laundering laws. All grants will be awarded subject to compliance with such laws. Ashoka will not make any grant if it finds that to do so would be unlawful. This may prohibit awards in certain countries and/or to certain individuals or entities. All recipients will comply with these laws to the extent they are applicable to such recipients. No recipient will take any action that would cause Ashoka to violate any laws. Additionally, Ashoka will not make any grant to a company involved in the promotion of tobacco use.