2016 Prize Impact Report

Infinite Diversity
in Infinite

The prize criteria were intentionally broad: share your bold idea. Several thousand individuals and groups worldwide submitted more than 600 applications. Whether it spoke to the arts, science and tech, education, healthcare or human rights, or came from a group or individuals, working locally or globally—what mattered was the potential for impact. What mattered was moving the needle. Welcoming a wide range of solutions was designed to spur cross-topic innovation and broaden the reach of potential applicants and issue areas addressed.

617 total applications. Choose topics to explore:
Arts, Culture, Media Education Environment Health Human Rights Science & Technology Additional Topics

Global impact requires global participation. Solutions came from across the world, with applications pouring in from 54 countries and six out of the seven continents. We asked entrants to think big, consider how to replicate their solution, and how to scale them across geographies and cultures.

North America

66% of applicants

Top Topics
1. Science & Tech
2. Health
3. Education

South America

9% of applicants

Top Topics
1. Education
2. Environment
3. Arts, Culture, Media


5% of applicants

Top Topics
1. Education
2. Environment
3. Health


12% of applicants

Top Topics
1. Science & Tech
2. Education
3. Health


10% of applicants

Top Topics
1. Health
2. Environment
3. Education


1% of applicants

Top Topics
1. Arts, Culture, Media
2. Education
3. Science & Technology


Before they encountered The Roddenberry Prize, 77% of applicants reported that they had never heard of The Roddenberry Foundation. So how’d we get the word out? Direct outreach, social media and press garnered impressive participation. Yet almost half of our applicants heard about the prize through our complimentary networks. Our community of friends and colleagues at nonprofits, universities, foundations and social incubators ensured the people working on bold solutions knew about the prize.

8% from multiple sources; 14% outreach from prize team; 30% social media/press
48% from our network
Top Referrers
Social Impact Accelerators: Ashoka, Prosas
Philanthropy: Segal Family Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
Academia: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Berkeley University of California

In a survey conducted before the prize winners were announced, 58% of entrants said the process of applying helped them further develop their solution, enabling them to focus on both the practical implementation of their ideas and the long-term impact of their solutions.

We were excited by this information, given the diversity of applicants. Not only did nonprofits and academics apply, the prize also attracted for-profit social enterprises and individuals, as well as teams not affiliated with any organization.

  • 0 Nonprofit
  • 0 Unassociated Individual
    or Team
  • 0 For-Profit
  • 0 Academia

The panel of judges was chosen to reflect a wide-ranging set of approaches and experiences in the world of social change. Their diverse backgrounds and professions—as educators, journalists, entrepreneurs, technologists, economists and even an astronaut—ensured that the applications were reviewed by knowledgeable practitioners with a healthy mix of strong opinions. Marked by a “rational optimism,” the judging was a product of in-depth analysis, research, scoring and long conversations.

I was continuously amazed by each and every application I read. It made me incredibly hopeful and grateful that there are so many people dedicated to bringing bold new ideas to life. Being a judge for the inaugural Roddenberry Prize filled me with optimism for our future.

Majora Carter

The five winning solutions and four finalists capture the spirit of The Roddenberry Prize, harnessing diversity, innovation and impact in addressing climate change, health, communication, poverty, disaster response and more.

The Roddenberry Foundation is proud to invest $1 million to support their impact in the world.

A #BoldlyBetter
Inspiration from the Past

To launch the prize and build momentum, we looked to the legacy of Star Trek and the enduring relevance of Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy of inclusion, diversity and respect for life. At a time of great polarization and in the face of global change and uncertainty, we wanted to bring this message to life. We wanted to strike a balance—paying homage to the past while looking to the future; reaching Star Trek’s vast fan-base while introducing uninitiated audiences to Gene’s vision; and forging a new association between it and the foundation’s work.

The #BoldlyBetter campaign kicked off at the 50th Anniversary Star Trek conventions in Las Vegas and New York City, culminating with the launch of the prize at The Smithsonian’s “Boldly Go 50” celebration on the day of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary (September 9th, 2016).

As featured in:

As we look ahead, the Foundation is exploring how to expand the growing network of philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and big thinkers touched by the prize to share insights and collaborate toward greater impact.

Insights for the Future

Reflecting on this first year, we saw both energizing and unanticipated tensions—and still, promising outcomes. As we design the next prize, we are considering how we can do better and how we can echo those successes and recalibrate some of those tensions.

With that in mind, these are a few of the lessons we took away from the experience and the questions we’re asking—of ourselves, the prize participants and the broader network—as we forge ahead.

  • People and Solutions

    The heart of the prize is all of you—those creating solutions, your partners and allies, and those served by your solutions. We know that your work is more than a new idea or innovative technology—it is a path to helping people live fuller, healthier lives. And we know that the work is ongoing and iterative, and that finding the right solution at the right time is often the result of your community, who you surround yourself with, and who you know.

    Going forward, we’re asking:

    • How we can keep people at the center of our next prize?
    • What are some ways we can support an ecosystem of changemakers, rather than just recognize a few of you?
    • How can we better support the leaders and innovators behind the solutions we’re reviewing?
  • Broad and Focused

    Thinking big and welcoming global participants spurred cross-topic innovation and significantly expanded our applicant pool. At the same time, it proved challenging to prioritize issue areas, to delve deeply into any one specific challenge, or to focus on one particular part of the world.

    Going forward, we’re asking:

    • Do we narrow the scope of the prize? Or do we identify topical issues or sub-issues?
    • Do we ask our community to help identify the next prize topic?
    • What do we really mean by “scale” and is there a sweet spot?
  • Collaboration and Competition

    Innovating and challenging the status quo often means going at it alone. Yet we know that collaboration and the sharing of ideas and experiences can yield great results. Prizes are inherently competitive but is there another (better) way to structure a prize that isn’t as binary as having winners and losers?

    Going forward, we’re asking:

    • What if entrants collaborated with each other as part of the competition?
    • How can we support finalists and other non-winners whose ideas have great potential?
    • How can other funders participate in the prize and support their grantees in the process?

The words prize entrants
used most to describe
their ideas for a
#BoldlyBetter future.

Voices of
our Community
What idea comes to mind when you think of
a #BoldlyBetter future?
Stay up to date on the 2018 prize.
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