Big Ideas is an annual contest aimed at providing funding, support, and
encouragement to interdisciplinary teams of students who have “big
ideas.” Since its founding in 2006, Big Ideas has inspired innovative
and high-impact student-led projects aimed at solving problems that
matter to this generation.
By encouraging novel proposals and then supporting concrete next steps, Big Ideas is helping contest winners make an impact all over the world.
The Big Ideas Contest is made possible through the generous support of the Andrew and Virginia Rudd Family Foundation.
Big Ideas supports students at the very early stages of developing their ideas. Often, students who compete in Big Ideas have never entered an innovation contest or written a real-world proposal. The Contest challenges students to step outside of their traditional university-based academic work, take a risk, and use their education, passion, and skills to work on problems important to them.
In running the contest over the years, we’ve learned how to provide the support students need to turn their ideas into action. Most importantly, Big Ideas is designed as a year-long process. Through training and mentoring, students develop the skills necessary to plan, launch and manage for success. These include critical thinking, market analysis, team-building and presentation skills. Students enter the contest with creative ideas for social impact, and Big Ideas provides the resources that enable the students to make their project ideas concrete, feasible, and scalable.
Unlike traditional business plan competitions which are designed to vet for-profit companies, the ultimate goal of Big Ideas is to support students in making social change—whether through for-profit endeavors, non-profits, or small ad-hoc teams. Critically, Big Ideas promotes autonomy, initiative, and teamwork early in students’ careers, broadening their understanding of how they can use their education and interests to improve society.
By leveraging the creativity of students and the power of competition to drive innovation, Big Ideas creates lasting, positive and impactful social change—empowering a new generation of social innovators.