The Big Ideas contest aims to encourage involvement from as many students as possible from eligible campuses, and is designed to spur interdisciplinary participation. As a result, Big Ideas has developed a set of social impact tracks (aka “categories”) that, together, stretch across multiple disciplines, and individually, are broad enough to accommodate projects of many different types. In the 2018-2019 Contest year, Big Ideas consists of eight social impact tracks that span broad areas. Thanks in part to these broad track areas, students who compete in the Contest hail from a variety of different majors and departments on campus.
The way Big Ideas tracks are developed over time is analogous to the structure of a shopping mall. In every shopping mall there are anchor stores that are large, established, and highly visible chains that help draw consumer traffic to a mall. In addition, there are the established but smaller secondary stores. Finally, there are floating shops that tend to be smaller and less permanent. Global Health, Energy & Resource Alternatives and Food & Agriculture have long served as the “anchor” tracks for the Big Ideas contest. They are most established, longest running, and best-known tracks, and thus draw students to the contest. Art & Social Change, Cities & Communities and Workforce Development tracks are established but smaller “secondary” tracks. Each year, Big Ideas also offers “floating” tracks that are new and topical, such as the Education & Literacy and Financial Inclusion tracks.
When developing new tracks, three key factors are considered. First, the new tracks should fit within the mission and scope of the Big Ideas contest (refer to sections on Mission & Goals and Big Ideas@Berkeley History). Secondly, there should be potential sponsorship and funding opportunities to support the track, either on-campus or externally. Third, the track should draw upon a specific and new area of emphasis or expertise apparent within the collective student body. Finally, the track should round out the selection of topics covered in a given contest year by not creating substantial overlap with other existing tracks.
At the end of each Contest year, Big Ideas staff conducts a review to determine a) which tracks to renew (or not), b) which tracks should be modified, and c) evaluate opportunities for new track. Each existing track is assessed based on the following criteria:
Using the above criteria, the anchor tracks, which tend to be higher-profile tracks with long-term partnerships, are typically renewed each year. In some cases, the track titles and descriptions are revised and broadened to encourage a higher number of applications from a wider range of disciplines. In situations where few proposals are received and/or no sponsorship opportunities exist, a track may be dropped. Other times, topics are found to be too general and overlapping of other tracks, in which case they are also discontinued.