The Ideaction Blog

Ideaction Corps Thinkathon – Solving Problems with Collective Innovation

Posted by Kelly O'Brien on February 4, 2014

If you’ve ever been in the position of securing consulting or creative services, you know that it often takes a leap of faith. Will they do what they promised? What exactly is the deliverable? Should we really just do this in-house? Is this a good use of limited funds? What happens if they don’t deliver?

I’ve been there. It’s stressful for both the proposal requestor and the proposal submitter. Outlining expectations when you don’t really know each other, well, it can be a little scary.  Since Ideaction Corps is a relatively new entity with a business model that is outside of the box, we’ve been piloting something we’re calling a ‘Thinkathon” to help bridge this river of risk.

Thinkathon is a short two-hour or less session that brings together a curated team of Corps members to problem-solve a specific challenge with a client. The term is drawn from hackathon, an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects in a short period of time. In this case, we use our brains, intuition, and experience to help overcome challenges. We draw from design thinking, the Technology of Participation, and ideas from the Wisdom of Crowds to create a fun, innovative and outcomes focused event.

A challenge can be something as simple as trying to ideate a new, creative way to host an annual fundraising event, message a new product, or reach new audiences for your service or merchandise. It could be something bigger, such as developing global partnerships or launching an advocacy campaign to support advancement of a public policy change. 

Recently we road tested the concept with the Springboard Foundation, facilitating a roundtable of their grantees around the challenge of creating new local partnerships that can help them expand and strengthen their programs. Five of Ideaction’s Corps members (Bolster Mission, Think.Plan.Do., Traci Failla, Graettinger-Cole, and The Advocacy Collaborative) worked with the group of twelve Springboard grantee executive directors adding additional outside knowledge and experience to a room filled with knowledge and experience- for exponential results. The feedback was fantastic; 79% percent of participants said they left with new ideas and actionable next steps. We are definitely on to something.

The Thinkathon process provided a different way to network and share ideas. We were able to mine the collective group’s experiences to surface best practices and create meaningful next steps. When you can do that, people leave feeling like they have participated in something worthwhile. Sejal Shah-Myers, Managing Director, Springboard Foundation

Ideaction convened a team of industry professionals in different focus areas to help shape the direction of the workshop as participants themselves, so we emerged with a 360 degree experience of the topic, and left with a variety of ideas and actionable next steps around aspects of the topic specific to our organization's needs. Michael Simons, Executive Director, Intonation Music Workshop

Ideaction Corps is a collaborative of accomplished agencies and freelancers working together for the common good. Together, we are a full service social change agency. We believe in the power of collaborative innovation, and we think much can be accomplished in a short period of time when people set their minds on reaching a collective vision.

If your organization has a sticky challenge you are trying to solve, or you think you need some outside help but are not quite ready to take the plunge, reach out. Achieving all big goals begins with the first small step.

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