More Than a Tagline: Change the Perception of Aid

05/08/2012 11:10 am ET | Updated Jul 08, 2012

Perception and reality can be really hard to reconcile.

We see this all the time with development aid. There is a perception that aid is wasted. That it winds up in the wrong hands. Or, that the poor will always be poor.

The reality is different. Aid has helped save millions of lives. Nearly 12,000 fewer children die every day. And extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990.

These are compelling statistics. The challenge is that perceptions of aid being ineffective or wasted tend to break through and last while stories of success are much harder to get traction. In fact, the study of positive psychology says that you need five positive interactions with an idea to replace just one negative idea.

This is particularly acute during challenging economic times. Aid is a complex and nuanced issue. Some aid doesn't work. But so much of it does and has a real impact, even though its success doesn't always break through.

So how do you change a perception and replace a negative? Can you innovate around this? Will creativity lead to a solution? Can you bring it to scale across different geographies? Can technology play a role in helping share the progress and success of aid?

These are the types of questions we hope to answer through a program called Grand Challenges Explorations, where we are looking to fund revolutionary ideas that can change the perception of development aid.

Grand Challenges Explorations was created to tap into the ingenuity of anyone who might have an idea to help solve a complex problem. It's simple, you fill out a two page form with your idea and a chance to get $100,000 in seed funding. Successful projects will then have the opportunity to seek up to $1 million in additional funding to bring their idea to life.

In our current challenge, "Aid is working, tell the world," we partnered with the Cannes Lions Festival and the global creative community to search for new ways to tell the aid story.

Since we launched this initiative in March, people from around the world have asked me, "What exactly are you looking for?" The answer, like the challenge, is complex. It might be best to highlight things that capture the attention -- Hans Rosling's Gapminder, Ushahidi's technology sharing, Games for Change or the TEDx organizing capability. Whether a new platform or ways to engage audiences, the possibilities are endless. But we aren't looking for a tagline.

What's exciting is we don't know where the idea will come from or what it will look like.

The deadline to submit is May 15. What's your idea?