Problem-Solving Web Community Tackles Senior Hunger

Submit solutions to hunger challenges by Sept. 20

One of the hallmarks of AARP Foundation is its interest in seeking solutions to the problems of older hunger from a variety of sources, including local antihunger groups, state SNAP officials and well-known hunger researchers. Even so, the Hunger Impact team recently decided to widen its base of potential problem solvers by a considerable margin, joining with crowdsourcing site to seek responses from InnoCentive’s 260,000 registered “solvers,” most of whom are not hunger experts.

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By opening the AARP Foundation Innovation Pavilion at to seek ideas on solving hunger among people 50-plus, AARP Foundation joins a growing number of corporations, nonprofits and government agencies — such as Proctor and Gamble, the Rockefeller Foundation and NASA — that are discovering the benefits of crowdsourcing — opening their doors (and their minds) to solutions from people all over the world.  While 60 percent of InnoCentive’s registered 260,000 “solvers” have an advanced degree, the site is open to all. Registration is free.

InnoCentive thrives on the idea that solutions to tough problems can come from anyone, anywhere, often from people whose work and background have nothing to do with the problem at hand. As Harvard Business School professor and researcher Karim R. Lakhani told the New York Times, “The further the problem is from the solver’s expertise, the more likely they are to solve it,” using their specialized knowledge in other areas to seek — and often find — the solution from a different vantage point.

Each of the two presented challenges [see sidebar] has a total award value of $10,000. Prizes will be given on the basis of the potential usefulness and appropriateness of the solutions proposed. There are many case histories on the InnoCentive website in which organizations have received answers through the site that have eluded their own researchers for years. There is nothing random about the selection of the winners.

AARP Foundation funds grants to help solve the problem of hunger among senior citizens- a heart carved into an apple

Share your ideas to solve senior hunger and you could win up to $10,000. — Photo by Andrei Spirache

To date, InnoCentive has posted over 1,450 challenges from outside organizations, and given more than 1,200 awards ranging from $500 to $1 million depending on the difficulty of the posted challenge. The challenging organization, in this case AARP Foundation, is responsible for selecting both the prizewinners and the amount awarded to them.

The AARP Foundation challenge will be open until Sept. 20.

“While the foundation is working with organizations around the country to help solve hunger problems in the short term, it is critical that we seek long-term solutions as well. InnoCentive has helped to unlock the potential of people around the globe to contribute to the solution of today’s most pressing problems, and we are delighted to work with them,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, president of AARP Foundation.  

Also of interest: Breaking hunger's grip in Georgia.