An NGO partnership creating a pathway to peace for ex-combatants through ethical gold production in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a multi-national collaboration employing drone technology to restore depleted mangroves in Myanmar are among the 5 social innovators whose solutions have been chosen as 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge Top Ideas. The Top Ideas will amplify their impact with a share of US$1 million and collaboration with GHR Foundation.

The Challenge sought ideas addressing urgent global concerns at the intersections of peace, prosperity and planet in radically new ways. Participants from 185 countries responded with more than 650 ideas.

Stemming from its own Catholic roots, GHR, working with open-innovation platform OpenIDEO, launched the BridgeBuilder Challenge to answer the universal call of Pope Francis to “build bridges” and contribute to making the world a better place for all humankind.

“In his TED Talk earlier this year, Pope Francis encouraged people to apply innovation and collaboration to foster greater social equity and community in the world today,” said Amy R. Goldman, GHR Foundation CEO and chair. “The cohort of Top Ideas represents literally hundreds of ideas fulfilling the Pope’s invitation to bridge complex, persistent issues in radically new ways. We look forward to partnering with each of these organizations to further develop their ideas and scale their impact.”

The 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge Top Ideas cohort includes:

Ethical gold mining as a pathway to peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo Peace Direct
Peace Direct will provide a pathway to peace and environmental protection in fragile Democratic Republic of Congo while providing sustainable incomes to ex-combatants, now small-scale subsistence miners. The miners and their families (approximately 3,400 people total) will receive training in conflict resolution, peacebuilding and environmentally responsible gold production as they work toward a fair-trade-certified standard.

Tree-planting drones for restoring mangroves and livelihoods in MyanmarBioCarbon Engineering
BioCarbon Engineering will employ drone technology to accelerate community-driven mangrove reforestation efforts in the fragile coastal regions of Myanmar, where more than 1 million hectares of forest have already been lost to rising sea levels. In the process of planting 1 billion trees annually, fish stocks will increase, a protective barrier against natural disasters will be restored and local economies will be bolstered, leading to a more stable balance between communities and their surrounding ecosystems.

Creative skills for peace among youth violent offenders in Cameroon Local Youth Corner Cameroon
Local Youth Corner counters violent extremism in Cameroon by promoting participation in peacebuilding and empowering violent offenders with leadership, vocational and entrepreneurial skills. The Creative Skills for Peace program will support the rehabilitation and reintegration of 300 young offenders across eight facilities in six cities and train rehabilitation facility staff on countering violent extremism and building peace.

Lifting up and empowering families on Chicago’s South Side  LIFT Chicago
LIFT Chicago will build on its two-generation, in-community ambassador approach to increasing early childhood education access. The program will also expand its efforts to help parents and caregivers build social connections, strengthen personal well-being and improve financial security to foster personal and community-level peace and prosperity.

Connecting displaced persons with Arabic language learners around the worldNaTakallam
NaTakallam leverages the internet economy and native, primarily Arabic, language skills of displaced and internally displaced persons from Syria and Iraq by supporting them to become online language partners and connecting them to learners worldwide. NaTakallam will expand its ability to provide displaced persons with access to income, marketable skills and a restored sense of purpose while learners contribute to the livelihood of their partners, fostering empathy, dialogue and intercultural understanding.

“The response to our inaugural BridgeBuilder Challenge was amazing,” said Jason Rissman, managing director of OpenIDEO. “Throughout the Challenge, the global community offered insights and connections to contributors that added value to the ideas, even if they weren’t chosen as Top Ideas. The collaborative and transparent nature of the OpenIDEO platform has far-reaching benefits, and BridgeBuilder inspired participants from nearly every country to address the critical social concerns of our day.”

OpenIDEO: OpenIDEO is IDEO’s open innovation practice, enabling people to collaborate and design solutions to the world’s toughest challenges, and working with partners around the world to bring these solutions to life. Both online and offline, OpenIDEO empowers innovators to use design thinking to generate social impact. www.OpenIDEO.com

GHR Foundation: GHR Foundation improves lives by working toward a just, peaceful and healthy future. Built on faith in entrepreneurial creativity, the foundation accelerates systemic change by nurturing promising new possibilities and partnerships in the areas of global development, education and health. For 50-plus years, GHR’s approach has been guided by the pioneering design-build legacy of Opus Group founders Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst as it collaborates with the world’s experts to design and build opportunities and favorable environments for change to take hold.  www.GHRfoundation.org