Picture of project tools organized on cardboard

Challenges to
Tackle

Sponsored Challenges


Teams can work on any topic they bring to IDEAS, including education, health, energy, sanitation, governance, infrastructure, business & finance, and more - provided that the focus of the project is on having a positive impact on the world. In addition to these challenges that students bring to the competition, we also may host a Sponsored Challenge that is intended to galvanize work on a particular issue.

Sponsored Challenges are networking and award opportunities focused on solving an issue the sponsor cares about deeply. Challenges articulate a broad, cross-cutting issue and offer financial, informational, networking, and other resources necessary for teams to develop and implement innovative solutions in this area.

Sponsored Challenges offer incentives for teams to focus their effort in a defined issue area, for example off-grid energy storage or finding ways to put waste materials to use. To take up a Challenge, teams must develop and enter projects that clearly address the Challenge through innovation.

    PIA Challenge Image2

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    2017 PIA Challenge: Inclusive Waste Management

    Awards and Sponsored Challenges

    All teams participating in the IDEAS Global Challenge are evaluated on the same criteria, whether or not their project fits into a Sponsored Challenge. Awards are determined based on overall scores across judging groups. If a winning team meets the criteria of a Sponsored Challenge, they may receive a juried award and be named a winner in that particular challenge category. However, we cannot guarantee that there will be a winner for the Sponsored Challenge.

    We don't host a Sponsored Challenge every year, but here are some of the past topics:

    • 2016: Mobile Phones & Behavior Change, sponsored by the MIT Practical Impact Alliance
    • 2014: Challenges Facing Rural America, sponsored by the Corning Incorporated Foundation
    • 2013: Yunus Challenge on Education: Solutions for Learning, sponsored by MIT alumnus Mr. Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, benefactor of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT (J-PAL)
    • 2012: Waste: Put it to Use, Yunus Challenge
    • 2011: Global Villages Challenge, sponsored by the MIT School of Engineering
    • 2011: Improve Life for Temporary and Migrant Workers, sponsored by Monster.com
    • 2011: Improved Agricultural Processes for Better Livelihoods, Yunus Challenge
    • 2010: Promoting Clean Hands for Health and Prosperity, Yunus Challenge
    • 2009: Affordable Small-Scale Energy Storage Solutions, Yunus Challenge
    • 2008: Improving Indoor Air Quality to Break the Cycle of Poverty, Yunus Challenge
    • 2007: Increasing Adherence to Tuberculosis Drugs in Rural Developing Country Contexts, Yunus Challenge