What's the big idea? Greater Cincinnati Foundation wants you to weigh in on community improvements

CINCINNATI - How many times have you found yourself with an idea that could better shape your community? If you had an opportunity to share that idea, see it flourish and become reality, would you pursue it?

These are two of the questions at the heart of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Big Idea Challenge. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Foundation asked residents to submit ideas for improve their communities in seven different categories.

“We really hoped to connect with people of all ages and to gather their inspiration and creativity for making our community a more vibrant place,” said Elizabeth Reiter Benson, vice president of Marketing and Communications for the Foundation.

The categories are:

  • Strong Communities
  • Cultural Vibrancy
  • Job Creation
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Educational Success
  • Health & Wellness
  • Economic Opportunity

Ideas and inspiration

Benson said the idea for the challenge was conceived by a group of volunteers and Foundation staff.

“We believed the Big Idea Challenge could generate solutions from the community, including people or organizations that might not be connected to existing civic organizations,” Benson said.

She added that the foundation also took inspiration from community foundation colleagues in Minnesota who created a similar idea called the MN Idea Open which proposed this challenging question: "What would you do with $1 million to help make Saint Paul great?" 

With the Big Idea Challenge being so new, organized hoped to get at least 100 ideas; however, by the end of their submission deadline in July they had received 259.

There are 21 finalists in all, each with dreams of bringing education, culture, green living, wellness, and thriving local business to the community.

 “Our goal was greater visibility for all ideas, not just the winners and finalists," Benson said.

How you can get involved

Now through Sept. 27, the Foundation is asking people to vote for their favorite “Big Idea” finalist. One winner in each of the seven categories will be chosen based on the number of votes received.

The winners of The Big Idea Challenge will have plenty to motivate them. In addition to cash prizes of $500 to $1,000, the foundation will also find a nonprofit organization to implement the seven winning ideas and provide grants of $5,000 to $50,000 to get those ideas rolling.

One of the finalists will also be selected to receive a grand prize, contributed by the members of the Foundation's governing board.

To ensure fairness and be certain that each individual only places one vote, each participant will need to provide a valid email address with his or her vote submission.

Big ideas, big excitement

Benson is thrilled with the response The Big Idea Challenge has received so far.

“We hoped that thousands of voters would want to weigh in on the great finalists. In the first two days of voting, we received nearly 1,000 votes, so we are well on our way,” she said.

With such an outpouring of interest from the community and so many ideas for community improvement, one might wonder if The Big Idea Challenge will become an annual event.
“We are hoping the community will help us answer that," Benson said. "We have seen great support for the challenge this year and a lot of great ideas. Once we wrap up with the winners announcement, we’ll see if our community has an appetite to keep the good ideas coming, and identify other potential partners and supporters.”

Benson also said the Foundation hopes everyone, not just the winners, will be inspired by the ideas and want to help turn them into reality.

Voting for The Big Idea Challenge wraps up voting Sept. 27, and winners are scheduled to be announced in October.

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