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GHR Foundation and OpenIDEO Choose Five Social Innovators as Winning Cohort in Inaugural $1M BridgeBuilder Challenge

The cohort of Top Ideas will amplify their impact with a share of US$1 million and collaboration with GHR Foundation.


An NGO partnership creating a pathway to peace for ex-combatants through ethical gold production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a social enterprise employing drone technology to accelerate community-driven mangrove restoration for improved fish stocks and protection from natural disasters are among 5 social innovators whose solutions were chosen as 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge Top Ideas.

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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.

This first cohort of Top Ideas represents literally hundreds of ideas fulfilling the Pope’s invitation to bridge complex, persistent issues in radically new ways. – Amy R. Goldman, CEO and chair of GHR Foundation

“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. We look forward to partnering with each of these organizations to further develop their ideas and scale their impact,” said Amy R. Goldman, CEO and chair of GHR Foundation. 

The inaugural BridgeBuilder Challenge sought to support innovative projects bridging peace, prosperity and planet in the United States and around the world. The winning ideas include:

  • Ethical gold mining as a pathway to peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Peace Direct: Peace Direct provides a pathway to peace and environmental protection in fragile DRC while providing sustainable incomes to ex-combatants – now small-scale, subsistence miners. The miners and their families (approx. 3,400 people total) 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 Myanmar, BioCarbon Engineering: Creating a strong bridge between prosperity and planet, Oxford-based BioCarbon Engineering employs drone technology to accelerate community-driven mangrove restoration to reforest depleted mangrove ecosystems in the fragile coastal regions of Myanmar, where more than 1 million hectares of forest have already been lost due to rising sea levels. In the process of planting 1 million mangrove 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: To counter violent extremism in Cameroon, Local Youth Corner promotes participation in peacebuilding by empowering violent offenders with leadership, vocational and entrepreneurial skills. Its Creative Skills for Peace program supports the rehabilitation and reintegration of 300 young offenders across 8 facilities in 6 cities, and trains staff members at rehabilitation facilities on countering violent extremism and peacebuilding.
  • Lifting up and empowering families on Chicago’s South Side, LIFT Chicago: Bridging prosperity and peace in Chicago, LIFT Chicago uses a two-generation, in-community ambassador approach to increase access to early childhood educations services and 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 world, NaTakallam: NaTakallam bridges peace and prosperity and encourages a culture of encounter by connecting displaced individuals (primarily Syrians) with Arabic learners around the world for online language practice, giving the former access to an income while fostering intercultural understanding. By 2018, it hopes to provide 150 refugees with sustainable incomes through their work with 2,000 language learners.

“The response to our inaugural BridgeBuilder Challenge was amazing,” said Jason Rissman, managing director of OpenIDEO. “Throughout the Ideas and Feedback phases, 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.”

Further information on PaRD

If you would like to learn more about PaRD, please access How PaRD Works, read our mission statementpartnership principles, and visit our World Map. You can also find out about our members and partners, or download our introductory presentation.