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What a Great Idea! Contest


What a Great Idea!
A contest to support innovation in human services.

The 5th Annual What A Great Idea! Contest will be accepting applications soon! Check back and see when you can submit your great idea for a chance to win consulting services from a graduate student team. Winners will be announced at the Council's 40th Annual Convention on October 18, 2015. 


Contest Overview
The Providers’ Council’s What a Great Idea! Contest aims to support innovation and social enterprise in Massachusetts human services by helping provider agencies bring their innovative ideas to fruition. Social enterprises use business methods to help achieve their social missions and serve diverse clientele. Such endeavors have the potential to diversify revenue streams in organizations, provide new work opportunities for clients and consumers, increase efficiency and cost effectiveness, and create more jobs in the human services sector.

What a Great Idea! Contest winner(s) will receive consulting services from graduate students at local universities. Services received will depend upon the project and could include a feasibility study, marketing plan, business plan, strategic plan, etc.

New this year, the What A Great Idea! Contest offers two categories for submissions:

  1. New Social Enterprises: In this category, all ideas must be brand new; the scaling up of an existing social enterprise is not an eligible entry for this category.
  2. Expanding Existing Social Enterprises: This category is open to existing social enterprises that wish to expand their business in a significant way. This might include branching into a new but related product or service, expanding into a new territory or market, or other approach to building out the existing social enterprise.

Contest Requirements

In order to be considered, ideas must:

  • Be innovative and creative.
  • Serve the human services community of the Commonwealth.
  • Be feasible: the parent agency must demonstrate that they have the capacity and plans to support the project and bring this idea to fruition beyond the contest.
  • Be aligned with the parent organization’s mission as a human service provider.
  • Further self-sufficiency for the parent organization.
  • Be able to commit 8-10 hours of staff time each week that the approximately 14 week consulting project is in progress. This will likely be spread out over multiple staff members.
  • Be connected to a human service agency based in Massachusetts that is a Providers Council Member. Not a member?

Check out our previous contest winners:

  • Full Circle ARTS, a retail and online store of JRI featuring eco-friendly artwork and other creative products made and sold by adults with disabilities (2011 Winner).

"The collaboration with the BU Team gave us tremendous momentum and confidence, raised the profile of the project within JRI and provided us with a blue print for implementation.  The team’s business plan provided us with key development information, including financial data, sales benchmarks, goals for product development, market research, and an operational marketing strategy." - Deirdre Hunter, Justice Resource Institute

  • Cloud4Causes, an IT services business of HMEA which provides IT services and network administration to peer nonprofits (2011 Winner).

"Student work provided some good market data that changed our thinking about the optimal customer in terms of size and IT needs." - Mike Moloney, HMEA

  • The Cafe at Whole Children, a cafe run by The Association For Community Living that serves as a job-training site for teens and young adults with developmental disabilities and a community social hub and gathering place featuring talent shows, art openings, and performance opportunities (2012 Winner).
  • The Amego, Inc. Coffee Shop, which provides employment opportunities for individuals in Amego's Day Programs and offers Fair Trade coffee and baked goods (2012 Winner).

"The students assigned to create our business plan for the café were extremely positive, energetic, available, and committed to providing us with a plan that is both useful and effective in helping us achieve our long term goals." - Bill Barefoot, Amego, Inc.

  • Cobblestone Farm and Enrichment Center, an enterprise of Road to Responsibility that will provide employment opportunities in farming, gardening, and animal care, sell products at a farmstand, and will also offer fee-for-service classes to the community (2013 Winner). 

Thank you to our previous contest sponsors!

Public and Nonprofit MBA Program, Boston University School of Management

Masters of Public Administration Program, College of Professional and Continuing Education, Clark University

All agencies must be members of the Providers’ Council to be eligible to win. Agencies represented on the Innovation and Social Enterprise committee are not eligible to win.

For more information, please contact Liz Woodbury at 617.428.3637 x125.