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RSA Premiums: Prize Challenges For Social Problems

We face a range of complex and serious problems, from climate change to social inequality, but we also see the emergence of new technologies and opportunities for living well in the C21st.  By holding open innovation competitions, the RSA aims to bring the most creative, energetic and expert minds together to address problems that matter, in a way that makes best use of all available creative resources. 

Recently we have used open innovation to improve the way we value human capital in a knowledge economy, to stimulate ideas for social enterprise, and to radically enhance the independence of disabled people through assistive technology.

RSA Premiums involve a number of stages of design and delivery. 


Typically we start with a background investigation into the problem and the opportunity arising for open innovation approaches to find good fixes. Through interviews, online discussions and workshops we also involve those closest to the problem in helping to design the approach. We try to trial the draft approach before we go any further.


In the live phase of the Premium we typically organise activity around an online competition platform. Entries to the competition are received, moderated and linked to other ideas. Ongoing blogging and dialogue help to ensure we stay on track. We also conduct workshops and hack days to help stimulate ideas and entrants to the competition. 

The incentives for participation vary depending on the nature of the problem, the audience and the ambition. In each case we have to achieve the right balance of intrinsic (e.g. satisfaction, purpose, enjoyment) and extrinsic (e.g. money, recognition) motivators.


The problem with many challenge competitions is that they end when the final award is made. With RSA Premiums we to put as much effort and emphasis on helping strong ideas get to the next stage of development as identifying them in the first place.

We are still in the process of reviewing the ideas from our most recent round of Premiums. These include:

  •  A new service that enables employers to design their own organisation's human capital 'architecture'

  • An app to visualise an organisation's human resource skills and capabilities

  • A plan to convert a part of central London into a 'green city' demonstration zone, combining urban farming, energy micro-generation and green transport

  • A new social enterprise that helps the homeless of Central London to gain skills and enter the creative industries through film

Our next Premium - the Assistive Technology Challenge - will be launched in partnership with Nesta and the UK Government's Office for Disability Issues.

This RSA project is working in partnership with Nesta.