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How do you find new innovations to fund? Where are they hiding? The Atlassian Foundation teamed up with Solve MIT and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) to run a Challenge in 2017, and here are some reflections on the five year journey. 


It was a whirlwind of a start - almost five years ago to date, my colleague Jonathan Srikanthan met the Solve MIT team at a conference - and they explained to him that they were launching a business that would run "Challenges" to find the world's best innovations, solving some of the world's gnarliest problems. We too were on the hunt for new innovations to support - but what was the best way to find them? Running a Challenge with a world renowned university such as MIT sounded like a very promising solution.


The Atlassian Foundation team had set itself a "big hairy audacious goal" (BHAG) of raising AU$1M in co-funding for the world's best education initiatives within a twelve month period.  At the time, it seemed impossible. Where do you find co-funders? And where do the innovators hide?

The week after my colleague Jono came back from the conference, we had two major leads on making this BHAG a reality. We had a call set up with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade's relatively new "innovationXchange" department, and another call with Solve MIT. Could we ask DFAT to contribute AU$1M and ask MIT Solve to run a Challenge with us? We decided if you don't ask, you don't get. So we floated our idea with them both ...

That week we decided to pitch a co-funded "Challenge" with the help of Solve MIT, and flagged to DFAT that we would like them to join us in supporting education innovators. Would DFAT consider joining us, and chipping in another AU$1M?

Somewhat miraculously, out of these calls the "Youth, Skills & Workforce of the Future" Challenge was born, and a few weeks later, in May 2017 the Atlassian Foundation, MIT Solve and DFAT's Innovation Exchange were in Boston at MIT, publicly launching the Challenge and asking innovators to apply for AU$2M in funding.


The attached report is a reflection, written by the Research & Communications Group (RCG), who joined Atlassian Foundation, MIT and DFAT on the journey to document and learn from the Challenge process.