Detroit’s Ralph C. Wilson Jr Foundation Partners with MIT for Inclusive Innovation Challenge, Host Event Locally in September


The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation in Detroit and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology today announced that the foundation will support the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and its annual Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC). The program seeks to identify and promote entrepreneurial organizations in North America that are using technology to improve economic opportunity for low and moderate income earners.

The MIT IIC was launched two years ago to recognize organizations around the world that are using technology to solve a grand challenge of our time — to create not only prosperity, but shared prosperity by reinventing the future of work in the digital era. This year, the IIC has expanded to a global tournament model, collaborating with partners in five regions — North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The North America region is defined by Canada and the United States.

Regional Judges will select 12 regional IIC winners to receive monetary prizes, recognition, and promotion at the IIC North America Celebration to be held in Detroit in September. Four Regional Champions will each win $20,000, and eight Finalists will each win $5,000.

Following the event, four North America Regional Winners will be selected to advance to the IIC Global Grand Prize Tournament and Celebration hosted at MIT in Cambridge in October. In total, $1 million in prize money will be awarded to four Global Grand Prize Winners, selected from Regional Winners from around the world.

“The Inclusive Innovation Challenge lies at the heart of our foundation’s mission, helping catalyze innovative solutions that improve the quality of life and future of work for the communities we serve,” says Lavea Brachman, vice president of programs at the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, which also has an office in Buffalo. “We are thrilled to further support the IIC by hosting the North America regional challenge event in Detroit, a city and community at the forefront of innovation and inclusive innovative solutions.”

In the first two years, over 1,500 inclusive innovation organizations responded to the IIC. Over 230 Core Judges reviewed applications and more than $2 million has been awarded to entrepreneurs and innovators who are demonstrating different ways to put powerful new technologies to work to improve people’s economic opportunity.

For-profit and nonprofit organizations of any size, age, or type and from any nation are encouraged to apply. Eligible organizations are:

  • Using technology to reinvent work and create economic opportunity for people below the top rung of the economic ladder;
  • Demonstrating traction and impact -— they are beyond the “idea phase” and are enhancing shared prosperity today.
  • Organizations that do not yet meet the above criteria are encouraged to apply in the 2019 Challenge.

Based on data from the 2016 global Challenge, the MIT IIC determined that Inclusive Innovators accomplish their goals primarily in four ways. These four paths to increased shared prosperity make up the 2018 IIC Award Categories: Financial Inclusion; Income Growth and Job Creation; Skills Development and Opportunity Matching; and Technology Access.

“There is good reason to be hopeful about the future of work in North America. There are many ways for digital technology to benefit more people, and scalable solutions exist, ” says David Verrill, executive director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. “The IIC North American Challenge will help identify and promote those solutions working in the region today.”

The IIC is funded with support from; ISN; The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation; Merck KGaA; Accenture Digital; Via Varejo; Joseph Eastin; Gustavo Pierini; and Gustavo Marini.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is a grant making organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of southeast Michigan and western New York. The two areas reflect Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s devotion to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his Buffalo Bills NFL franchise.

Prior to his passing in 2014, Wilson requested that a significant share of his estate be used to continue a life-long generosity of spirit by funding the foundation that bears his name. The foundation has a grant making capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires January 8, 2035. The structure is consistent with Wilson’s desire for the Foundation’s impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable and overseen by those who knew him best.

Entrepreneurs operating primarily in North America and/or those that are based in the region can register today through May 29, 2018 at