Why ‘an idea’ for the Summer Labs doesn't have to be the Egg of Columbus

Submitting 'an idea' for The Spindle Summer Labs can seem both abstract and overwhelming – but it needn’t be.

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Submitting ‘an idea’ for The Spindle Summer Labs can seem both abstract and overwhelming – but it needn’t be. ‘What could be an idea for submission?’ you may ask. The short, honest answer is: ideas that tackle a specific problem, that you see in your work, the development sector or the world in which you operate.

It’s not about creating an app – it is a new solution for a problem in a specific context
The realm of NGOs is quite different from that of a Silicon Valley start-up: “move fast and break things is fine if you’re developing a gaming platform. It’s not fine if you’re working with a Yazidi population in Iraq facing genocide.” Big, blue-print, scalable solutions don’t really exist in international development. In fact, context is critical. That is why the abstract notion of an idea should be seen from the perspective from our everyday work: an idea of new campaign, an idea for a new programme (approach), a new policy position or a new Theory of Change that you want to try out. It’s not a new app that solves world poverty, it is a new approach on how to start an open data platform in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

It is not (only) about the idea: half of the solution is knowing the problem really well
The biggest myth about innovation is that it comes to you as lightning strikes. Whereas an idea is just a starting point in search of a new solution. With that kind of innovation mythology floating around, it’s no wonder most people don’t think they have what it takes to be creative or innovative risk-takers. In fact, where you start off with, doesn’t really matter. It’s what you do with it that makes an idea something that actually becomes something of value that matters in the real world. That all starts with getting to know the problem really well and to know deeply how the people, that you’re working with and for, experience that problem. If you know the problem and your target group really well – you can start looking for opportunities to do something about it.

The biggest myth about innovation is that it comes to you as lightning strikes.


New solutions can be both small and big – but only grow with dedication
The big issues we try to tackle (inclusion, climate change, shrinking civic space) involve multiple groups and systems that work towards a goal. NESTA says that most impact happens at the specific sector levels in specific places (e.g. in educational sectors in Botswana, or in the housing sector in Cambodia). From the perspectives of NGOs though, renewal and improvement is relevant in terms of incremental improvements as well as the reshaping of complete business models. Long story short: new solutions can come in different shapes and sizes.

So if you’re considering sending in an application for The Spindle Summer Labs (please note the deadline of May 31st is approaching) feel free to follow your organisation’s priorities and your everyday challenges. Your idea doesn’t have to be disruptive or change the world – but we do ask for you to be dedicated towards a solution of a problem. At The Spindle Summer Labs, you will have the safe space to experiment with it;  and like in a scientific laboratory, you will get to test it and try again. Please let us know if you want a sparring partner for your application or if you need any further clarification. Smash that egg!

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