While many open source social innovation forums are coming up, the most prominent of them has been Ashoka Changemakers, a programme which is churning out great ideas and working models for tackling the various challenges before the world. So far, it has attracted over 3,500 solutions from more than 125 countries through theme-based contests.

Companies like Nike, Coke and Citibank have been sponsoring these contests. The sponsor companies say they intend to make use of some of the ideas and models discovered through these contests in their own corporate social responsibility initiatives across the world.

Citibank, for instance, recently launched a global competition called “Banking on Social Change: Seeking Financial Solutions for All”, which is being organised by Changemakers.

“We believe this competition can help us discover new and exciting financial solutions and methods that have the potential to both improve and transform traditional banking offerings,” says Citi India CEO Sanjay Nayar.

Top ideas received for the contest will be profiled on the Changemakers website and winners be chosen by the online community.

This year, three Indian innovators won the contest on drinking water access, says Paul Faeth, executive director, Global Water Challenge, which sponsored the contest along with Coca-Cola.

Faeth, who has just finished touring India to see the implementation of the projects, says he had received 265 entries from 54 countries for the water project.

“Global Water Challenge is looking for innovative ideas, and these entrepreneurs presented local solutions to their water or sanitation issues. With Coca-Cola’s $1-million grant, we are now able to fund more projects. We are hoping that they (the projects) start a ripple effect in their communities… that creates scalable, replicable and sustainable models. They can hope for backing from many companies,” says Faeth.

Coca-Cola Environmental Communications Director Lisa Manley links its sponsorship of water-related contests with its concern about the lack of access to clean water to 1 billion people.

Asked what it intended to do with some of the innovative ideas for handling the water problem, Manley said :”The funding from the Coca-Cola company will provide resources to test one or more of the most promising innovative approaches presented through the competition. We also hope that this funding will stimulate interest from other investors and philanthropic organisations to support more of the proposals presented”.

Coca-Cola would encourage partner organisations to replicate the models tested successful, she added.

Another global firm, Nike, has also been sponsoring contests that focus on sports for social change. The second such contest is now in progress.

Ashoka Changemakers Managing Director Kalpana Kaul said the programme, which has got overwhelming support from the corporates, was able to bring some kind of convergence between ideas for social change and those who have the wherewithal to implement those ideas.

Ashoka Changemakers is not the only platform for open sourcing of ideas for social change. Youth Action Net, launched in 2001 by the International Youth Foundation and Nokia, seeks to develop a new generation of socially conscious global citizens who create positive change in their communities, their countries, and the world. It has been identifying one changemaker of note from every country, including India. So far, it has selected 140 social entrepreneurs, with over 4,000 applications received.

But whether these social entrepreneurs churned out by the platform are getting sponsorship from companies was not known.

NGO Resource Alliance along with Nand and Khemka Foundation has also been running such contests to project one top idea for social change to help create a synergy with industry and other stakeholders.

The latest entrant in the circuit is Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. With a sharp focus on health, it has launched $100-million Grand Challenges Explorations initiative to encourage bold and unconventional global health solutions. The contest aims to involve scientists around the world who do not generally work on global health.

The inaugural round, which completed in March this year, received almost 4,000 applications from scientists from 100 countries.

If the growing interest of the corporates in the open source social solutions and the participation of the community and social entrepreneurs are any hint, the stage is all set for the open source initiatives to become the carriers of change.