Fabric of Change shines the way for philanthropy

by Stefan Bakker on Jul 25, 2016

Competitions that encourage innovation - rather than simply reward it - are becoming more and more popular as a means of philanthropic giving. Under the right circumstances, they are more effective than traditional grant-making, writes author Renya Reed Wasson in a recent issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

In her article, The Future of Prize Philanthropy, Wasson weighs up the advantages of different prize philanthropy models, and singles out the Ashoka Fabric of Change Challenge for praise.

Sponsored by C&A Foundation, Fabric of Change was launched in September last year to uncover and encourage innovation across the apparel value chain. In May, we announced winners of prize money totalling €100,000 at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit.

Wasson believes these kinds of competitions - which she calls 'resource prizes' - combine the best elements of grant-making and prize-giving.

“Resource prizes have the important attribute of enabling funder organisations to promote social goals while giving recipients the support they need to bring their projects to fruition. ”

Economist Renya Reed Wasson

“Prize competitions provide recipients with resources to pursue their work even before they complete a proposed project."

These competitions tend to use open web-based platforms to recruit contestants and field submissions from across the world. This opens up a broader pool of potential applicants, generates goodwill for the sponsor, and helps to increase public awareness.

“Resource prizes have the important attribute of enabling funder organisations to promote social goals while giving recipients the support they need to bring their projects to fruition," says Wasson.

“If the creators of Fabric of Change had designed the challenge as an incentive prize, its lack of a clear, specific goal would have discouraged potential applicants. By following the resource prize model, though, Fabric of Change is maximising its ability to drive real change."

And that's exactly what Fabric of Change aims to do. We received more than 300 online entries from 55 countries. Four winners were selected from a pool of 10 finalists, all of which are pursuing innovation to transform some aspect of the apparel supply chain.

The overall winner, Evrnu™ Social Purpose Corp, won the €50,000 grand prize for turning cotton garment waste into fibres that are used to create new, quality clothing.