Thank-you for your interest in this Challenge. Submissions are currently under review. Please stay tuned for upcoming announcements.
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How do we improve early childhood literacy and numeracy in Manitoba?
We need innovative ideas for
improving school readiness before age 5.
We invite your innovative ideas for ensuring all children
have a good start in life by focusing on early literacy and numeracy.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Manitoba students lag behind their Canadian peers in numeracy and literacy at age 15 – ranking 8th and 9th out of 10 provinces, respectively. Research shows this starts very early. Manitoba data also show that up to 77% of kindergarteners are not ready for Grade 1 literacy and numeracy curricula. Research on child development indicates that intervening early – before children enter school – provides the biggest return on investment.
How skills develop
Long before they enter school, through their first five years of life, children develop early literacy and numeracy skills at home and in their community. Exposure to words and books greatly varies, and some children are exposed to many more words than others. By three years old, this gap can be as much as 30 million words.
Researchers confirm that preschool experiences provide a strong foundation for the positive attitudes and early literacy and numeracy competencies that are vital for the way children learn in school and in life. Strong early foundations in literacy and numeracy begin in the home and are further enriched through participation in high quality early childhood settings and experiences. Early numeracy and literacy, and oral language itself, all develop through social interaction with caring adults, and through play.
Unfortunately, many children who struggle with literacy and numeracy in the early years continue to struggle throughout their school career. In addition to the emotional toll they experience in school, these children are disadvantaged when they graduate, start college or university, find a job or make other life choices.
In Manitoba, we want to be the most improved in literacy and numeracy in Canada by 2020. Better yet, we want to hold the spot by a landslide margin and be an example of what others can do to improve literacy and numeracy in their own provinces and territories.
We need to do better setting our children up for success. We need your help.
We need ideas that…
- Have a budget of $50,000 or less to implement on a small scale
- Can be implemented immediately and get results quickly
- Don’t require significant number of staff to implement
- Are scalable across the province
We’d like to hear about ideas that include…
- Interactive solutions with parents/children that families can get excited about
- Access to personalized services with at-home solutions or through publicly available resources (e.g., libraries, community resource centres, early learning and child care programs, and public health organizations)
- The use of technology and social media to encourage participation and engagement with all Manitobans
- Children with additional support needs/learning challenges, Indigenous children, newcomer children, and those living in rural, northern and remote communities, including First Nations
- Are play-based
We are not interested in ideas that…
- Requires significant staff or organizational changes to existing programs
- Encourage individual or isolated activities by children
- Rely on significant financial resources to implement or manage
- Are not inclusive or available to all Manitobans
The Early Childhood Literacy and Numeracy Challenge will span a timeframe of approximately 18 months.
The milestones and events are outlined below.
All dates below are subject to change. More detailed information will be available to teams throughout the challenge.
Phase 1 - Go All In
November 9, 2017
Press event and Q&A session. Registration opens at WeAreTheSolution.ca.
November 23, 2017
Registered teams and individuals are invited to participate in an information and Q&A session, in-person or live streamed.
Take up the challenge
November 24, 2017
Submission portal opens at WeAreTheSolution.ca.
December 1 and December 19, 2017
During an optional guided ideation session, registered teams and individuals will work to generate new solutions or refine their current solution.
Submit your best idea
February 22, 2018
Individuals and teams submit their solutions describing how they will tackle the challenge in an innovative way and to win an opportunity to develop a prototype. A panel will score all submitted solutions.
March 15, 2018
Up to 10 semi-finalists announced who will work with a project team (including subject matter experts and mentors) to create a final presentation.
Take it to the next level
April 19, 2018
Teams and individuals will formally present their solution to a panel of judges. Up to three solutions may be selected for Phase 2.
Phase 2 - Uncover Answers
Ready, set go!
May 1, 2018
Teams and individuals are briefed and will have up to six months to develop their solution. A prototype will be developed with the assistance of participating post-secondary institutions and private sector sponsors.
You have pulled it all together!
Teams and Individuals submit their prototype.
Let the field testing begin
12 months of field testing the prototype begins with the support of the Manitoba government and select communities.
Assess, assess, assess
A panel of judges will conduct a two-month review and assessment of field testing results.
And the winner is...
Manitoba Open Innovation Challenge judges will announce the solution to be scaled provincially.
You can find additional resources and information at the following links:
Brain ArchitectureStress, Brain Architecture, Serve and Return
Palix Foundation, June 2014
Brain ArchitectureExperiences Build Brain Architecture
Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
Early Development Instrument (EDI)Schools and communities working together for Manitoba’s children
Starting Early, Starting StrongA Guide for Play-Based Early Learning in Manitoba, Birth to Six
Starting Early, Starting StrongManitoba’s Five-Year Plan for Early Childhood Development
Starting Early, Starting StrongManitoba’s Early Childhood Development, November 2013
The Early CatastropheThe 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3
By Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley
Translating the Science of Early Childhood DevelopmentVideos & Interactive Features
Early Childhood Literacy and NumeracyEvidence to Inform Manitoba Innovation
Dr. Rob Santos
Information and Q&A Session • November 23, 2017
(Jeff Ryzner, President North Forge • Dr. Rob Santos, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Associate Secretary to Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet
Ideation Session • December 1, 2017
inVision Edge Webinar
Are civil servants, and employees of the Challenge sponsors allowed to submit solutions?
Could my solution involve a collaboration with other partners?
Yes, as long as the submission meets the specific challenge criteria, collaborative solutions are eligible. We encourage collaborations because they are often the best way to generate new ideas and increase impact.
How do I submit my idea?
You can submit your idea between November 24, 2017, 9:00 AM CST and February 22, 2018, 4:00 PM CST through the Submission Portal.
How does a social enterprise work?
A social enterprise is simply a business that has a mission to address an issue that affects people and our community. A social enterprise can have various sources of revenue depending on what it produces or delivers. How Challenge participants structure their business models regarding sustainability and growth will be part of their adjudication.
How long will I have to develop my solution if I am a finalist?
Beginning March 2018, teams and individuals will have up to six months to develop their solutions.
How will you choose the final winner?
Our panel of judges will base the final selection on the following criteria:
You can find more details about the adjudication criteria in the terms of reference for this challenge.
I have a question not covered here. Who can I contact?
Email your question to us and we’ll respond within 48 hours.
If I have a solution that already exists as an active business is it eligible for the challenge?
Yes, as long as the solution comes from a registered Manitoba company that has a corporate head office in the province.
What happens after I apply?
Once we have received all of the submissions, judges from across the province and sectors (consisting of business owners and subject matter experts) will independently evaluate all entries based on a scoring system. From the ten top-scoring submissions our panel of judges will choose up to three finalists after further evaluation.
North Forge will contact the selected finalists and assign a project team to coach the finalists on the further development of their ideas and the required final presentations they will deliver.
After the final presentations, the judges will select the top three solutions for development.
What if I want to participate, but I don’t have an idea yet?
No problem! You can attend an information session on November 23, 2017 from 11:30 – 1:30 a.m. at North Forge Event Centre, 100-One Research Road (SmartPark) for further details and a Q&A session. If you can’t make it in person, we will also be live streaming the event Facebook Live and will post it online for future playback.
There will also be two ideation sessions on December 1, 2017 at Manitoba Education and Training, 1567 Dublin Avenue that you can attend. These workshops will go through a series of exercises that may help you think of a solution to address the issue.
What is the deadline for submitting a solution?
February 22, 2018
What is the reasoning behind using an open innovation challenge to solve social issues?
We have evidence from our own experience at North Forge and the literature that bringing together a diverse group of people from across their natural networks is a recipe for innovative solutions to problems. Hosting an open challenge is a dynamic, results-driven approach to complex issues that affect Manitobans.
What problem is the call to improve early childhood literacy and numeracy trying to solve?
According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), at age 15 Manitoba students lag behind their Canadian peers in literacy and numeracy – ranking 8th and 9th out of 10 provinces respectively. Research shows this starts very early, before age 5. Manitoba data also show that in some communities, up to 77% of kindergarteners are not ready for Grade 1 literacy and numeracy curricula.
What types of solutions are you hoping to get?
We have no expectations about the kind of solutions participants will submit. The solutions could be tech-based, but not necessarily. Tech could play a role alongside other components. For every challenge, we’ll have experts on the issue, those in the North Forge innovation network that will bring their knowledge, and we hope to have individuals with firsthand experience with the issues involved. Bringing these diverse groups together will give us the tools to deliver a solution that will change the future.
Who is eligible to participate?
The North Forge Open Innovation Challenge is open to all Manitoba residents over the age of 16 or registered Manitoba companies who have a corporate head office in the province.
Who owns the solutions put forward as part of the challenge?
Solutions remain the property of the submitters. If appropriate, intellectual property protection should be sought prior to submission.
Who will fund the winning solution?
Each open challenge will have specific partners and sponsors who will contribute financial and other supports. However, the solutions coming forward will need to demonstrate value for the money. Submissions should use a social enterprise model for their solutions with a plan for long-term sustainability.
Why try to solve this problem this way, wouldn’t it be better to have experts work on this?
The key to innovation is the diversity of thought. Yes, experts have an important role to play in finding a solution, but the literature and our experience show that getting people with various educational and life backgrounds together offers a greater chance of solving any given problem. Some of the world’s leading experts in early childhood development are urging innovation as part of a potential solution to gaps in literacy and numeracy. Manitoba also has a track record of working together to innovate on issues that matter. We can do this!
Will I get any help to develop my solution?
If you become a finalist, we will make every effort to provide you with the assistance you need to develop your idea into a viable solution. Our public and private sector sponsors as well as participating post-secondary institutions will be available for support.
Will the finalists receive any funding to develop their solutions?
Each finalist will receive up to $50,000 in cash and in-kind support towards the prototyping and piloting of their solutions.
You say Manitoba’s goal is to have 100% of children in our province school-ready before they reach kindergarten. In some communities, 77% of children are not school-ready at that age. Isn’t 100% success a lot to ask from one innovative idea?
It is an ambitious goal, but that’s what innovation is all about. Aim high, dream big and achieve something remarkable! We know we won’t reach this goal overnight, but we owe it to our children and future generations to find a solution as soon as possible. At the least, this innovation can provide a key part of the total solution. It might also inspire additional solutions.
Can I submit more than one idea?
Absolutely! We encourage you to submit any and all ideas you may have.
Do I need to attach a business or financial plan?
No. For this stage, we are only looking for great ideas. Additional material is welcomed but absolutely not required.
I am professional in the field and want to submit an idea but I would like my name not to be published. Is that possible?
Absolutely. All names are hidden from the panelists during the scoring process. If your submission is selected to move forward and you wish to remain anonymous, we will respect your wishes and find a workable solution.
I have questions, is there help?
Yes, North Forge is here to offer help to anyone who wants to participate and all assistance is 100% FREE of charge. You can…
- Email us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Email email@example.com to request an in person or phone meeting
Available times: Monday evenings, Tuesday evenings and weekends
- Drop in with your questions.
Every Wednesday from 11:30am-12:30pm
North Forge Smartpark Office, 200-135 Innovation Drive
- We can arrange a small group session with our Process Coaches from Wawanesa. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
I want to submit my idea but I’m not able/interested to present it or work on it further if it’s selected. If it’s selected, what will happen?
Participants who have their idea selected for further development are able to determine what level of involvement, if any, they have from that point forward. If you’d like to remain part of the process, fantastic! If not, we at North Forge can take it from there.
I’ve reviewed the solution form and don’t have all the answers. Can I submit the form if it’s partially complete?
Yes you can! We understand you may not be able to complete every section in the Solution Template – please give us as much information as possible to help our panelists understand and imagine your idea.
Question? We will return your email within 48 hrs.
Rules and Terms of Submission
The North Forge Manitoba Open Innovation Challenge is open to all Manitoba residents over the age of 16. Registered Manitoba companies who have a corporate head office in the province are also welcome to participate.
To compete, a team or an individual must submit their solution through the Submission Portal
between 9:00 AM CST, November 24, 2017 and 4:00 PM CST, February 22, 2018.
Individuals can submit one solution only (as an individual or as part of a team).
If a submission is accepted for advancement, each entrant (team member or individual) must submit a signed Image Consent and Release.
Each entrant (team member or individual) must agree to any and all Terms of Submission of the Manitoba Open Innovation Challenge if a submission is accepted for advancement.
Solutions must be submitted online through the Submission Portal between 9:00 AM CST, November 24, 2017 and 4:00 PM CST, February 22, 2018. A Submission Template for important content can be downloaded here: (PDF) (WORD)
Submitted solutions that are considered active businesses will be considered, as long as the solution comes from a registered Manitoba company that has a corporate head office in the province.
Solutions remain the property of the submitters and if appropriate, intellectual property protection should be sought prior to submission.
North Forge may publicize the team or individual in any stage of the challenge.
Industry partners or mentors are encouraged (but not required) to act as an advisor/mentor.
Teams are required to submit their solution online on the Manitoba Open Innovation Challenge website by February 22, 2018. Up to three finalist teams will be chosen and notified if they have been selected for Phase 2.
If selected teams need assistance in locating an industry advisor, the committee will do its utmost to find an appropriate advisor/mentor, however it is not guaranteed. Advisors/mentors may be working with multiple teams and will not be allowed to compete at the final event nor will they be considered members of any team.
Finalists in Phase 1 are required to prepare a five-minute oral presentation (can include PowerPoint and other necessary props and material). North Forge reserves the right to have at least 10 viable solutions to proceed with presentations.
North Forge reserves the right to suspend awards at Phase 1 should proposed solutions be considered nonviable by the panel of judges.
Beginning in May 2018, teams and individuals will be briefed and will have up to six months to develop their solution. A minimum viable product will be developed with the assistance of public and private sector sponsors as well as participating post-secondary institutions. Each minimum viable product will be field tested within a twelve month period with the support of the Manitoba government and select Manitoba communities.
North Forge reserves the right to suspend the final award should the proposed solutions be proven nonviable in field testing through a pre-determined assessment process.
After a pre-determined assessment process, the winning solution will be announced in September 2019.
Phase 2: Each finalist will receive up to $50,000 in cash and in-kind support towards the prototyping and piloting their solutions.
Final: Additional cash and in-kind support will be provided to the winning solution with the intent to help scale the solution across the province and beyond.
Examples of eligible uses of the funding include third-party consultants, IT (hosting, networking, security), prototyping and communications.
Ineligible uses of the funding include accommodations and food and beverage reimbursements.
North Forge reserves the right to suspend awards should proposed solutions be considered nonviable by the panel of judges.
- Considering initial and ongoing costs, how affordable is this solution to parents?
- Considering initial and ongoing costs, how affordable is this solution to government?
How safe is this solution for young children?
- How likely is this solution to achieve widespread adoption?
- Would it be relatively easy and affordable to scale the solution across the province?
- What is the likelihood of the solution working in a culturally diverse community?
- How likely is it that a child would choose to engage the solution frequently?
- Will children find it fun?
Is the solution innovative? If it uses technology, does the solution represent a smart use of technology and not exceed an acceptable amount of screen time?
How complex is the solution? Are there too many points of failure?
- Does the solution improve child literacy and numeracy outcomes?