'Solution Search' Disaster Preparedness Contest Wants To Reward You For Great Ideas

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Have an idea that could help your community be more prepared for natural disasters? You could win $25,000 for it. On the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Rare, a global conservation organization, and its partners are launching a "Solution Search" called "Reducing Our Risk: Innovation for Disaster Preparation." They hope to attract submissions focusing on weather-related disaster preparation from a range of groups, including government organizations, nonprofits, businesses and individuals. The goal is not only to identify a winner, but to bring awareness to preparedness and the range of solutions that are out there. The contest's partners reflect the diversity of stakeholders in disaster preparedness, and include reinsurance company TransRe, The Nature Conservancy, the Evangelical Environmental Network and Save the Children. "There's no silver bullet for disaster preparedness in the United States," Brett Jenks, CEO of Rare, told The Huffington Post. "We want to learn ... what the range of categories, the range of approaches is right now," Jenks said. Potential solutions could "range from some way of pooling risk financially … to a technology that makes it less likely for a house to blow down in a wind event, to the kind of infrastructure that a coastal municipality could create that would reduce flooding in the city streets, to the kind of natural capital investments that can be made long term.” Previous Solution Searches have identified ways to cope with overfishing in costal communities and solutions for adapting to climate change. Jenks said he hopes this Solution Search can help spark a "non-partisan conversation about preparedness" regardless of what people think about climate change. While part of the goal is raising awareness, this is a contest and there will be a winner. Rare describes the competition as being part American Idol, part X-Prize and part online competition. Jenks told HuffPost that the contest's panel of distinguished judges (including former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore) will narrow down the field to the top 10 entries and select a judge's choice winner. The top 10 will then compete online for the people's choice award vote. Michael Sapnar, President and CEO of TransRe and one of the judges, told HuffPost that he hopes the contest will help “uncover the best practices that are out there.” As for what he anticipates looking for in the entries, Sapnar said, “I think something that’s scalable is important, and something that’s easy for people to understand and embrace is important.” A reasonable cost and some level of testing or trial are also good qualities. The winners of the judge's pick and the people's choice will both take home $25,000 and two runners up to the people's choice will each win $5,000. Read More >>