Catalyzing Innovation to Advance Racial Equity

Aug 27, 2021 11:30 AM ET

This blog was posted on behalf of Pia Wilson-Body, Intel Foundation President and XPRIZE Foundation Racial Equity Alliance Brain Trust Member. She shares her conversation with guest Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE Foundation.

As part of our social equity commitment, Intel is supporting a range of organizations advancing anti-racism and social equity work in communities around the world. These organizations are addressing systemic and root causes of disparities for marginalized groups in critical areas of equitable justice, economic equity, education equity, and tech equity.

The XPRIZE Foundation’s Racial Equity Alliance powered by Intel brings together a task force of industry leaders, scholars, experts, and Intel employees to identify and scale breakthroughs in racial and social equity that combat systemic inequalities and accelerate a fully inclusive future for all.

I recently spoke with Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE Foundation, about the progress of the Alliance and the outcomes they hope to achieve.

Pia Wilson-Body: XPRIZE is known as an innovation catalyst. How is XPRIZE’s approach to addressing the world’s greatest challenges different from that of other organizations?

Anousheh Ansari: XPRIZE is a world leader in designing and operating large-scale incentive prize competitions. Our goal is to inspire and accelerate innovation in solving complex, large-scale problems. XPRIZE competitions reward teams for performance, not potential, leveraging the expertise and knowledge of its deep bench of experts and leaders in the field. For example, the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for sub-orbital spaceflight brought in $100 million of investment in teams and catalyzed a multibillion-dollar commercial space industry.

Our process is unique in that we leverage our ecosystem to deeply understand a problem and frame it through a set of specific and measurable objectives to solve for. We then invite the world to actually build a solution to win the prize. This approach creates a 10x to 50x multiplier in investment that goes into the team to build its solutions. The solutions are then validated through extensive testing, which reduces the investment risk involved in these types of technologies while creating awareness and appreciation of them.

Pia Wilson-Body: Past XPRIZE challenges have been largely science-based— everything from COVID-19 testing to carbon removal. Is this the first time XPRIZE has tackled a historically social issue?

Anousheh Ansari: We work with a diverse community of problem solvers around the world to pull forward an abundant, equitable future for all. As recent events put a spotlight on the depth of racial inequity and injustice for so many, our resolve has only strengthened. We are using our superpower of convening to create an alliance of great thinkers and doers to address these issues with an eye toward action and an equitable future for all.

One major area of inequity is workforce development. Under-resourced communities in the U.S. face systemic barriers to learning, mobility, and progress, and a widening skills gap, deteriorating job quality, and a lack of collaboration in the labor market. Our XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competition is a 30-month, $5 million program that reskills workers for the digital revolution, thus addressing social justice in the workforce.

In total, we have launched 24 competitions in areas of Energy, Climate Change and Biodiversity, Human Health & Longevity, Equitable Access to Education, Nutritious Food & Clean Water, and Exploration.

Pia Wilson-Body: Intel is a founding sponsor of the Racial Equity Alliance (REA). When you think ahead to two years from now when the initiative is nearing its end, what do you envision?

Anousheh Ansari: We hope the REA will result in massive collaborative projects among organizations that are addressing racial equity by making lasting and significant changes in policy and the way our institutions operate. Additionally, I hope we can complete large-scale challenges to bring novel approaches to solving century-old problems and inspire a new generation of social innovators.

Ultimately, I hope to truly achieve a hopeful and sustainable future for all of humanity: a future where everyone can live a safe, secure, healthy, and fulfilling life, and reach their maximum potential and have access to economic opportunities.

Pia Wilson-Body: From your perspective as a nonprofit leader and cross-sector collaborator, what role can, and should, the private sector play in accelerating social change?

Anousheh Ansari: Now more than ever, collaboration across private industry, nonprofit, academia, and government sectors is crucial in order to course-correct where our society is heading. We need to innovate and experiment with our models to address systemic bias and build a more just and equitable future.

Using the power of collaboration, competition, shared innovation, and radical optimism, the REA is building a sustainable, community-based coalition to address racial equity challenges, as well as advocate for policy change.

Together, we can achieve a bright future, especially with support from our Racial Equity Alliance sponsors and partners, like Intel.