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(ARA) – Google the words “meaningful work” and you’ll find more than 1.6 million hits, ranging from tips for finding a job you can believe in, to how to find meaning in the job you already have. Perhaps it’s another side effect of the recession, but it seems that for many Americans, making money isn’t enough anymore; it’s just as important to make a difference.

Crowdsourcing is one way anyone can take part in making a difference. The concept employs the power of technology to harness the collective creativity of a large group of diverse people. One company with an innovative Web site is taking crowdsourcing to the next level, allowing anyone with skills and interest to participate in solving a range of creative challenges in exchange for the opportunity to earn cash awards.

Corporations and non-profits referred to as “Seekers” come to to post “Challenges” – unique professional, academic and research problems for which they are seeking a solution. Each Challenge contest offers a cash award for solutions chosen from all those submitted. Anyone can create a free account to become a “Solver” and offer his or her unique solution to a challenge.

While the money – with some awards ranging all the way to seven figures – is obviously welcome, most solvers aren’t participating for the cash, says Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of InnoCentive. “Our solvers tell us they do it because they think they can make a difference, and they enjoy the challenge of applying their skills to create a solution for a unique, challenging problem,” Spradlin says.

Past Challenges have ranged from creating branding ideas for male grooming products to finding a biomarker for the progression of Lou Gehrig‘s disease to how to address water problems in developing countries. Cash awards offered range from $1,000 to $1 million. Seeker organizations include corporate giants Avery Dennison, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Procter & Gamble and Solvay, while non-profit Seekers include the Rockefeller Foundation, GlobalGiving, The Oil Spill Recovery Institute and Prize4Life.

To date, 539 Challenges have been awarded prize money totaling nearly $5 million. Solvers may be required to relinquish the intellectual property rights of their ideas to the challenger upon being named a winner.

So far, many of the challenges have been scientific in nature, but InnoCentive’s client base is quickly expanding into other disciplines. Marketers are already using the site’s crowdsourcing power to solve their unique problems. “The Innocentive challenge model could be used to solve virtually any business problem,” Spradlin says.

To learn more about becoming an InnoCentive seeker or solver, visit their Web site at

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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