How can communities lead the charge toward a future powered by the wind and sun? That’s the question posed by the online collaboration platform OpenIDEO in its latest sponsored challenge.

It may seem a little starry-eyed to think that communities can tackle this kind of challenge, but the reality is that they already are: Germany is kicking the world’s collective butt at clean energy, and half of the country’s 63 wind and solar gigawatts are locally owned. Stateside, residents of Boulder, Colo., are fighting tooth-and-nail to wrest control over the city’s electricity system from shareholder-owned (and coal-powered) Xcel Energy, and create a municipal utility. Other communities are using tools such as net-metering policies, crowdfunding platforms, securitization, and solar gardens to promote and enable renewable energy.

From now through Dec. 10, the OpenIDEO challenge — sponsored by the 11th Hour Project, which was founded by Grist board member Wendy Schmidt and also funds Grist — is collecting community renewable energy knowledge and examples. After the research phase, collaborators will develop ideas to address specific challenges, and then test and improve the most innovative ideas. In the end, the OpenIDEO platform will become a hub for sharing the best ideas, connecting communities with people who can implement those ideas, and — with any luck — sharing real-world success stories.

Even though the best entries are eventually singled out for their potential impact, there isn’t a material prize and it’s not much of a competition. By the end, it’s hard to identify winners, anyway, since the whole process is collaborative. Apparently, contributing to creating energy systems that empower communities and protect the climate is supposed to be some sort of reward in itself.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

OK, OpenIDEO, you got me. I just created my 10,000th username-password combo so I can follow the community-led energy shift co-ideafication.

Grist Founder & CEO Chip Giller is on the advisory panel for the renewable energy challenge.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.