Competition News

Challenge III: Working Together Across Cultures and Faiths

The race for the Minnesota Idea Open crown was close as nearly 2,000 Minnesotans raised their hands and made their opinions known. We are so proud to announce the winning ideas of Challenge III: Working Together Across Cultures and Faiths.

Congratulations to our three Champions: Hidden Pearls 7-Step Summer Challenge by Fatuma Mohamed; Tents of Witness by Margo O’Dell and Ellen Kennedy; and Multicultural Barn Raisings by Jim Rettew.
And let’s hear some cheers for our two runners-up: Questions from the Future of Minnesota by Paul and Akiko Maeker; and United By History by Margaret Michaletz.
View these winning ideas below. Thanks to generous support from our sponsors, the three Champion ideas will receive $15,000 each, and the two runners-up will receive $5,000 each.
Challenge III sponsors are One Nation and three affiliates of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners: Minnesota Community Foundation, Multicultural Endowment and Facing Race. Learn more at and Be sure to jump into the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Game On.

Guidelines, Criteria and FAQs

Who may enter an idea?

We welcome ideas from Minnesota residents of all ages who submit an idea via email, mail or voicemail.

For Minnesota residents submitting an idea through our website at, we ask that you be age 12 or older, per state guidelines for online participation. Online entrants under the age of 18 must obtain consent from a guardian or parent prior to submitting an idea. On the online entry form, you will be asked to provide a parent or guardian name and contact information for consent purposes.

When can I enter my idea?

You may submit your ideas starting on February 28, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. CST and ending on Friday, March 23, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. For mailed-in entries, your entry must be postmarked on or before March 23, 2012. Ideas will be accepted on March 24, 2022 at the Building Together Across Cultures and Faiths event only.

How do I enter my idea?

View or download the entry form at We offer four ways to enter:

  • Submit your ideas online at
  • Fill out an Idea Open postcard and send it back to us (postage is provided). You can pick up postcards at Idea Open events, as well as at a limited number of libraries and college campuses.
  • Leave a voicemail on our Idea Open phone line at (612) 217-1580.
  • Email us your entry at

ALL ideas—no matter how they were submitted—will be posted online at Contact us at or (612) 217-1580 for assistance.

What information should I include if I submit via voicemail or email?

You will need to answer the following question in 250 words or 2,000 characters (maximum): What is your best idea to build bonds and work together across cultures and faiths in your community? Also be sure to include a brief title for your idea. The title helps others find your idea on our website. We also require the following information: Your name, either a phone number or email address or both, and your city and/or county. If you do not provide us with all of the requested information, and we are not able to reach you to gather it, your idea will not be entered into the Idea Open Challenge.

How many ideas may I enter throughout the Challenge?

You may enter as many different ideas as you wish via email, mail, voicemail and/or the website.

Is there a word limit for my idea?

Yes. No matter the entry option you choose, your idea must be no more than 250 words or 2,000 characters. If your entry exceeds this maximum, we will make an effort to contact you and invite you to revise your idea within the stated limits. The Idea Open staff will not revise your idea on your behalf. If we cannot reach you, or we do not receive your revised idea by March 23, 2012, your idea will not be entered into the Idea Open Challenge.

Do idea entries need to be in English?

Yes, we only accept entries submitted in English. If you need help finding someone to translate your idea to English, please contact us at

What types of ideas qualify?

We welcome all ideas! You do not need to write a formal proposal. Keep it simple yet clear and concise. Have fun and be creative!

How are ideas reviewed?

We will review all ideas based on one primary criterion:

  • Innovation: We are looking for creative ideas. Your idea can be new, or offer a fresh twist on a past or present project to work together and/or build bonds across cultures and faiths. Be imaginative!

Challenge reviewers narrow the entries to a shorter list based on the single criterion of innovation.

Then, the Idea Open team will ask those on the narrowed list to answer two additional questions that address their idea’s potential impact and sustainability. This narrowed pool of entrants also will receive feedback from Challenge reviewers to help them improve their ideas, as well as have an opportunity to ask questions about the expanded entry process via scheduled conference calls. There are two scheduled conference calls that entrants can choose from: Tuesday, April 3rd 5-6PM CT OR Wednesday, April 4th 12-1PM CT.

From the narrowed list of entrants that have completed all three questions, the Idea Open reviewers will then select 25 semi-finalists based on three criteria:

  • Innovation: We are looking for creative ideas. Your idea can be new, or offer a fresh twist on a past or present project to work together and/or build bonds across cultures and faiths. Be imaginative!
  • Impact: We are looking for ideas that will make a difference for the better, creating or improving on something valued by your community.
  • Sustainability: We are looking for ideas with staying power - that will “stick”- or have the potential to be replicated or expanded in your community or other communities.

A panel of judges then selects five finalists from the pool of 25 semi-finalists. The five finalists then are presented for a public vote, which determines the three Challenge Champions.

What if ideas are the same?

We recognize that some ideas may be similar. If the judges determine two or more ideas are identical then only the entry submitted first will be considered. For entries that are mailed in, date of submission will be the date the entry is postmarked. If the judges determine the ideas are similar but not identical, they will judge each idea on its merits against the criteria. The judges' decision is final.

The spirit of the Idea Open community is one of openness and trust. We ask all participants to uphold this spirit and respect one another’s ideas and give proper credit.

How do I know if you received my entry?

You will receive an email or phone call as a confirmation.

What is the Challenge process?

2012 timeline:

  • February 28: The Idea Open begins accepting entries
  • March 23: Submissions close
  • March 31: A narrowed list of entries is selected
  • April 1-6: Narrowed list of entrants revise ideas, answer additional questions and participate in a webinar
  • April 18: Semi-finalists announced
  • May 15: Finalists announced and public voting begins
  • May 25: Public voting ends
  • May 30-June 8: Three winning ideas are celebrated!

Who owns my idea?

As a participant in the Idea Open, your idea becomes public and you allow the Idea Open to promote, share and implement your idea – with or without your involvement. We hope you will be involved, of course, but if circumstances prevent your participation, we reserve the right to use your idea for the aforementioned purposes.

Your idea is viewable by the public online. Other community members may comment on your idea, make suggestions and share it with others.

Who is eligible to vote?

Minnesota residents of all ages may vote at select in-person events and/or via SMS/text messaging.

You also may vote on our website at, but state guidelines require that online voters be age 12 or older. Online participants under the age of 18 must obtain parental or guardian consent prior to voting.

How many times may I vote?

You may vote once per email address (for online voting) and once per phone number (for SMS/text voting). You also may vote once at select in-person events.

How many entries are voted on?

Five ideas will be selected as finalists and made eligible for public voting.

What happens in the event of a tie?

If the finalists receive the same number of votes, and there is a tie between the third and fourth finalist, the idea that is first to receive the highest number of votes will be the one that will become a Challenge Champion.

How are the finalists selected?

A community panel of volunteer reviewers evaluates all idea entries and ultimately narrows all submissions to a group of 25 semi-finalists based on the above criteria. A select panel of judges then selects five ideas as finalists based on the above criteria. Profiles and photos of the judges will be posted on

What is expected of me if I am a finalist?

We ask all five finalists to appear in a short video to “pitch” their ideas. That video is posted to, the Idea Open YouTube channel and shared through various traditional and social media. We hope you are able to participate in any additional potential public appearances and events.

Finalists also may be asked to participate in a basic criminal background check conducted by an independent, qualified firm. This does NOT include a credit check. Finalists submit their personal information directly to the firm conducting the check. The Idea Open does not have access to your personal information, and results of the checks are kept strictly confidential and used only to determine further eligibility for Idea Open Challenge III.

Finalists under the age of 18 must obtain a parent or guardian's consent to participate and may be required to provide written consent to continue in the process.

Finalists must be available during the judging process. If you cannot be reached, you may be disqualified as a finalist. We will make every effort to reach you, but timing is critical.

How will my idea be implemented?

The three ideas that receive the most votes are eligible to receive a $15,000 grant each for implementation. Two runners-up are eligible to receive a $5,000 grant each for implementation. If you become a Challenge Champion, you may be as involved as you want to be in your idea’s implementation. Your involvement is not required and credit for your idea will be attributed to you. The $15,000 and $5,000 grants will go to a verified nonprofit organization that agrees to act as the fiscal agent for the project. Individuals are not eligible to receive the grant. If you do not indicate a preferred organization to receive the grant, we will select the fiscal agent. We also reserve the right to choose a fiscal agent different from your preference if we determine that another organization is a better fit for implementation. Our goal is to ensure that your idea is a success.

When will my idea be implemented?

We expect a timeframe of up to 12 months from the date the grant is issued.

If I receive the $500 as a Challenge Champion or $100 as a runner-up, is that amount taxable?

Please consult with your tax advisor to determine any potential tax implications.

How is my personal information used?

Any personal information used to submit an idea or vote will be used for Idea Open purposes only. Emails are collected and used for Idea Open communications only. You may unsubscribe at any time.

When you submit an idea, your name and county are made public with your idea on the website. Your name and county also are used with your idea for the public voting phase. All other identifying information such as age and contact information is confidential and does not appear on the public website.

Finalists may be asked to participate in a basic criminal background check conducted by an independent, qualified firm. This does NOT include a credit check. Finalists submit their personal information directly to the firm conducting the check. The Idea Open does not have access to your personal information, and results of the checks are kept strictly confidential and used only to determine further eligibility for Idea Open Challenge III.

How are negative comments handled?

In keeping with the spirit of the Open, we ask participants to keep discussion constructive. The Idea Open is about encouraging participation and brainstorming new ideas – not tearing down any idea, individual or organization. If we feel that any ideas or comments are disparaging of any individual, group, or organization, we will remove it. To be transparent, we will replace the idea or comment with a note explaining our action.

How do I get help?

If you need help with your entry or have questions that are not answered here, please contact us at

More Ways to Participate

Not Sure How to Build Bonds Across Faith and Culture? Start here.

  1. Your thoughts and contributions matter. Enter your best idea into the Minnesota Idea Open.

  2. Build our community. Volunteer with Building Together across Cultures and Faiths, an initiative of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and the Minnesota Idea Open.

  3. Show up. Attend the Idea Open’s interfaith comedy show hosting The Laugh in Peace Tour on March 15, 2022 at the Varsity Theater.

  4. Listen. Tune in for MPR’s forthcoming news segments on faith and culture in Minnesota and attend their Reflections on Teens and Tolerance event on March 11, 2022 at Neighborhood House.

  5. Support youth voices. See what our next generation is saying about interfaith and cultural relationships via ThreeSixty Journalism.

  6. Read Grace of Silence. Join the city of Minneapolis for their inaugural citywide read, One Minneapolis, One Read.

  7. Face Race. Learn how to talk about and take action to address racism with trainings and resources from Facing Race.

  8. Strengthen your voice. Become a trained racial justice facilitator with the YWCA.

  9. Become an active member of Pollen on LinkedIn, read the Pollen newsletter and connect with other civic-minded Minnesotans.

  10. Seek out an interfaith community. Join the Minnesota Council of Churches in their Unity and Relationships Program.

  11. Join InCommons, and participate in the sharing of knowledge, tools and resources to solve community problems.

  12. Have dinner with Marnita, and participate in community building and focused conversations over good food.

  13. Lead your organization. Sign your workplace up for a cultural competency workshop hosted by Neighborhood House.

  14. Pull the ‘race card.’ Participate in Michelle Norris’ Race Card Project. What are your six words?

See all the ways we worked across cultures and faiths during Challenge III

  1. Party for equal rights at the Center for American Islamic Relations’ February Banquet.

  2. Attend the Immigrant Freedom Seder, hosted by Jewish Community Action, to learn more about Passover and immigrant and worker issues.

Show Competition Timeline >
WinnerMulticultural Barn RaisingsJim RettewUnited States, Minnesota, Hennepin County
WinnerHidden Pearls 7 step summer challenge Fatuma MohamedUnited States, Minnesota, Hennepin County
WinnerTents of Witness: Genocide and ConflictEllen Kennedy & Margo O'DellUnited States, Minnesota, Ramsey County


FinalistUnited By HistoryMargaret MichaletzUnited States, Minnesota
FinalistQuestions from the Future of MinnesotaPaul MaekerUnited States, Minnesota

Competition Judges:

Jason DeRusha


Rickey Hall

The Office of Equity and Diversity, University of Minnesota

Rick Kupchella


Melanie Nadeau

UMN School of Public Health/American Indian Community Tobacco Project

Hashi Shafi

Somali Action Alliance

Pastor Paul Slack

New Creation Church

Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman

Temple Israel

Asma Lori Saroya

Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota