Competition News

The Saint Paul Foundation’s $1 Million Forever Saint Paul Challenge

In 2013, The Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Idea Open launched an unprecedented $1 million Challenge to inspire great ideas for Minnesota’s capital city.

The Forever Saint Paul Challenge attracted nearly 1,000 ideas from Minnesotans who answered the question: What would you do with $1 million to make Saint Paul great?

The winning idea was the Urban Oasis, an idea submitted by Tracy Sides that envisions a signature food and nature center that fosters community, healthy lifestyles and economic prosperity on the East Side of Saint Paul. Learn more about the Urban Oasis idea below, and check out all of the other ideas for making Saint Paul great.

Game On.

Guidelines and Criteria

CLICK HERE to download the complete, official guidelines and criteria specific to the Forever Saint Paul Challenge.

Be sure to download the official Forever Saint Paul Challenge guidelines and criteria. The general guidelines outlined below apply to any Idea Open Challenge.

General Idea Open Guidelines

The Minnesota Idea Open is the place for idea movers and makers. We administer one marquee ideas Challenge each year and invite all Minnesotans to share their best thinking and work together to help solve major issues that affect all of us. So get your best thinking out of the shower and into the Open—and see your idea become a reality.

Who can enter an idea?

We welcome ideas from Minnesota residents of all ages and interests. You don’t have to be an expert just someone who cares about the issue or wants to be part of the solution. And, of course, we want really awesome ideas! Check out some of the great thinking to date at

How do I enter my idea?

When a Challenge is active, you may enter your idea via our website at, email us at, write-in your idea and snail-mail it to us, or submit it at select events. We publish information about all the ways you can enter to our website each time a Challenge is open and accepting entries.

What types of ideas qualify?

We welcome all ideas! You do not need to write a formal proposal. We want this process to be inviting, fun and creative!

Who owns my idea?

As a participant in the Idea Open, your submitted (published) idea becomes public and you allow the Idea Open to promote, share and implement your idea. We want and encourage you to be involved in your idea, but we also understand if you don’t want to be involved or circumstances prevent your participation. When that happens, we reserve the right to promote your idea for the aforementioned purposes—and we still give you credit, of course! We believe in building community and spreading good ideas, and this is one way to put our collective best thinking forward for more people to be inspired to act. Other community members are welcome to build on, borrow from and improve upon ideas. The spirit of the Idea Open is one of openness (of course) because it takes a community to create good ideas and turn them into action.

Where I do find more information about eligibility and criteria?

For each Challenge, we post guidelines and criteria. Go to the specific Challenge page for details.

What is the prize for winning a Challenge?

One or more winning ideas may be crowned the Challenge Champion. Each winning idea receives a grant “prize” for implementation. Grant amounts vary, depending on the Challenge. Past Challenge Champions have received $15,000 each for their winning idea. All winning ideas must designate a fiscal agent to receive the funds, as individuals are not eligible to receive grant money.

How is my idea implemented?

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 implementation grant must go to a verified nonprofit organization that agrees to act as the fiscal agent for the project. If you do not indicate a preferred organization to receive the grant, we will select one for you. 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?

The timeframe for implementation may vary per Challenge, but the average expectation is up to 12 months from the date the grant is issued. Each Challenge is different, so check individual Challenge guidelines.

What is the Challenge process?

The Challenge process is generally the same with some minor adaptations here and there, all made with an effort to improve the user experience each time.

  • Announcement: Sometimes we introduce the Challenge topic before we accept entries to give people a head start on their idea
  • Entries open: We start accepting entries
  • Entries close: We stop accepting new entries and begin the review process
  • Narrowing to semi-finalists: Volunteers read all of the ideas and begin scoring them to narrow them to a smaller pool of semi-finalists (this may be a multi-step process)
  • Semi-finalists announced: We share the semi-finalists’ ideas with the Idea Open community
  • Final judging: A panel of experts reviews the semi-finalists’ ideas and narrows them to a list of three to five finalists, depending on the Challenge Voting opens: The finalists are announced and the public is invited to vote for the best idea that will receive the grant for implementation
  • Voting closes: Public voting ends and the votes are tallied
  • Champion celebration: The winning ideas are celebrated!

When is the next Idea Open Challenge?

Visit for current and past Challenges, and sign up for our e-newsletter to stay in the know. Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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. We also reserve the right to remove any ideas or comments that attempt to sell or promote a product not related to the Challenge or the topic. To be transparent, we will replace the idea or comment with a note explaining our action.


Our door is always open. Please contact us at

Video Vault

Forever Saint Paul Challenge Video Vault

Watch the Forever Saint Paul Challenge unfold through our video series. We'll be capturing all the fun throughout the Challenge so check back regularly for new videos or visit

Time-lapse and informational videos are courtesy of our awesome pals at Rat Race Studios, Ken Friberg and Daniel Life, and Jeff Achen Videography. The Challenge recap video is courtesy of Kevin McKeever. (Kevin also produces all of our finalist videos.)

NEW: Check out our Challenge recap video. We reflect on the Challenge activities and the excitement generated for Saint Paul.

Check out this fun and quirky video about the Forever Saint Paul Challenge.

Watch our informational video to learn more about the Forever Saint Paul Challenge.

Watch our complete time-lapse video that celebrates the construction and unveiling of the Lite-Brite mural.

Watch a short video of the unveiling of our world record-breaking Lite-Brite mural.

See how we calculated the number of Lite-Brite pegs used in our Guinness World Records attempt.

Watch all of our videos on our YouTube channel.

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Competition Judges:

Andrew Zimmern

TV personality, chef, food writer and teacher,
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World and Bizarre Foods America

Gloria Perez

President & CEO,
Jeremiah Program

Jennifer Alstad

bswing, Inc.

Jamie Millard

Client Relationship Manager,
Fast Horse

Kao Kalia Yang

The Latehomecomer

Lenny Russo

Heartland Restaurant

Nimco Ahmed

Policy aide,
City of Minneapolis, Ward 6

Rudy Maxa

Radio host,
Rudy Maxa's World

T. Mychael Rambo

Actor, vocalist, educator, speaker,
T. Mychael Rambo