Our 2021 highlights: a year of play and growth

After digging deep in 2020 and dealing with loss, isolation and uncertainty, 2021 once again tested our collective resilience.

Against that backdrop, and given the huge need for innovative climate solutions, it feels more crucial than ever that we foster community connection and empower people everywhere to drive positive change in their communities.

We want to impact one billion people globally by 2030, by helping communities across the world to become healthier, happier, more sustainable and more connected. To achieve this goal, we:

  • help social innovators to scale their ideas;
  • provide the support that communities need to get these ideas up and running;
  • work with dedicated partners to empower community change with funding.

We continue to be inspired by the amazing projects popping up across the world, driven by changemakers in local communities.

In 2021, we funded over 300 new projects across Europe and the US, more than double 2020, fuelled by the addition of multiple new funding partners, including LEGO Foundation, Accenture and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

We also added 17 exciting social innovations to the platform, and launched funds in Sweden and Brazil for the first time, meaning our platform is now available in multiple languages.

 

Creating playful experiences

children playing

In 2021, we announced a new partnership with the LEGO Foundation to create more playful experiences in communities across the world. 

Play is crucial for children, both for their wellbeing and also for skills development. Our partnership with the LEGO Foundation has helped us to expand the number of play ideas on our platform, with eight new play ideas added in 2021. It has also allowed us to bring these ideas to more communities around the world, by making the platform available in additional languages.

In July, we launched the Community Play Challenge in three London boroughs, supported by the Real Play Coalition, a non-profit alliance between UNICEF, National Geographic, Arup, IKEA and LEGO Foundation. This fund is empowering local teams to start ideas such as Play Streets, Urban Thinkscape and more.

Building on existing relationships

Since starting its partnership with ChangeX in 2019, Microsoft has supported ​​more than 300 teams in communities across the US and Europe to start impactful community projects through a series of Community Challenges.

We continued to grow our partnership with Microsoft in 2021, launching the #MicrosoftCommunityChallenge in Dublin and in Sweden for the first time, and also continuing to empower communities across North America to adopt innovative ideas. In Dublin, 26 teams received funding to start a wide range of sustainability-themed projects, such as Garden Pocket Forest and Cycle Bus. Here’s a selection of images from the Dublin Community Challenge.

Collage of community images

One of the recipients of funding from the Sweden Community challenge was Elias Astour of Uppåckra Archeological Association. He started a Grow Buddy project to explore and learn more about pre-historic gardening and share that knowledge with other people in the community. He said that the project had brought history to life by allowing people to “see, touch and taste” the produce.

Microsoft Community Challenges are active in eight regions across the US, including Greater Des Moines and Southern Virginia, supporting local teams to deliver impactful projects.

Junior high teacher Nancy Parra-Quinlan, the Arizona State Teacher of the Year 2022, received $2,500 from Microsoft via the Phoenix Community Challenge to buy new resources for her school’s FIRST Lego League team.

 

 

“Our kids had been using much older robots, and competing against better-funded teams from more affluent areas. So this funding really levelled the playing field.” – Nancy, Arizona

 

 

 

 

Maria Kaylor received $1,800 from the San Antonio Community Challenge to start a Pollinator Partnership project. Maria and her team planted over 250 plants, resulting in an increase in bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The funding has helped Maria to start conversations about the importance of plants and pollinators with a lot of people.

 

 

“The impact is educating people about what we can do, even in small spaces. This project really shows how we can contribute to nature, how we can all make a difference.” – Maria, San Antonio

 

 

 

 

Here are some media stories about projects supported by the #MicrosoftCommunityChallenge:

Learn how children in Greater Des Moines are developing robotics skills.

Read about a community project in Arizona that enables older people to enjoy bike rides.

A growing movement: new partners, new regions

As well as dedicating more time to play in 2021, we also added new partners, enabling us to bring great community ideas to even more people and empower more local teams to start great ideas in their areas. 

Working with Amazon Web Services (AWS), we launched the AWS InCommunities fund in Drogheda in September.  Thirty-eight local teams were awarded funding to start new community projects or expand existing ones.

collage of community images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also worked with Accenture to launch a sustainability challenge in October, which provided funding for local teams across Ireland to start one of six sustainability-focused ideas, such as Open Orchard and Repair Cafe.

collage of community images

 

Already 17 teams have received funding, while plenty more are completing their 30 day challenge to secure funding and start work. We are excited to see how these community projects continue to develop in 2022.

 

 

 

 

Our new partnership with renewable energy firm Greencoat saw community funds launched in seven regions across Ireland, including Glencarbry, Gortahile and Knockacummer, in 2021. Local teams were invited to apply for funding for community projects via an ‘open grant’ process. We look forward to seeing how their projects develop in 2022 and can’t wait to share some updates with you soon.

2021 also saw us launch a global sustainability challenge with Niantic, the developers of Pokémon GO. This challenge supported ten local teams across a number of countries, including Mexico and India.

 

The year ahead

It’s been an incredibly challenging couple of years, yet changemakers across our ChangeX community have continued to deliver impactful projects, adapting to changing circumstances with grit, resilience and flexibility. We’re excited to see where 2022 takes us!

We’ll be building on the success of our existing partnerships, and launching in new regions and new languages. We plan to launch funds across 12 countries in 2022, and aim to add 50 new proven ideas to our platform, meaning more people across the world will have access to the great ideas and funding they need to drive positive change in their communities.

As part of our growth plans, we’ll be continuing to grow our partnership with Microsoft, launching new community challenges in Atlanta, Vienna and Madrid, as well as re-launching in multiple existing regions, including a second Dublin Community Challenge.

In 2021, we welcomed some new team members at ChangeX and plan to add some more new faces in 2022. To help us deliver on our exciting growth plans, we have a number of current vacancies. Please share the word with anyone you think might like to be part of our team.

Give yourselves a round of applause!

We want to thank our ChangeX community for your passion, dedication and commitment to healthy, happy communities. Thank you for giving so generously of your time to make your communities better places. To each of you who have started ideas, thank you!

Thanks also to the social innovators who entrust us with their ideas. We are lucky to help you scale your ideas, and bring them to communities across the globe.

To our partners, thanks for working with us to empower communities to drive positive change. Thanks for your belief, commitment and financial support.

A special mention also goes to our advisers and investors, and everyone who supported ChangeX throughout 2021. Thanks for believing in us!

If you want to be a part of the ChangeX vision, whether you want to start an idea in your community, spread your idea to new communities, or fund the activation of projects in communities, please get in touch: [email protected]

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