Rethinking Mental Health: Improving Community Wellbeing

Winners announced! The three winners will each receive a prize of USD $5000.

You may continue to read and comment on all entries. As always, we welcome your feedback.

The three winners will each receive a prize of USD $5000.


Winner is Announced

December 15, 2009
  • Launch
    July 28, 2009
  • Entry Deadline
    October 14, 2009
  • Voting start
    November 23, 2009
  • Voting end
    December 8, 2009
  • Winner is Announced
    December 15, 2009

Mental health is critical to overall health and wellbeing. Serious mental illness, such as major depression and schizophrenia, is a leading cause of disability worldwide, yet only a small fraction of people in need of treatment have access to care in their communities. Many more are subject to neglect and abuse of their human and civil rights whether living on the streets or locked in an institution. One of the first steps to improving individual and community wellbeing is to break down the stigmas that have plagued the field for far too long. Success in mental health depends upon the contributions and commitment of the entire community and a willingness to break the mold.

Ashoka’s Changemakers, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is launching the “Rethinking Mental Health: Improving Community Wellbeing” competition in order to explore innovations that allow individuals, families, communities, and society to move past narrow perceptions of mental health and expand our understanding and collective involvement in finding solutions.

This is the third in a series of Changemakers’ collaborative competitions sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) through its Vulnerable Populations Portfolio. RWJF’s mission is to improve the health and health care of all Americans. RWJF’s Vulnerable Population’s portfolio discovers new pathways to improved health by recognizing the critical relationship between our health and where and how we live, work, learn and play. RWJF looks beyond the medical system for proven ways to improve the health of all Americans. You can learn more about our work at

Effective initiatives to identify, accept, and address mental health care needs must challenge current assumptions and systems.

Join us in the search by nominating an inspiring individual or organization, entering your own idea, voting for the top innovations, and contributing to the vibrant discussion.

Jane Isaacs Lowe

Team Director, Vulnerable Populations Portfolio

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Eligibility Criteria

The competition is open to all types of organizations (charitable organizations, private companies, or public entities) from all countries. We consider all entries that:

  • Reflect the theme of the competition: “Rethinking Mental Health: Improving Community Wellbeing.” Entries will demonstrate system-changing solutions that boldly move past narrow perceptions of mental health to expand our understanding and our collective involvement.
  • Indicate growth beyond the stage of idea, concept, or research. At a minimum, entries should be at the demonstration stage and indicate success. While we support new ideas at every stage and encourage their entry, the judges are only able to evaluate programs that are beyond the conceptual stage, and have demonstrated a proof of impact, even at small scale.
  • Are submitted in English, Spanish, French or Portuguese.

Please complete the entire entry form and submit before the deadline.

Assessment Criteria

The winners of this Changemakers collaborative competition will be those entries that best meet the following criteria:

  • Innovation: This is the knock-out test. The entrant must describe a systematic and/or disruptive innovation in the field of mental health. The innovation should be a unique model of change, demonstrating a substantial difference from other initiatives in the field and ready for large-scale expansion.
  • Social Impact: It is important that the innovation provides a system-changing solution toward improving individual and community wellbeing. The entry must demonstrate impact on the target population it addresses, either a specific underserved community or the society at large. Some innovations will have proven success at a small level, while others will have grown to engage millions of people. Regardless of the level of demonstrated impact, it is important that the innovation has a potential for application globally. This will be judged by considering the innovation's potential for scale and replication, in addition to the entrant’s ability to formulate a clear “road map” to reaching larger goals.
  • Sustainability: For an innovation to be truly effective it must have a long-term plan for securing financial backing and community support. Entries should describe not only how they are currently financing their work, but also how they plan to finance their work in the future. The most successful entrants go beyond discussing whether or not they will charge for services and describe a business plan. They should also demonstrate that they have strong partnerships and support networks to address an ongoing need, and to aid in scalability and the maintenance of a clear financial strategy.

Competition Deadlines, Procedures, and Rules

Online competition submissions are accepted until October 14, 2009 at 5PM U.S. EST. At any time before this deadline competition participants are encouraged to revise their entries based on questions and insights that they receive in the Changemakers discussion. Participation in the discussion enhances an entrant’s prospects in the competition and provides the community and the judges an opportunity to understand the entrant’s project more completely.

There are three main phases in the competition:

  • Entry Stage, July 29, 2009 – October 14, 2009: Entries can be submitted until 5PM U.S. EST on October 14, 2009 and throughout this stage anyone can participate in an online review discussion with the entrants.
  • Online Review and Judging, October 15, 2009 – November 22, 2009: Online review and discussion continues. Simultaneously, a panel of judges who are experts in the field and a team of Ashoka staff select the competition finalists.
  • Voting, November 23, 2009 – December 9, 2009: The finalists will be announced on November 23. The Changemakers community then votes online to select the three award-winners from the field of finalists. The Changemakers collaborative competition winners—the three finalists that receive the most votes—will be announced on December 16, 2009 and will each receive a cash prize of USD $5000.

Participation in the competition provides the opportunity to receive feedback on your blueprint from fellow entrants, Changemakers staff, judges, and the Changemakers community. Showcasing your blueprint and the challenges involved in creating social impact advises potential investors about how best to improve funding/investing patterns for the sector and to maximize the strategic impact and effectiveness of their future investments.


Early Entry Prize: The best entry submitted by September 2, 2009 will win a digital camera and a camcorder. Being an Early Entry Prize winner does not preclude you from winning the competition in any way, or guarantee finalist status—all entries will be equally evaluated per the Changemakers criteria at the completion of the entry period.

Competition Winners: The top three entries will win USD $5000 each. After the judges select the 10-15 finalists from the entire competition, the Changemakers online community will vote for 3 winners from among the finalists.

Disclaimer—Compliance with Legal Restrictions

Ashoka complies fully with all U.S. laws and regulations, including Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations, export control, and anti-money laundering laws. All grants will be awarded subject to compliance with such laws. Ashoka will not make any grant if it finds that to do so would be unlawful. This may prohibit awards in certain countries and/or to certain individuals or entities. All recipients will comply with these laws to the extent they are applicable to such recipients. No recipient will take any action that would cause Ashoka to violate any laws. Additionally, Ashoka will not make any grant to a company involved in the promotion of tobacco use.


Total value:
15 000
The three winners will each receive a prize of USD $5000.