Inaugural Nine Dots Prize Seeks Answers to Wicked Problems


nine-dots-logoIn a year that has brought us Brexit and Duterte, Trump and Trudeau, here’s something to ponder:  Are digital technologies making politics impossible?

A new prize launched today is offering US$100,000 and a book deal to whoever best answers that question. And that question is all the prompt that prospective Solomons will have in answering. “As it is up to the entrant to decide what the question means to them, we’re anticipating a fascinating range of responses to this important topic,” explained Diane Coyle, a professor of economics at Manchester University and on the board of luminaries – heavily drawn from social science — who will be judging the contest. “Our hope is that the Prize will encourage original and inspiring thinking from diverse individuals coming from a wide variety of places and backgrounds and suggesting innovative new approaches.”

The Nine Dots Prize is designed to promote and encourage innovative thinking to address problems facing the modern world. Its name references a lateral thinking puzzle that can only be solved by drawing outside of a box of nine dots arranged in three rows of three. The competition and prize is funded by the Kadas Prize Foundation, established by investment adviser Peter Kadas, an English-registered charity established to fund research into significant — but neglected — questions relevant to today’s world.

Organizers promise a new question will be set every two years.

The competition is open to anyone aged 18 years or over writing in English, with submissions welcomed from both new voices and experienced authors. To enter, respond to the question in 3,000 words and provide an outline structure showing how, if you should win, you would develop their argument into a short book of between 25,000 and 40,000 words that Cambridge University Press would then publish. Full submissions guidance and terms and conditions are available at www.ninedotsprize.org . Organizers have said they hope the prize will give the winner the time and space to think in big, innovative and provocative terms about how research ideas could change and shape the world.

Entries must be submitted through the online submission form at the website by January 31st, and the winner will be announced in May 2017.

A 12-member board, chaired by Simon Goldhill, director of the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities and a professor in Greek Literature and Culture and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, will judge the submissions blindly.

“The board,” said Goldhill, “will be looking for entries that display originality in everything from the ideas put forward to the ways in which those ideas are communicated. Respondents are entirely free to critique, agree or disagree with, or reject the premise of the question, but they must engage with it fully and insightfully.”

Members of the board, in addition to Coyle, Goldhill and Kadas, include:

  • Professor Paul Gilroy | professor of English at Kings College London
  • E.J. Graff | Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and managing editor of the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog
  • Professor Alcinda Honwana | visiting professor of anthropology and international development at the Open University
  • Professor Ira Katznelson | president of the Social Science Research Council
  • Professor Roger Martin | institute director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and the Michael Lee-Chin Family Institute for Corporate Citizenship at the Rotman School of Management and the Premier’s Chair in Productivity & Competitiveness
  • Professor Riccardo Rebonato | professor of finance at EDHEC Business School
  • Professor David Runciman | professor of politics and head of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge
  • Professor Saskia Sassen | Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology and Co-Chair of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University
  • One additional board member will be announced