How Bush Prize winners make great ideas happen in their communities

April 07, 2016


Cheyenne River Youth Project
2015 Bush Prize winner Cheyenne River Youth Project


Hope Community staff
2015 Bush Prize winner Hope Community

The Bush Prize honors and supports organizations that make great ideas happen in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography. 

The Bush Prize is awarded to organizations with a proven record of creating breakthrough solutions to community problems. 

Bush Prize winners receive a flexible grant of up to $500,000. The Foundation also produces a short film and a case study for each winner as way to highlight their accomplishments and celebrate their success. 

In a region with so many organizations making great ideas happen, what makes Bush Prize winners stand out? 

Characteristics of Community Innovation (PDF), a recent report by Bush Foundation evaluation partner Wilder Research, identifies several traits shared by past Bush Prize winners. 

Mandy Ellerton, the Bush Foundation’s community innovation program director, says that among the most important is the way in which they pursue solutions to community challenges. 

“How you solve a problem often determines whether the solution will stick. We believe sustainable solutions come from problem solving processes that are inclusive, collaborative and resourceful,” says Ellerton. “For Bush Prize winners, this approach is not an exception; it is the rule.”

Another common quality among Bush Prize winners is their work to create a “culture of innovation” by: 

  • Sharing ownership
  • Fostering creativity
  • Learning from failure
  • Committing to the community 

“Organizations that promote and support big thinking on all levels are able to build on their success and establish the pattern of creating innovative solutions that we look for in Bush Prize winners,” says Ellerton. 

Learn more about the Bush Prize:


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