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Break the Rules, Improve Society, Win $250,000

Ever have a an idea you think is great, that could change the world for the better, but you're afraid you'll be laughed off the face of the earth?

The Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, wants to reward you for your bravery, risk and compassion for society.

The Media Lab is offering $250,000 to an individual or a group who come up with an idea that is so new and cutting edge, it breaks all the rules. In their words, the Disobedience Award will go to those who create positive change for society by refusing to obey convention.

"Societies and institutions lean toward order and away from chaos," says the Media Lab on its website. While structure is "necessary ... it can also stifle creativity, flexibility and productive change" in academia, corporations, governments, the sciences and local communities.

Joi Ito
Joi Ito

“You don’t change the world by doing what you’re told," says Joi Ito, who directs the Media Lab at MIT.

Your idea must helps society without violence, terrorism or dangerous behavior. But, the winner must have shown courage in the face of resistance.

"The recipient must have taken a personal risk in order to affect positive change for greater society," MIT says.

The MIT Media Lab seeks nominations for candidates worldwide. The best entries would do work that is not typically recognized. Individuals and groups are eligible to compete.

The award is open to anyone in any field, including science, politics, law, journalism, medicine and human rights. The Media Lab is looking for rule breakers who have taken a personal risk to help society.

“The American civil rights movement wouldn't have happened without civil disobedience. India would not have achieved independence without the pacifist but firm disobedience of Gandhi and his followers. The Boston Tea Party, which we celebrate here in New England, was also quite disobedient,” Ito says about powerful moments that led to pivotal changes in societies.

Spritelets are lightning that burst upward, not down. Flickr/musubk
Spritelets are lightning that burst upward, not down. Flickr/musubk

Reid Hoffman, an entrepreneur who co-founded the social network, LinkedIn, is donating the $250,000 prize money.

You cannot enter to win for yourself. Only nominations for other's ideas will be accepted, until May 1. Any one or group can be nominated through the MIT Media Lab Rewarding Disobedience webpage.

Media Lab will present the winner or winners with the prize at a ceremony July 21. A short list of candidates will be announced before the event in Massachusetts.

”Sometimes we have to go to first principles and consider whether the laws or rules are fair, and whether we should question them,” Ito says.

Please leave a comment -- and your bright ideas for changing the world -- here in the Comments. And visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, thanks!