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The Online Dispute Resolution Bowl: A competition for problem solvers

Online Dispute Resolution Bowl

An online competition for anyone interested in solving “big picture” problems is open for registration.

The Online Dispute Resolution Bowl is a competition requiring teams to complete different objectives by collaborating to develop solutions to some of the most challenging issues in 2018.

The 2018 issues that all teams must address in these qualifying rounds are:

  • Higher education funding
  • Rural water quality
  • Urban drone operations
  • Community policing
  • Net neutrality
  • Refugee resettlement

Organizer Sydney Moore—a senior Drake University law, politics and society major—said the competition tests how well teams collaborate and negotiate.

The Online Dispute Resolution Bowl is sponsored by Des Moines-based Trokt.

“The goal for this first year…we hope to have at least 8 teams competing so we can show that this competition really can work,” Moore says.

To recruit more teams, Moore has reached out to universities to get teams together.

“The world needs to learn how to collaborate, rather than just focusing on what they want,” Moore said. “It’s important to teach undergrads this skill as they are the leaders of tomorrow but also allowing law students to develop and strengthen those skills.”

To qualify for the Online Dispute Resolution Bowl Championship tournament on March 31, teams must complete a six-round regular season. Each competition lasts for an hour, is conducted online and challenges two teams to agree on how to spend one billion dollars fixing a particular issue.

“The ability to negotiate to come to a mutual agreement is absolutely necessary if we want the world and its issues to get better,” Moore said.

Each team is also given a “hidden agenda” that they are looking to achieve in any final agreement. Winners will be determined by a neutral party who will score the teams.

“Important issues are not being solved because we are so focused on our own opinions that nothing can be accomplished,” says Moore. “I wanted to build a competition that rewards people for collaborating. Even when you disagree with someone else on certain details, it doesn’t mean you can’t work together on solving wider issues.”

Moore said a large part of the competition is laying out shared assumptions, considering the options based on those assumptions and agreeing on the best path.

Each team can be as small as a single member but can have up to of three people from the same high school, college, graduate school, company or organization. The competition is open to anyone, with teams qualifying for the ODR Bowl Championship based on how well they perform against other teams at their same level.

While registration costs $150 per team, Trokt is sponsoring the first sixteen teams that register.

The Online Dispute Resolution Bowl: A competition for problem solvers | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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