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Crowdsourcing solutions to Europe’s growth gap

There is no shortage of ideas about how to fix Europe's slow-growth economy. But how can European governments implement reforms without losing popular support? To answer this question, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) has launched a contest which offers a €100,000 prize pool for innovative ideas to stimulate economic growth while also winning the hearts and minds of European electorates: the MGI Essay Prize—An Opportunity for Europe.

The idea for the prize germinated last year in the run-up to the publication of A window of opportunity for Europe, an MGI report that identified the potential for Europe to double its current growth rate and create more than 20 million jobs. While the analysis was powerful, the report’s authors (led by McKinsey directors Richard Dobbs, Eric Labaye, Sven Smit, Eckart Windhagen, and by MGI senior fellow Jan Mischke) knew that more would be required to move policy makers to action. “The challenge is not just the analysis, but getting the debate going about what it would take to implement the required changes—hence a global prize,” Richard says. As Eckart puts it: “We wanted to get the flywheel going.”

When the MGI team floated the idea of an essay contest with officials across Europe, the response was favorable—so favorable, in fact, that European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker offered his patronage. It was this former prime minister of Luxembourg who in 2007 articulated the central dilemma essay authors will need to address: “We all know what to do, but we don’t know how to get reelected once we have done it.”

In fact, as Eric points out, one of the findings of the MGI report was that the European public is keen to break out of the current frustrating economic cycle; a majority of the 16,000 Europeans polled for the report in eight countries said they were willing to make trade-offs in return for improved incomes and better public services. With the prize, Eric says, “We hope to create momentum by focusing on the practical ways this could be achieved.”

The essay contest also intrigued Pascal Lamy, a former European trade commissioner and ex-director general of the World Trade Organization, who will serve as chairman of the judging panel. The other members of the jury reflect Europe’s economic, political, social, and geographical diversity. They include a German labor-union leader, Reiner Hoffmann; the business-affairs editor of The Economist, Andrew Palmer; the director of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) European Policy Office in Brussels, Geneviève Pons; and a Polish CEO, Ewa Szmidt-Belcarz.

While McKinsey employees are not eligible to enter the contest, we encourage you to spread the word. Submissions are due by July 31, 2016, and the awards will be presented at a dinner in Brussels in October organized by MGI’s think-tank partner for the contest, Friends of Europe. In the meantime, look for flyers publicizing the contest at think tanks and universities across the Continent and join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #EssayforEurope. “We believe there are many good ideas, but not much of an open dialogue,” Sven says. “The prize could be a small catalyst to create conversations.”