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A $20,000 contest for smart ideas: 3 videos to inspire your submission

Jessica O. Matthews makes toys, like a soccer ball and jump rope, that generate electricity. Jane Chen invented a portable, low-cost incubator that keeps premature babies warm and saves lives. Erin Bagwell directed a documentary called Dream, Girl that celebrates the drive of female entrepreneurs.

When TED asked filmmaker Gilly Barnes to craft video portraits of these three women to kick off the Clinique Smart Ideas competition, she was thrilled. All three radiate passion, but Barnes noticed another recurring theme in their stories: bravery. Barnes aimed to highlight each woman’s fearlessness in their video: Matthews, a speaker at TEDWomen 2013, stands out as one of the few black women at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York; Bagwell left her corporate job after experiencing harassment; and Chen, a TED Fellow, used the yellow pages in India to find clinics that would let her test the Embrace warmer, then went door-to-door with it.

“The humility of that — the lack of pride, the willingness to look like a fool, the ballsiness of it,” said Barnes. “You get the feeling that all of these women were mavericks making it up as they went along.”

Clinique and TED have teamed up to surface more great ideas from women. Between now and September 30, submissions are open for the Smart Idea contest, a global competition designed to source interesting ideas — both big and small — and celebrate the women behind them. The winner will receive $20,000 in funding for their idea, and an invitation to attend a TED event.

The guidelines are simple: share your idea in five hundred words or less. To paint a better portrait of the idea, you can also upload a photo or short video. It’s limited to one submission per person. Clinique and TED are looking to be surprised and inspired by submissions, and will select one innovator with a clear vision of their idea’s capacity to affect change.

Barnes has some thoughts for anyone hoping to enter the contest. While making these videos, she broke down the three women’s entrepreneurial tracks into a simple formula: “Experience + being open and receptive = an idea.”

And of course, bravery and passion help.

As Bagwell says in the video below about the making of her documentary, “Crazy things have happened because I truly believed in it.”