The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) is a small agency in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) whose mission is to increase the interoperability and use of electronic health records and health IT. We don’t have the funding and personnel of larger agencies, and, for the most part, this is fine. The entrenched industry stakeholders know what’s happening at ONC, our policies, toolkits and initiatives. But to be truly innovative, we need input from more than just the big stakeholders, particularly in this age of smartphones and apps.
Types of challenges–ideation, software and apps, creative and tech–and the platforms and tools for success.
DigitalGov University (DGU), the events platform for DigitalGov, provides programming to build and accelerate digital capacity by providing webinars and in-person events highlighting innovations, case studies, tools, and resources. Thanks to your participation, DGU hosted over 90 events with 6,648 attendees from over 100 agencies across federal, tribal, state, and local governments. DGU strives to provide training throughout the year that is useful and relevant to you. One of the most resounding comments from digital managers last year was people wanted to be able to attend all of our classes virtually.
The open source movement has changed how we develop software, create content, and even do science. Using a community to help complete projects and bring about change has become so ubiquitous in the last ten years that it has even earned a name — crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a powerful tool and is now being used to help organizations digitally transform. “Driving successful change in a large organization has always been one of the most difficult activities in business… .
Summary: The Administration has launched a new competition for virtual and augmented reality developers to create learning tools to support career and technical education. “I’m calling for investments in educational technology that will help create. . . educational software that’s as compelling as the best video game. I want you guys to be stuck on a video game that’s teaching you something other than just blowing something up.” President Obama, March 2011, speaking about the need for innovation in education.
****This year, the deadline for agencies to submit their reporting of incentive prize competitions and challenges for FY16 comes earlier than most. Roughly two weeks from today, by Nov. 18, federal agencies are required to submit their accounts of every prize, competition, or challenge that launched, ran or completed in FY16 via email. Challenge.gov launched a new feature this week to support agencies in their efforts. The Annual Prize Reporting tool equips agency challenge managers with a one-click tool for downloading key data on their challenges.
Federal agencies confront tough problems every day. In searching for solutions, agencies will want to attract different perspectives, test new products, build capacity and communities, and increase public awareness. How do they do it? The answer: open innovation. Federal agencies need to engage and collaborate with all sectors of society, a task made easier by online technologies, says a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued last week. OPEN INNOVATION: Practices to Engage Citizens and Effectively Implement Federal Initiatives is accompanied by an infographic and podcast, all well worth your while.
Here is the outline for our 2016 Open Government Plan. Let us know what you think. We’ve also posted this on GitHub/NASA for your comments: https://github.com/nasa/Open-Gov-Plan-v4. NASA and Open Government NASA is an open government agency based on the founding legislation in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which calls for participation and sharing in the conduct of how we go about the business of expanding the frontiers of knowledge, advancing understanding of the universe, and serving the American public.
If federal agencies need an incentive to be more open and innovative in addressing critical issues, they need look no further than news this week from the White House. On August 10, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued its Implementation of Federal Prize Authority Progress Report for fiscal year 2015, and it’s chock-full of examples of how agencies have advanced their missions through crowdsourcing and open competition.
You may not know it, but the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has changed your life. There’s the Internet, for starters. And if that isn’t enough, the agency also has played a pivotal role in shaping GPS, stealth aircraft and drone technology. In fact, ever since its creation under President Eisenhower, DARPA has been transforming life on and off the battlefield. And the ideas haven’t dried up. A scan of programs currently in the works reveals DARPA to be as forward-looking and vital as ever.
We’re thrilled to announce the Space Apps 2016 Global Award Winners!! These projects well represent the best of the best innovative thinking this year. Congratulations to all the teams. We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming NASA launch in Florida. Best Use of Data: Scintilla, created at the Space Apps Pasadena, California main stage event, mitigates the impact of poor air quality in the global community by democratizing air quality data collection.
The White House this week released a report detailing the impact of 100 initiatives that have expanded U.S. capacity in science, technology and innovation over the past eight years. Evident throughout the report is the influence of Challenge.gov and CitizenScience.gov, two open innovation programs managed by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). In fact, among the top 15 examples in the report are the increased use of prize competitions and expanded opportunities for citizen science and crowdsourcing, both areas where GSA is helping to lead the charge.
Challenge.gov, the official website for crowdsourcing and prize competitions across government, celebrated its five-year anniversary in October 2015. Now, not even one year later, the site has reached another milestone. On Monday, two agencies launched new challenges, bringing the total number of competitions on Challenge.gov across the 700 mark. The 700th challenge, Start a SUD Startup, comes from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The challenge looks to award biomedical scientists up to $100,000 to help transition their research ideas into viable business opportunities.
A prize competition often starts with a problem. In order to get help to find a solution, people need to clearly understand your problem. Understanding and effectively communicating your problem isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Problems are like spaghetti—messy and complex, says Denys Resnick, Executive Vice President of Strategic Programs at NineSigma Inc., which provides open innovation services. Resnick joined Denice Shaw, the lead for challenges and prizes at the U.
Americans Use Public Data to Improve the Lives of Fellow Citizens Data is one of our most important national assets. It informs our policy and our national priorities. But as we have seen time and time again, the most effective way to govern is to engage with the public directly. Thanks to the President’s Executive Order requiring that agencies make data open, we are democratizing access to data.
As the civic hacking movement continues to grow in the United States, agencies are starting to adopt hackathons to engage citizens in the challenging work of improving government services and solving real-world challenges using open data. Whether you are planning your own hackathon, or planning in a multi-government agency “mass collaboration” such as the National Day of Civic Hacking, it’s important to design citizen engagement events well. [Side note: Join us June 4 in cities around the nation for the National Day of Civic Hacking!
Well-executed partnerships can create better solutions and place them on a bigger platform. Poorly executed ones, on the other hand, can send federal agencies into a bureaucratic tailspin. To partner or not to partner: That is the question. “If you are going to do one, don’t do it because it seems like a good idea,” says Sandeep Patel, open innovation manager at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Idea Lab.
The NASA Open Innovation team is pleased to announce the availability of the APIs that power Mars Trek and Vesta Trek on api.nasa.gov. The APIs for Mars provide data from the Mars Express, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions with 21 different data products such as MOLA Altimetery Hillshade, Viking and THEMIS. There are also 6 data products from the Dawn mission to Vesta providing various views in True Color, Colorized and Color Hillshade to name a few.
The slow, tedious federal acquisition process has long been the butt of jokes in the private sector. If the government had wanted to buy the original Nintendo, one might say, it would have all the paperwork in place by the time the rest of the world had moved on to the XBox. But that culture is changing, thanks in no small part to many of the efforts first featured here on DigitalGov.
It began with a history lesson and ended with an eye to the future. In between, the Expert Training Series: How to Design & Operate Prizes to Maximize Success covered nearly every aspect of what it takes to run successful incentivized competitions. Challenge.gov and DigitalGov University partnered with XPRIZE Foundation to bring together expert speakers from across the federal government and industry for seven webinars that began last summer and ran through January.
In 1927, Charles Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize for becoming the first pilot to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. Few know that Lindbergh won $25,000 for the flight, but everybody knows about the revolution that followed. That transatlantic flight opened people’s minds to what was possible in air travel. Investment in the aviation industry exploded, as did the number of people buying plane tickets. Obviously, the impact of the Orteig Prize continues to this day.
Sometimes in crowdsourcing, you want to take your problem straight to a specific crowd. And sometimes that crowd is still in school. Challenge.gov has seen many federal agencies launch prize competitions to educate and engage high school students. These include a NASA challenge that asked students to develop devices that could protect astronauts from radiation during space flight. Two current challenges also take this approach, hoping to inspire students to become interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Cook-offs, bike rides, parades and dance parties—these are not the traditional public hearing-style events for which government agencies are known. But these events helped to fuel the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rebuild by Design Challenge (PDF, 484 KB, 1 page, January 2016), boosting the collective morale among a complex, multidisciplinary network of engaged stakeholders. Because the challenge’s community structure was based on a common goal—to rebuild following Hurricane Sandy—participants left their egos at home, shared information and learned from one another.
Agencies have used an open data competition approach in their quest to provide anytime, anywhere government. For example, in 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted the Apps for the Environment challenge and has a hub for apps created using EPA data. Here’s an update on challenges hosted by other agencies: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), hosted a nationwide Reference Data Challenge to create mobile apps through Devpost.
There’s more than one way to harness the wisdom of the crowd. In honor of December’s monthly theme, we’re diving into and defining the various ways that federal agencies use public contributions to meet real needs and fulfill important objectives. Crowdsourcing Two’s company, three’s a crowd—and getting input from many is crowdsourcing. A White House blog post defined crowdsourcing as “a process in which individuals or organizations submit an open call for voluntary contributions from a large group of unknown individuals (“the crowd”) or, in some cases, a bounded group of trusted individuals or experts.
The Reference Data Challenge, launched this summer, was a call for innovative approaches to a long-standing role of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to make “critically evaluated reference data available to scientists, engineers and the general public.” This challenge—our first-ever app contest and second prize competition as an agency—had the dual aims of improving awareness about and usability of our data. We invited submissions of mobile apps that used at least one of six eligible NIST datasets.
We’ve heard the phrase a million times: Nobody does it alone. Still, it rings true no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. When it comes to crowdsourcing competitions, government agencies are making breakthroughs in a variety of fields by partnering with companies, nonprofit organizations and others beyond the federal framework. The White House announced more than 20 new prize competitions in October, many of them collaborations with industry and academia.
This month we’re highlighting articles about challenge competitions and crowdsourcing across the federal government. Federal agencies can gain a wealth of ideas, services, solutions and products by asking a large, diverse crowd to contribute their talents and skills. Simply put, crowdsourcing means engaging the crowd. Often referred to as a form of open collaboration or innovation, crowdsourcing takes many forms, including challenges (or prize competitions), hackathons, data jams, code-a-thons, workplace surveys, open ideation, micro-tasks or micro-work, citizen science, and crowdfunding.
The White House released an updated Strategy for American Innovation last week, calling again on government to tap the American public’s brain trust to advance agency missions and address issues of national importance. The revised strategy stresses the importance of initiatives like Challenge.gov, the official website for all federal incentive prize and challenge competitions, which have seen the participation of tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and citizen problem-solvers.
Marketing and public education is an essential part of any successful prize competition. The good news for federal agencies working with tight budgets is that both can be accomplished without breaking the bank. “We have found other ways than spending a lot of money,” said Denice Shaw, senior advisor to the Chief Innovation Officer at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Shaw joined two marketing experts from XPRIZE, October 20, for the latest webinar in the Expert Training Series: How to Design & Operate Prizes to Maximize Success, a seven-part educational forum on incentivized prize competitions.
It may seem like issuing an open challenge to the American public is a novel form of federal procurement, but it has quickly become an effective way of generating fresh solutions to enduring problems. In every community, there are those who use their knowledge and experience to guide their neighbors down new paths. The federal challenge and prize community is no different, and we have several pioneers to thank for first testing the waters and later advocating the use of prize competitions.
Challenge.gov Honors Federal Agencies, Staff for Raising the Bar on Public Sector Prize Competitions
The biggest advocates for the use of challenges in the public sector gathered at the General Services Administration (GSA) headquarters, October 8, to acknowledge the remarkable rise of a community that has grown steadily in number and influence over the past five years. More than 300 federal employees representing agencies spanning government attended in person or watched via livestream to mark the five-year anniversary of the Challenge.gov. “It is clear that open innovation is here to stay,” said Kelly Olson, director of the Challenge.
In a call to action issued Oct. 7, the White House announced several new programs challenging citizens to help federal agencies solve problems in areas ranging from space exploration to education. Hosted in conjunction with Georgetown University, the Case Foundation and the Joyce Foundation, the event featured activities and discussions aimed at creating more ambitious and effective cross-sector prize competitions. Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation for White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), used the forum to issue a challenge of his own to the invite-only crowd, which consisted of prize experts from government, industry and academia.
Federal agencies have used prize competitions and challenges to drive competition and spark innovation for nearly a decade. In September 2010, as part of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation [PDF], the Administration launched Challenge.gov, an online platform that enables federal agencies to engage civic innovators, entrepreneurs, and citizen scientists in prize competitions and challenges designed to help carry out agency missions and benefit society. The Administration is helping organize two events this week to celebrate the success of Challenge.
Leaders in the biomedical field will applaud a team of student researchers October 9 for developing a potentially lifesaving device in response to a competition published on Challenge.gov in March. The accolades come a day after the website, a no-cost platform for federal agencies to publish and administer incentivized competitions, celebrates its five-year anniversary. In its Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) called for students to submit solutions for unmet global health and clinical needs.
Long before the final prize is awarded, a successful challenge starts with a master plan. That’s the point experts drove home during Operational Best Practices and Lessons Learned, the third webinar in Challenge.gov’s ongoing series on running successful prize competitions. Sandeep Patel, open innovation manager for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Idea Lab, joined forces with Ben Bain and Dr. Jyotika Virmani, of XPRIZE, to offer strategies for agencies to plan and execute problem-solving events that deliver on their potential.
Next month, Challenge.gov turns five. A technical platform, a listing of federal prize competitions, and consultation and support services for running impactful challenges all meld into the program, which brings the best ideas and talent together to solve mission-centric problems. To mark the milestone, the General Services Administration (GSA) will host a special event on Thursday, October 8th, to celebrate Challenge.gov’s accomplishments and to honor some of the visionary teams and individuals using incentivized competitions to spark significant change.
Challenge.gov offers a number of services to help agencies create successful competitions. One challenge that recently wrapped up made use of the full range of these services to come up with some creative, useful apps that have nationwide implications. Presidential Innovation Fellow Jeff Meisel led the CitySDK (Software Development Kit) launch. The team wanted a different way to reach data consumers. The U.S. Census Bureau wanted to find a new way to create the most innovative data-driven apps sparking change in cities from coast to coast.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) wants YOU to help them build native apps. NIST launched the Reference Data Challenge to improve the way the agency shares scientific reference data. They want third party developers from around the country to build native apps that aggregate and improve the usability of free NIST datasets and resources. They are offering $45,000 in prize money and are taking submissions until the end of September.
A strong incentive is the lifeblood of solving any challenge. That’s the message experts offered August 4 as part of a Challenge.gov webinar series on running successful federal competitions. Sam Ortega, manager of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center’s Partnerships Office, and Christopher Frangione, vice president of prize development at the XPRIZE Foundation, shared how government agencies can attract and motivate problem-solving communities to deliver decisive solutions. And while the prize purse matters, both agreed it’s not all that counts.
VISIT EVENT PAGE REGISTER NOW The U.S. Census Bureau this week will showcase some of the most innovative data-driven apps soon to spark change in cities from coast to coast during its first-ever National Demo Day. On Thursday, Aug. 13, from 2 to 3 p.m. EST, five teams that participated in a recent crowdsourcing challenge will demonstrate their use of open data to address critical issues within their communities.
Behind every great innovation is a team. And behind successful innovation teams are efficient tools, processes, and most importantly, people. The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative funds projects that make solar energy more affordable and accessible for Americans. As part of the initiative, the SunShot Catalyst open innovation program seeks to rapidly deliver solar solutions through prize challenges. Catalyst has been recognized as a leader in the innovation field. The International Society for Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM) recently awarded Catalyst the ISPIM Grand Prize 2015 for excellence in innovation management.
Two powerhouses in the Challenge and Prize community came together at GSA for the first in a seven-part learning series recently. Chris Frangione, Vice President of Prize Development for the XPrize and Alexis Bonnell, Innovation Evangelist at USAID offered insights and background into what makes a great ideation competition, sharing case studies and the history of prizes during the webinar. Frangione kicked off the session with a little background look at the world of competitions and prizes, pointing out that ideation competitions have been around for centuries.
Later this year, the Federal government will celebrate the fifth anniversary of Challenge.gov, a one-stop shop that has prompted tens of thousands of individuals, including engaged citizens and entrepreneurs, to participate in more than 400 public-sector prize competitions with more than $72 million in prizes. The May 2015 report to Congress on the Implementation of Federal Prize Authority for Fiscal Year 2014 highlights that Challenge.gov is a critical component of the Federal government’s use of prize competitions to spur innovation.
Seven new training modules aim to help Federal Challenge and Prize Community members learn more about using prize competitions to solve problems. The expert series, Designing and Operating Prizes to Maximize Success, kicked off July 14, 2015, with “Prize History, Prize Theory and What Makes a Good Prize.” Module one is designed to give challenge managers a foundation on prizes starting with their role in history and demonstrate well-known advancements that have resulted from prizes.
The National Day of Civic Hacking was born when some of the nation’s leaders in civic engagement decided to rally around a common goal on one weekend. -Nicholas Skytland, NASA The National Day of Civic Hacking is a national community engagement event that will take place on June 6, 2015, in cities all around America. The initiative is a united effort to bring together a diverse group of concerned citizens to improve communities and the government which represents them.
Innovation challenges leverage public creativity to address important problems. They can also be a tool for reaching and educating the next generation of leaders about social issues. The Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently wrapped up the second year of the Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition. The competition aims to encourage research and innovation in affordable housing, raise practitioner and future practitioner capacity, and foster cross-cutting team work within the design and community development process.
When people hear about challenge competitions, they most often ask about the results. What worked and why did it work? Two great examples are featured on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy site, which include the “needle in the haystack” solvers for a space mass competition and eleven entrepreneurial start-ups that are using breast cancer research. You’ll also read about how the Federal Community of Practice for Challenges and Prizes is creating a toolkit with user-centered design that ultimately will be developed into an interactive resource for government agencies to run incentive competitions, from conception through to implementation.
“I tell the interns: In this lab, we’re all about failure. If you’re not failing, you’re not really doing anything.” –Sam Droege, USGS biologist, in Audubon magazine The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is actively working with citizen scientists to discover, collect, and organize a variety of scientific data that is critical for the future of understanding broad trends and findings across a variety of categories—from geological mapping to tracking bird species.
In January on DigitalGov, we’ll highlight pieces looking at trends we see coming in the digital government space in 2015 and beyond. We have lined up articles around: Customer Service Data 3D Printing at NIH and NASA Accessibility Mobile, and Training. Check back Monday, when we kick-off the month with 15 Government Customer Service Trends. And you can look at some of our most recent monthly theme articles in: crowdsourcing, user experience, and mobile.
According to some experts, over 80% of Americans will make a least one New Year’s resolution. There are the usual “lose weight,” “quit smoking,” or “exercise more” resolutions. Another popular set of resolutions involves learning new skills. So, if you are looking for a way to improve yourself while helping others, think about making a resolution to learn how to build a mobile app that can be used in disaster relief.
As we round out 2014, we’re reflecting on the exciting year we’ve had at DigitalGov since we launched in February. Our mission is to share information and resources from agencies across the federal government that are working in the digital space, and highlight the services and communities that can help you meet your digital government goals. We look forward to bringing you more great content in 2015, but first we wanted to highlight the most popular articles on DigitalGov this year.
Crowdsourcing is a critical corner of the digital government landscape, and our December theme articles have covered the topic from a variety of angles. Before we head into January, where we will discuss upcoming trends on the digital horizon, we sat down to learn more about the evolution and future direction of federal crowdsourcing initiatives as a whole. We spoke with Jenn Gustetic, Assistant Director for Open Innovation in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
While we’re anticipating the Section 508 refresh, many government digital media teams are facing the task of incorporating WCAG 2.0 standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) in their projects despite having limited staff resources and budget constraints. We can use creative solutions, such as crowdsourcing, to overcome those challenges and make our works accessible. Our teams can call on the public to share their time and skills at events or in projects where they’ll work with others to solve accessibility problems in design, development, content, etc.
This year, innovative technologies like 3D printing are playing a role in creating a unique and interactive holiday experience at the White House. The halls of the White House are decked out with festive holiday décor and the White House Christmas tree stands tall in the Blue Room. In October, the White House announced the 3D Printed Ornament Challenge in partnership with the Smithsonian. Makers, innovators and students around the country, from New Hampshire and Texas to California and Michigan, submitted more than 300 creative, whimsical and beautiful winter-inspired designs.
We’ve had an excellent year of training and community events for the federal challenge and prize community, so for the month of December DigitalGov University has taken a look at the events we’ve hosted this year and rounded them up in line with this month’s Crowdsourcing theme. On Wednesday, December 10, the Challenge and Prize Community of Practice hosted its quarterly in-person meeting to highlight the roles and responsibilities that Challenge.
Crowdsourcing and prize competitions can take many forms, which makes them a great open innovation tool. A large group of federal agencies and other partners has launched a competition that also involves a secondary crowdsourcing element. The Nutrient Sensor Challenge is a market stimulation prize competition to accelerate the development of affordable, accurate, and reliable sensors for measuring nutrient levels in water. Nutrients are a natural part of ecosystems, but too much nitrogen and phosphorus causes big problems: harmful algal blooms can make pets and children sick, green water can shut down recreation, and species kills can result from impaired water conditions.
In December of 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the first Policies for Federal Public Websites. Over the past decade, we’ve seen technology completely transform how government delivers information and services to the public. On this 10-year anniversary, we’re taking a walk down memory lane to recap some of the pivotal moments that have shaped today’s digital government landscape. Year Activity 2004 February—Facebook launches (for colleges; opens to the public 2007) March—Interagency Committee on Government Information (ICGI) convenes to draft Web recommendations June—ICGI issues Recommendations for Federal Web Policies July—ICGI becomes the Web Content Management Working Group (predecessor to Federal Web Managers Council) August—HHS publishes its seminal Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines (foundation for Usability.
In May 2015, we’re hosting the second DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit “Spring 2015 DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit”). This round we are looking to you—federal innovators across government—to help build the agenda. We want to get you the information you need, ignite discussion, foster sharing, build capacity, even get you to challenge and debate each other in the name of delivering better digital services. So, we’ve set up a crowdsourcing platform where you can suggest presentation ideas and vote for your favorites.
Criminal justice agencies collect a variety of information and use it in multiple ways. Having a clear understanding of current realities is critical to shaping policies and improving the administration of justice. Police use data to identify hot spots; judges use it when they impose sentences; victim assistance staff use it to provide better services. The problem is that criminal justice datasets are often large, complex, and contain a wide variety of geocodes and identifiers.
This month we’ll be highlighting articles about crowdsourcing. These are the programs that use a variety of online mechanisms to get ideas, services, solutions, and products by asking a large, diverse crowd to contribute their expertise, talents, and skills. Among the mechanisms are hackathons, data jams, code-a-thons, prize competitions, workplace surveys, open ideation, micro-tasks or microwork, citizen science, crowdfunding, and more. A brief look at history outlines a few notable prize competitions, crowdsourcing where solvers are given a task and winners are awarded a prize: The X-Prize and its many iterations from personal space flight to unlocking the secrets of the ocean, Charles Lindburgh’s flight across the Atlantic for the Orteig Prize, and the 300 year-old Longitude Prize, launched by an act of Parliament in Britain to determine a ship’s longitude with the goal of reducing shipwrecks.
There are many ways to apply crowdfunding in the government space. This case study highlights the U.S. Department of State’s utilization of an online crowdfunding platform (CFP) to launch the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund 2.0 (AEIF 2.0). Through this fundraising platform, exchange program alumni were able to work on innovative solutions to the world’s toughest challenges. Over 30 projects from around the world, including from the United States, were selected for AEIF 2.
IdeaBox is an application that helps an organization collect ideas, organize them, and solicit comments and votes on the ideas. Do you want to build an innovation program at your organization? Learn how you can leverage resources from IdeaBox, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s initiative to generate, incubate, and implement great ideas from employees across the agency by watching the recent DigitalGov University webinar. Your organization can take advantage of the CFPB’s: Open-source (FREE!
Challenge competitions were recently highlighted as two potential solutions to help with the Ebola crisis responses. The first is a grand challenge launched Oct. 17, 2014, by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID): Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development. The goal: To help health care workers on the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola. Engage the global community to identify ingenious ideas that deliver practical and cost-effective innovations in a matter of months, not years; Forge public private partnerships necessary to test and scale these innovations and; Provide critical funding to get some of the most promising ideas into the field quickly.
Challenge.gov now hosts the full federal-wide listing of crowdsourcing competitions and has a back-end platform for agencies to create and manage their competitions. The site is managed and produced within GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technology (OCSIT) group. The main feature is a complete listing of federal challenge and prize competitions, including archives going back to 2010. For website visitors searching for competitions, this is an easy to search tool that can help people find competitions based on:
A well-developed communications plan is critical to the success of a challenge competition, but too often it is one item managers leave to consider at the end of prize design. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Jarah Meador shared the Desal Prize plan and results in the September 16 webinar, “Why Your Gov Prize Competition Needs a Communications Strategy.” Consider the following advice and insight for help with planning your own challenge.
If you are a coastal resident, go to the beach, or are interested in digital volunteering, you can be a tremendous help in identifying and classifying changes that storms make to our coast after severe storms. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has launched iCoast, a Web application where you can view aerial photographs and help classify them. The iCoast Team explains: We are looking for online volunteers to classify photos taken before and after Hurricane Sandy, and particularly targeting people with different kinds of coastal expertise, disaster skills, and volunteer interests.
If you have a hand in contracts for crowdsourcing initiatives and challenge and prize competitions, here are some helpful hints for you. We’ve gathered this list from the expert businesses that provide competition services. Haven’t heard about that? See GSA Schedule 541-4G. Background: Over the last two years, competition providers and consultants have become more specialized in niche areas where they have expertise, access to specific solver communities, and experience in driving outcomes based on the competition structure and goals.
Challenge and prize competitions are competitive and not always squeaky clean. There is money at stake, pride, honor, and awards. So this Quartz/NexGov article, Crowdsourcing Behavior Encourages Malicious Behavior, Study Finds, that highlights the ugly side of competitions hits a raw nerve. The University of Southampton in the UK and the National Information and Communications Technology Australia (NICTA) conducted the study, examining recent crowdsourcing competitions. Crowdsourcing generally espouses openness and broad-based cooperation, but the researchers explained that it also brings out people’s worst competitive instincts.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had such great success with their first robocall challenge competition that the agency decided to take a different angle this year—targeting the skilled hackers at DEF CON 22, the annual defense conference in Las Vegas in early August. Five winners earned cash prizes and bragging rights for their creative technical solutions around building and hacking “honeypots” that spoofed illegal robocall experiences. Some details from the program managers:
Choosing between a contract, a grant, or a public prize competition to get solutions to the problems your agency faces is a difficult task. Each is a tool that has different qualities and each might be the best choice for varying situations. Sam Ortega, the manager of the Centennial Challenges program at NASA, spoke about the subject recently on a DigitalGov University webinar. Being the head of a large federal public prize program, he had a lot to say about the benefits of crowdsourcing innovation through prizes.
When faced with a big, daunting problem to solve, it’s human nature to try to tackle it by breaking it down into smaller parts and taking it “one step at a time.” The message from a recent DigitalGov University webinar on public prize competitions (AKA ‘challenges’) was that the government can often receive better solutions by going through the exact same process, and giving awards at each step.
Once a federal agency releases an API, there are several ways they can be used in apps. The most common method is through hackathons. Hackathons are where an agency or agencies present the API(s) and invite developers to create prototype apps. The apps are then presented to subject matter experts for suggestions on creating the final app. There are many government hackathons on a variety of public issues. Visit Challenge.
The U.S. government has launched more than 45 challenge and prize competitions so far in Fiscal Year 2014. What trends are we seeing? Well, the trend is…diversity. That might sound like an oxymoron, but federal agencies are really putting themselves out there, asking the crowd to help tackle a wide array of problems. Until August 3rd, NASA is seeking ways to improve email for astronauts on the International Space Station.
Federal challenge and prize competitions are in the news again. Our colleagues across government participated in research that resulted in a new report released June 19 from Deloitte University Press, The Craft of Prize Design: Lessons from the public sector. In the last five years, incentive prizes have transformed from an exotic open innovation tool to a proven innovation strategy for the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. Incentive prizes seem deceptively simple: Identify a problem, create and publicize a prize-based challenge for solving that problem, sign up diverse participants, and offer a reward to the winner.
The results of an innovative government prize competition might help you avoid the flu next season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced the winner of the “Predict the Influenza Season Challenge”: Dr. Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and his team submitted an algorithm to predict peak flu season using Google Flu Trends and CDC’s Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) data. The challenge was unique in that it asked participants to use digital data to forecast the start, the peak week, and the intensity of the U.
Got innovation? Well, we do! On Wednesday May 28, the Challenge.gov team gathered the Challenges and Prizes Community of Practice. The group covered two topics: Highlights from challenge competitions run in 2013. Concepts and tips for working with solvers to build teams. Cristin Dorgelo, Assistant Director for Grand Challenges at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, shared the results of a recent report on challenge and prize competitions conducted under America COMPETES Act Authority.
As government innovators, we work to improve public services every day. In essence we are already in a public private partnership. But how can your agency capitalize on existing public private partnerships to engage citizens and enhance services? Four panelists from across government shared their public private partnerships success stories at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday. The three other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and inter-agency work.
During the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, customer service experts from across government came together on a panel to share what customer service means to them and their organization and specific ways they leverage it. The other panels were on performance analysis, public private partnerships, and inter-agency work. The panelists spoke about the strategies they use to integrate multi-channel customer service and the organizational barriers they’ve encountered. The panelists acknowledged that while the the government, as a whole, has room for improvement in providing truly integrated cross-channel customer service, leadership is beginning to recognize the importance and cost-savings, not to mention happy customers, it brings.
At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, Jacob Parcell, Manager, Mobile Programs at the General Services Administration led a panel on the challenges and benefits of Inter-Agency work. The other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and public private partnerships. “The challenges are real,” said Parcell, who quoted President Obama’s famous salmon quandary: “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater,” Obama said.
At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, more than 200 innovators across government and industry came together to share how digital services can improve citizen services and reduce cost. Four panels convened to share information on performance analysis, customer service across channels, public private partnerships and inter-agency work. We have a recap of the Performance Analysis Panel below. How do you show and track performance in 21st century digital government?
We had a GREAT DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit today. There were more than 200 digital innovators from across government and industry working to build the 21st century government the public expects. The four panels focused on performance analysis, customer service across channels, inter-agency work, and public private partnerships. Here’s what you missed in a short highlight video. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIWwnomPxo4&w=600]
Our fabulous colleague Jeanne Holm is ready for the #hackforchange events this weekend and summarized some tips, notes and links to resources on Data.gov. Great things will happen this weekend! Remember, if you hear about great uses of government data, let everyone know by tweeting #hackforchange or mention @usdatagov. The Data.gov team is organizing a webinar in a week, showcasing some of the best outcomes and hosting lightning talks by the developers and designers.
Do you want to build an application, product or business that uses Census Bureau data? There are opportunities to give feedback and get involved. Two years ago, the Census Bureau launched its application programming interface (API), giving developers access to a variety of high value data sets, including our flagship 2010 Census and American Community Survey five-year estimates. These estimates provide statistics for every neighborhood in the nation, allowing developers to create new tools to help better understand their communities and solve real world issues.
Have a DigitalGov success?—published an API? Got buy-in from leadership? Changed a part of your customer-service paradigm? Developed a cool dashboard? Got the app out the door? Heck! Have you prototyped a wearable, drivable or flyable? Have a DigitalGov opinion?—think we should be focusing more or less on something? Have an idea on how to improve development? Want to share your digital gov mantra? Internet of things? You are doing and thinking a lot, and we have a place for a few of you smarties to share with other agencies.
The National Defense University (NDU) is hosting a conference call Friday, May 23, to spread the word about the Disaster Apps Challenge Competition, which opened yesterday. This call is open to the public, specifically the people who are interested in learning more and possibly entering the competition. The goals: Introduce the challenge Explain the basis for meeting the challenge Answer your questions NDU will also be joined by “socialpreneur,” Nelson Jacobsen, CEO, Random Hacks of Kindness and the chief architect and guru who guides and grows Altavoz, the entertainment distribution company he co-founded in 2011.
We won’t build the government of the 21st century by drawing within the lines. We don’t have to tell you the hard work of building a digital government doesn’t exist in a vacuum or a bubble. Show us social media without mobile, Web without data and user experience without APIs. You can’t? That’s right—in reality, digital government intersects and cuts across boundaries every day in order to deliver the digital goods.
You should be on this list—the current federal government participants in the National Day of Civic Hacking. There are 15 agencies participating in the event, primarily in and around the Washington, D.C., area. This is a fantastic compilation of what agencies are doing, but it is not enough. We need more widespread participation across the country. If your office has a regional presence and has data or ideas for technical and design projects they’d like to contribute, this is a prime opportunity to dip in and see what it is like to work with people outside of government.
We are thrilled to share an update from our competition colleagues at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The third annual comprehensive report detailing the use of prizes and competitions by federal agencies to spur innovation, engage citizen solvers, address tough problems, and advance their core missions is now available — Federal Prize Authority 2013. You can read details about the remarkable results from 87 prize competitions implemented by 25 federal agencies in fiscal year 2013, representing a more than 85 percent increase from 2012.
The National Day of Civic Hacking is actually a weekend. An awe-inspiring two days of collaborative work where coders, designers, writers, innovative thinkers, and data geeks get together to solve problems and build things for their communities. For the Challenge.gov community, this is a fantastic opportunity to get live, hands-on experience talking with and working next to people in a real-time hacking environment. If you’re thinking about running a competition around data sets or have an idea you want to float to developers, you can do it here first and see what feedback and traction you get, before committing to a full-fledged prize competition.
After leading a complex effort to crowdsource ideas to solve a problem facing your agency, the last thing you want to hear is that the innovative solutions you received don’t actually help remedy the issue. More than 20 federal innovators recently took part in a workshop offered to avoid such a scenario. The Department of Homeland Security’s Meredith Lee, who also serves as the volunteer lead for the Federal Ideation Community of Practice (ICOP), led the participants through various exercises to help agencies learn to identify and define the problems they face; a key part of the process of any ideation exercise and/or challenge competition.
There is some confusion about how “ideation” fits into challenge and prize competitions. Often, we hear from agencies that they would like to ask the public for ideas, to survey them on a specific question, or to request proposals in response to a problem. And all of these things could be challenge competitions. But often they are not because they’re missing critical elements. A challenge competition: Has a clear problem statement and ask Offers a prize incentive Addresses intellectual property (IP) rights Has criteria for judging entries AND Includes a plan for development and/or implementation We studied successful ideation competitions, talked with our colleagues in the challenge and prize community, the ideation community, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to come to a consensus on these points.
Interested in running a challenge and prize competition, but don’t know where to start? Well, here are all the resources GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies has to offer: 1) Challenge.gov. Put your agency’s challenges on this government-wide listing and learn about more than 300 public prizes run over the past four years. You can filter by agency and challenge type, such as software, ideas, designs. Built and hosted by GSA, you can also use it to run crowdsourcing competitions end to end.
I’m sure many of you have heard the expression “there’s an app for that.” Well, now you can say “there’s a schedule for that” as you plan challenge and prize competitions with your colleagues. In 2010, GSA was asked to build Challenge.gov and set up a schedule (a list of pre-negotiated contracts) that can help federal agencies run effective challenge and prize competitions. We answered the call with Schedule 541 4G.
You’ve run a challenge and prize competition, selected your winners, and distributed the prizes. If you think you’re done, guess again. There’s much more to challenge and prize competition success than getting a solution that solves your problem or meets the criteria. You need to measure success right after your challenge as you work to implement the winning solution. But you also need to measure success over time by keeping in touch with your winners and the other contestants.
The mobile health (mHealth) market is projected to become a $50 billion industry by 2020, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been actively contributing to the rise of the mHealth applications. The agency uses public prize competitions like the recent “Game On: HIV/STD Prevention Mobile Application Video Game Challenge” to crowdsource a variety of health apps for the public in addition to creating mHealth apps in-house.
Federal agencies now have the ability to create a challenge competition website that accepts submissions and allows public voting with a new, no-cost tool. The Challenge.gov team unveiled and demonstrated the capabilities of GSA’s new crowdsourcing and prize competition platform, Challenge.sites.usa.gov on a DigitalGov University webinar. The platform is now available for any federal employee to log in and explore its functionality (just be careful not to publish anything not intended to be public).
Federal agencies are currently hard at work developing revised Open Government Plans—blueprints that are published every two years, highlighting agency progress towards making their work more transparent, participatory, and collaborative, and outlining new open government commitments going forward. This iterative, biennial process grew out of the December 2009 Open Government Directive issued by the Office of Management and Budget, which instructed executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to incorporate the principles of openness set forth in the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, which he signed on his first full day in office.
This is a phenomenal month for federal challenge and prize competitions with 12 new programs launched in February. The challenge.gov platform usually averages four to six new challenges a month, so we’re excited to see the year start off with a big push to engage citizens in creative problem solving. Take a look and see what these agencies are doing to drive innovation: White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Not sure how to craft a video challenge that will result in the creative solutions your agency is looking for? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Jason Crusan from NASA and Tammi Marcoullier from Challenge.gov joined a recent DigitalGov University webinar to share best practices and hurdles in running video competitions. We’ve recapped their advice and key takeaways here: Video challenges are a great way to engage the public around a visual story.
Federal agencies are rapidly finding that software and/or app prize competitions have the potential to harness innovative ideas from the public. But as with any type of challenge, software/app competitions bring with them a unique set of aspects to consider before launch. Brandon Kessler, founder and CEO of ChallengePost, was our guest on a DigitalGov University webinar to talk about the things you need to account for in order to run a successful software/app challenge.
Our team and a few other agencies had the chance to attend the 2013 TopCoder Open this year and meet the best of the best developers, coders, designers, data scientists, and innovative thinkers in crowdsourcing. This is the #TCO13 highlight video. Watch a few minutes and you’ll see the excitement of the competitors and why we at challenge.gov do what we do to encourage federal agencies to use competitions to engage the public in solving government’s technical, scientific and operational problems.
This week the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released its second comprehensive report detailing the use of federal challenge and prize competitions. Read it and you’ll find details about the fiscal benefits of more than 300 competitions implemented by 45 agencies. As the report released today makes clear, agencies made big strides in the challenge arena in FY 2012. In FY 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began establishing strategies to expand its use of the new prize authority – and by FY 2012, HHS emerged as a leader in implementing prize programs, offering 18 prize competitions, many conducted through public-private partnerships.
As you’re planning your challenge, you’ll want to review the relevant policies, memos and legislation pertaining to challenge competitions. The most important is the Prize Authority in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (PDF, 275 KB, 12 pages, August 2011) for it gives all executive branch agencies a baseline authority to run prize competitions. Be sure to consult with your agency’s attorneys on this to learn how your agency has decided to implement challenge competitions conducted under COMPETES at your agency.
Thanks to the tremendous work of challenge managers across federal government and the support of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, the Challenge.gov program at GSA has been named one of the top 5 finalists in Harvard’s Innovations in American Government Award! We are honored to be among this group, after rigorous competition from all levels of government. Join us in congratulating all the finalists today. And a big pat on the back to the hundreds of champions at 59 agencies who worked on the 300+ public prize competitions to-date.
A public prize spurred Charles Lindbergh tofly across the Atlantic, and this week social media managers across government will help a new generation of prize competitions take flight. These sessions aren’t just for social media managers who have held a challenge or are planning one — they are for any social media manager who wants to learn how strategy and performance analysis can be used to support emerging technology programs within their agencies.
Tips for Conducting an Ideation Challenge Examples of Ideation Challenges Criteria for Choosing an Ideation Platform Online Platforms and Tools Challenge and prize competitions are one tool that federal agencies use to drive innovation and solve mission-centric problems—whether technical, scientific, or creative. One type of competition is ideation, which allows you to collect ideas from a wide and diverse population to solve a particular business problem. Ideas could include suggestions, approaches, plans, proposals, designs, or other proposed solutions in written, graphic, or video form.
In a prize competition, failing to properly define your problem up front can result in lower participation and submissions that don’t actually solve your issue. To create a challenge that produces viable results, start by doing your own homework. Vaguely defined problems invite less-than-desirable solutions or scare off potential entrants. So use all the data available or even collect new data to pinpoint the crux of the issue. Don’t run a competition for the sake of doing it.
Challenge and prize competitions are one path that federal agencies take to drive innovation and solve mission-centric problems—whether technical, scientific, or creative. One type of competition is software and apps challenges, where solvers are asked to develop specific software or other code-based technical solutions, such as websites, mobile applications, or algorithms. Here you’ll find tips on running a software/apps challenge, resources, examples and information about online platforms you can use to host your competition.
What is a Challenge? In a challenge, a “seeker” challenges “solvers” to identify a solution to a particular problem, or rewards contestants for accomplishing a goal. The solutions may be: ideas, designs, logos, videos, finished products, digital games, or mobile applications. There are many challenge success stories in government: Challenges Conducted in 2011 Under America COMPETES Act Authority (PDF, 486 KB, 53 pages, March 2012) Challenges Conducted in 2012 Under America COMPETES Act Authority (PDF, 1,257 KB, 95 pages, December 2013) Challenges can offer incentive prizes that are either monetary or non-monetary.
Multimedia, Photo, Poster, Design Challenge and prize competitions are one path that federal agencies take to drive innovation and solve mission-centric problems—whether technical, scientific, or creative. Creative competitions include multimedia, photo, poster, and design competitions. <div> </div> <div> Here you’ll find tips on running a creative challenge, resources, examples, and information about online platforms you can use to host your competition. </div> <h2> Definition </h2> <div> Creative competitions and challenges are about (1) seeking professional, high-quality products, (2) aimed at driving mass citizen awareness and engagement around the message in the challenge, or (3) both.
Challenge and prize competitions are one path that federal agencies take to drive innovation and solve mission-centric problems—whether technical, scientific, or creative. One type of competition is technology demonstration and market stimulation prizes, competitions that result in fully developed solutions to address market failures, solve significant problems facing society, or catalyze and demonstrate breakthrough technical innovations. Here you’ll find tips on running these types of prizes, resources, examples and information about vendors and partners who can help you design and administer your competition.
Technology to block robocalls is a huge win for consumers and for challenge competitions this year. The FTC awarded a prize to Aaron Foss, creator of Nomorobo, in April. The technology went to market September 30, and the tool has already blocked more than one hundred thousand calls. The FTC did a number of things right in setting up and managing this challenge competition — among them, creating a competition focused on mission and designing the challenge to track measurable results.
The right partner can be the key to a successful challenge competition. If you’re planning a challenge for your agency, you’ve probably had to ask: “Do we have the tools and capabilities to pull off this challenge on our own?” Why we form partnerships Often times, the answer is, “no.” But that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing solutions to your problems. Challenge managers weighed-in on partnerships at a recent community meeting, and here are a few of their tips on how agencies partner for success.
Apps challenges are a great way to spur innovation and help your agency meet its mission. But before you jump in, learn about how apps challenges work, to ensure yours is successful. Design Concept or Functioning App? What kind of product do you want from your apps challenge? A working app; or A concept for an app To widen the pool of entries and participants, don’t put limits on submissions.
Nine federal programs made the list! Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation announced the Top 25 Innovations in Government May 1. A winner and four finalists will be revealed this fall. TheWashington Post described how Harvard’s review committee selected the finalists and why this is important. Against the tide of talk about sequestration and cuts, positive change is happening among agencies: “… this is a story about innovation in government at a time when people, including those on the inside, generally believe government is incapable of anything close to it.
One way federal agencies create Mobile Gov products is through third party development. Some agencies use platforms like Challenge.gov to get the word out to developers and there have been 3 mobile app challenge awards so far this year. Last week the mWomen Design Challenge announced winners. Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it asked developers to help redefine mobile user experiences for women in resource-poor settings.
The contest is over, but your work isn’t finished. Maintain a positive relationship with the community you’ve developed around your challenge. You will want to reach out to them in the future. Close the challenge and present awards Hold an awards ceremony to draw attention to the winners and to your challenge. The team behind the HHS myHealthyPeopleChallenge partnered with a prominent health conference to demo the winners’ applications.
Recruiting the right judges, writing clear rules, and ensuring the public can find your apps challenge online will help ensure success. Recruit the judges Reach out to those who have expertise in your topic or are influential in the area. Well-known judges will help you draw attention to your challenge, and the judges are likely to announce their participation through their networks. Judges for the HHS myHealthyPeople Application Developer Challenge included top officials at HHS, CDC, and NIH, and executives from influential health foundations and organizations.