****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.
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.
User-Generated Content (UGC) is a buzzword as of late, popularized recently due to the ever increasing demand for new content. To define the phrase, let’s look to a shining example of it,Wikipedia, as a source, “any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats,tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements, and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites.
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.
Do you have a scientific issue to address? Wish you had dozens, hundreds, even thousands more people helping you out? There’s help out there, and now that help is easier than ever to find. The General Services Administration (GSA) yesterday launched CitizenScience.gov, a new central hub for citizen science and crowdsourcing projects across the federal government. Like Challenge.gov before it, this new site makes it easier for federal agencies to collaborate with each other and seek help from the American public to address critical issues.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.