In late July, we launched our first-ever video contest, “How Social Security Has Made a Difference in My Life.” In part, we wanted to harness the energy and sentiment surrounding Social Security’s 75th anniversary by capturing personal stories of the program’s impact on people’s lives. But more importantly, we hoped that engaging the American public in this way would help others discover the myriad ways in which Social Security makes a difference and can help people at critical, life-changing junctures. While Social Security is much more than a retirement program, many citizens do not realize it until they become disabled, lose a loved one, or encounter severe financial hardship.
So, ideally, through the lens of our video contest, people would illustrate the many facets of Social Security, and then share with the world through our YouTube channel. The winner would gain additional visibility on Social Security’s website, Facebook and Twitter feeds. This would be only the start of our foray into the realm of challenges, contests and prizes, as we move to get citizens more actively involved in both the dialogue and the effort of solving some of the problems we face.
We anticipated selecting the winner – or even several – from a sizeable collection of contest entries. Well, we didn’t get as much participation as we’d hoped. Fewer than ten solid entries came in. We’re pleased with the winning selection, though: Congratulations to winners Erica Solway, Lindsay Trapnell, Laura Hunt, Alex Butterwick, and Kate Schriver, on an excellent job producing "Social Security: Real Stories."
We learned a lot in the process, from lessons about structure and content to new ideas and practices in outreach via social media. We’ve also thought a lot recently about the dialogue between Social Security and the American people; after all, the point of this and subsequent challenges is to inspire and engage Americans in a conversation with their Government. Through this dialogue, we hope to make Social Security more responsive to the American People, and more effective in delivering services to them.
We’re grappling with these and other questions as we design our next challenge. Thank you to all who participated, enjoy the winning video, and stay tuned at Challenge.gov! By the way, on a separate path, we invited the public to submit narrative stories on our website, describing how Social Security made a difference in their lives. More than 600 people responded with vivid accounts of how disability and survivors benefits made a big difference when tragedy struck. You can read these inspiring stories here.
Frank Baitman is Chief Information Officer at the Social Security Administration