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, 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.gov, recognize the importance of public-sector prizes, and catalyze the next-generation of ambitious prizes. On Wednesday, October 7, the White House, the Case Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and Georgetown University will host an event titled “All Hands on Deck: Solving Complex Problems through Prizes and Challenges” that will provide Federal, state, and local government leaders and private-sector supporters with information and tools on how to effectively use incentive prizes to improve outcomes in addressing complex social, policy, and technological challenges in national priority areas. On Thursday, October 8, the General Services Administration will host a community of more than 300 prize practitioners to celebrate the great accomplishments of public-sector prizes at a five-year anniversary event for Challenge.gov.
Both of these events will showcase some of the more than 450 challenges that the Federal government has conducted over the past 5 years to surface solutions from people and places across the country that would have been exceptionally difficult to discover through more traditional tools, like contracts and grants. A few examples of these people-powered prizes are:
Prize competitions and challenges have helped both public and private agencies solve an array of problems in pertinent national priority areas, such as energy, public safety, health, cybersecurity, and infrastructure. In addition to helping Federal agencies and the public address these important issues, prize competitions and challenges also benefit participants and solvers by enabling them to launch their own companies, scale up their ideas, increase their pool of resources, or simply network. For example, Andrew Brimer and Abby Cohen—winners of the DEBUT challenge—were able to use their $10,000 winnings to start Sparo Labs, which now employs five full-time employees.
To find additional prize and challenge success stories, click here. And to learn more about public-sector prizes, we encourage you to participate virtually in the October 7 and 8 events! Tune into the livestream of the October 7 event from 9:30AM-12:00PM ET here, and register here for information about the livestream of the October 8 event from 2:00PM-5:30PM ET. Leading up to, during, and after these events, you can also follow @ChallengeGOV and tweet using the hashtag #PublicPrizes to share your questions and ideas, and to recognize prize and challenge solvers that you know.
Jenn Gustetic is Assistant Director for Open Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Kelly Olson is the Director of the Challenge.gov program at the General Services Administration.