Services Mean Success for Federal Challenges

Aug 18, 2015
Full logo for with the tagline: Government Challenges, Your Solutions. 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. To make it happen, Meisel says they reached out to the team. “Because of this challenge, we were able to find solutions to problems that will help citizens across the country.” The CitySDK Challenge team worked with consulting services to get early feedback on the themes and overall challenge moderation. offers a no-cost, user-friendly website for any government agency to post a challenge competition. CitySDK was able to use the site to save money as well as make access to the competition available to the public.


For anyone looking to create a challenge, experts have pointed out that one of the most important elements in hosting a successful challenge is reaching the right solver community. The CitySDK team collaborated with to announce the challenge and celebrate its closing with a virtual demonstration day. This collaboration helped the challenge reach the widest targeted audience possible given the limited resources and time.

The celebratory final step of the challenge was dubbed the Open Data National Demo Day—a webinar to announce and showcase the winners to a nationwide audience and receive live feedback from technology experts while demonstrating their apps. CitySDK also issued a People’s Choice contest to wrap it up. Voting is open to the public until August 20. You can cast your ballot for your choice for best new app. The full webinar is available here.

The five winning teams that are competing for the People’s Choice Award are:

  • Austin Park Equity, through Open Austin, created an app to find a park in the Texas city and help the city determine where to invest in future park development.
  • CivicSpark’s app allows communities to find public spaces and repurpose them for technology, learning and innovation with an eye to narrowing the gap between people with technology skills and those who are looking to learn more in order to succeed.
  • Accessibility Score is an app that helps citizens explore communities based on mobility, housing, health care and other services.
  • HyperLocal offered “Feed the People,” an app that connects food truck owners to customers using live tweets meshed with open data on city neighborhoods. This app has the potential to take on more daunting use cases such as disaster recovery or emergency efforts.
  • Purshables looked to grocery stores and offered a solution to the problem of how to sell food approaching its sell-by date to enrolled customers at a reduced price allowing the grocer to avoid having to dispose of the food at no cost.

Join hundreds of federal managers across more than 70 government agencies to collaborate and share best practices on running challenge competitions by becoming a member of the Challenges and Prizes Community of Practice. Email to join.

Kelly Olson, Director; Ian Kalin, Chief Data Officer, Department of Commerce; and Avi Bender, Chief Technology Officer, US Census Bureau, watch the demo of a winning submission for the Data Apps challenge.