Crowdsourcing Toolkit for Federal Agencies

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 can offer incentive prizes that are either monetary or non-monetary. Examples of non-monetary prizes can include:

  • A meeting with an important official;
  • The opportunity to attend, or speak at, a conference;
  • Recognition on your agency’s website, or at an awards ceremony

Details on types of challenges:

​Challenge platforms are the online tools that provide a forum for the seeker to post the problem, or call-to-action, and invite a community of solvers to suggest, collaborate on, and judge solutions.

Why It’s Important

Challenges, prizes, and other incentive-based strategies can be used by federal agencies to find innovative or cost-effective solutions. Challenges allow the public and the government to co-create. They allow government to tap into the collective knowledge and resources of the public, and help the public more easily contribute their expertise to find better solutions.

Among the benefits outlined in OMB’s 2010 memo (PDF, 94 KB, 12 pages, March 2010), challenges:

  • Establish an important goal without having to choose the approach or the team that is most likely to succeed;
  • Pay only for results;
  • Highlight excellence in a particular domain of human endeavor to motivate, inspire, and guide others;
  • Increase the number and diversity of the individuals, organizations, and teams addressing a particular problem; or promote the challenge to national or international significance;
  • Improve the skills of the participants in the competition;
  • Stimulate private sector investment that is many times greater than the cash value of the prize;
  • Further a federal agency’s mission by attracting more interest and attention to a defined program, activity, or issue of concern; and
  • Capture the public’s imagination and change the public perception of what is possible.