Key Steps for Developing and Managing HHS-sponsored Challenge Competitions
Note: This framework is developed around requirements for challenge competitions as set forth in Section 105 of the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010, 15 U.S.C. 3719 (Pub L. No. 111-358) [PDF].
Challenge managers are encouraged to use these requirements as suggested guidelines in developing all challenge competitions. In addition, they should adhere to their agency’s implementation policies and requirements.
1. Challenge Competition Concept Development
Aim: The development of your challenge competition concept should be guided by your OPDIV’s or STAFFDIV’s internal policies on how it wishes to use the challenge competition mechanism and procedures for development. Challenges must also adhere to HHS-specific and federal-wide policies on use of challenges.
- Develop your concept by identifying what problem you want to solve and why you want to use the challenge mechanism to solicit solutions. In developing your concept, pay particular attention to determining prize incentives, eligibility criteria for participants, judging criteria and selection of judges, treatment of intellectual property, and a networked strategy for marketing.
- Determine the legal authority under which the challenge will be run (COMPETES Act or another authority). Consult with your Office of General Counsel (OGC) about the appropriate legal authority depending on goals, intended audience, and sources of funding.
- Decide whether HHS will partner with external agencies or entities to run the challenge, and clarify the roles and contributions of each of the participating parties.
- If you plan to offer a purse prize, funding strategy must be considered. The timing and payment of prizes may depend on the availability of funds. The COMPETES Act and ASFR’s Competition Award Policy provide rules about when and how funds from outside sources must be secured and treated. Consultation with your agency’s budget office is suggested.
- Determine who within your agency will serve as the Award Approving Official (e.g., OPDIV head or direct report). If the AAO is not the OPDIV head, make sure that the awarding authority has been appropriately sub-delegated. Note that the eligibility of agency employees to participate in the challenge may be affected by the choice of AAO.
- Decide whether to manage the challenge internally (i.e., using your own program resources) or use an external challenge management firm to assist with challenge execution and marketing.
- For challenges run under the COMPETES authority, the law requires the agency heads to determine in writing the amount of required liability insurance (even if the amount is zero) and develop a liability release and indemnification agreement for participants to see.
- In developing your challenge, make sure to review the HHS Challenges and Competitions website. Here you will find HHS-specific policies on topics such as liability insurance, intellectual property, and judging.
- You may wish to consult with OGC regarding legal issues (such as the eligibility rules, intellectual property, or liability insurance), as well as your Designated Agency Ethics Official for ethical issues associated with the selection of judges and required forms that must be filled out. View a list of HHS agency DECs.
- Consult with your agency’s financial officer about funding for your challenge competition and specific requirements for the treatment of appropriated funds and gifts. ASFR’s Competition Award Policy is also available on our website under the section entitled Financial Management Policy for Competition Awards.
- The Secretary’s Delegation of Authority policy is available for download [PDF] from GPO.
- Read a list of challenge management firms on the approved GSA schedule.
- Consider reaching out to the federal-wide challenge community listserv if you would like to contact other agencies for advice on how they have designed their challenges. For access to the listserv, contact Karen Trebon at GSA.
2. Challenge Competition Approvals
Aim: Challenge managers must obtain necessary OPDIV/STAFFDIV approvals for challenges following your agency’s internal processes, as applicable. Challenge approvals must also adhere to HHS-specific and federal-wide policies on the development of a Federal Register notice and approval of large prizes of over $500,000.
- Develop a Federal Register Notice announcing the challenge and seek approval from your agency head or individual delegated this authority (this step is required for challenges issued under the COMPETES Act authority). It is recommended that you use HHS’s Federal Notice template.
- If total prize amount is $500,000 or less: send the draft Federal Register notice to the HHS Innovation Council for notification and review. Materials should be emailed to email@example.com at same time they are going through agency clearance.
- If total prize amount is more than $500,000: send draft Federal Register notice and accompanying materials via the Exec Secretariat for the Secretary’s approval of Challenges.
- There are explicit rules on how appropriated funding must be treated, how gift funding must be handled, and how payment obligations should occur. This information is contained in ASFR's policy guidance on challenges entitled, “Competition Award Policy.”
- HHS’s Federal Register template.
- More information on HHS’s approval process for large challenges.
- Consult with your agency’s financial officer, who should have access to ASFR’s Competition Award Policy. These materials are also available on our website under the section entitled Financial Management Policy for Competition Awards
- Agencies may vary in how they sub-delegate the authority to administer and fund challenge competitions. See http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-05-04/pdf/2011-10847.pdf.
3. Challenge Competition Launch and Promotion
Aim: Challenge launch and advertising are critical aspects of the challenge process. Challenge managers should follow HHS’s and federal-wide policies on how challenges are to be advertised. In addition, agencies are encouraged to provide additional outreach to target communities containing potential problem-solvers.
- Submit for publication via your agency’s Executive Secretariat the Federal Register notice announcing the contest. As stated in the prior step, all outgoing Federal Register notices announcing HHS challenges should be sent at least 72 hours prior to publication to the HHS Innovation Council via the firstname.lastname@example.org email box. The Federal Register Notice must be published prior to publishing the challenge on challenge.gov.
- Challenge managers are required to post challenge competitions on challenge.gov, even if the competition is being managed by an outside firm. To post, you will need to register on the challenge.gov site. Approvals for posting are moderated by the HHS Innovation Council. All HHS employees posting challenges on behalf of the Department must adhere to HHS’s Challenge Governing principles.
- As soon as the competition is announced in the Federal Register, your budget officer must record the obligation of funds using the HHS Competition Award Obligating Document (CAOD) [PDF].
- Consider a webinar or other promotional activities to attract solutions providers to your challenge. You may wish to consult developer community to ensure that your advertising will reach the broadest pool of potential problem-solvers.
- Challenge managers should register with Challenge.Gov and apply for posting privileges.
- HHS’s Challenge Governing principles can be found on the challenge website.
Consult with your agency’s financial officer, who should have access to ASFR’s Competition Award Policy and the HHS Competition Award Obligating Document (CAOD) [PDF].
4. Awarding the Challenge
Aim: Choosing the challenge winners and awarding the prize is an important aspect of the challenge. Challenge managers should follow HHS’s and federal-wide policies on how challenges are to be judged and how awards are provided. In addition, agencies are encouraged to release their own press announcements about the challenge.
- Ideally, judges should be announced by the launch of the challenge; judges must be declared by the time the challenge closes. The selection of judges, and their “employment” status relative to HHS, should be guided by HHS policy as well as your agency’s preferences. Challenge managers must keep a record of the decision-making process used to select finalists as the documents involved in the judging process are subject to Freedom of Information Act and record retention laws.
- Prior to announcing awards, the awarding agency must check the Excluded Parties List System to see if any prospective awardees have been suspended or disbarred. If a potential awardee is on the list, challenge managers should check with HHS Office of General Counsel or the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Grants and Acquisition Policy and Accountability before proceeding.
- To process payments for competition awards, the awarding agency must complete Standard Form 1034 and the associated supplemental documents (the SF 1034 package). Challenge managers are to provide the HHS Payment Information Form to awardees and submit this information into the appropriate accounting system via the agency budget officer.
- Your agency may wish to issue a press release announcing the winner. Follow your agency press release processes.
- Read more about HHS’s judging guidance.
- The Excluded Parties List System can be found at www.epls.gov.
- Consult with your agency’s financial officer, who should have access to ASFR’s Competition Award Policy and the SF 1034 Package. These materials are also available on our website under the section entitled Financial Management Policy for Competition Awards.
5. Post-Challenge Tracking
Aim: HHS challenge managers are responsible for reporting the results of their challenges. They must ensure that challenge results are publicly posted on the challenge.gov website and that additional internal tracking information is provided to ASA/OBMT for use in HHS’s annual report to the Congress on our use of challenges.
- Within five days of selecting the challenge winner, challenge managers shall complete the Template for Annual Reporting Requirements and send the required information via the email@example.com email address to ASA/OBMT. This information will be used in compiling HHS’s annual report on challenges, which will be compiled by OSTP and sent to the Congress.
- Challenges that are run on the challenge.gov platform will automatically list the winners in a “Winner’s Gallery”. If, however, your challenge is hosted by an external challenge management firm and run on a platform other than challenge.gov, you must manually update your challenge on challenge.gov to announce the winner(s) of your competition. You must use a text field to do this.
- The template for Annual Reporting Requirements can be found on our website.
- Challenge Managers should go directly to Challenge.gov to edit their challenges and post winners.