Challenges & Competitions
Challenges and competitions enable the Federal government to tap into the expertise and creativity of the public in new ways. Challenges and competitions are high-risk, high-reward policy tools that can foster collaboration and participation in government activities through the process of co-creation. As an inducement of participation, challenges and competitions may offer a variety of “prizes”, including cash, recognition, or the deployment of a winning solution.
Why Challenges & Competitions?
Challenges and competitions are important mechanisms for spurring innovation, solving tough problems, and helping agencies to advance their core missions.
Learn about the power of challenges and competitions and how these mechanisms are being used at HHS by watching this video.
Background on Challenges and Competitions
In January of 2009, President Obama directed OMB to issue an Open Government Directive (PDF) to prompt executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to implement the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration. The Directive specifically calls upon executive agencies to use innovative methods such as prizes and challenges to obtain ideas from and to increase collaboration with those in the private sector, non-profit and academic communities.
In December of 2010, Congress passed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (PDF). Section 105 of the Act provides Federal departments and agencies with a clear legal pathway to plan and execute challenges and competitions, and specifically authorizes the use of appropriated funds for these purposes. In his updated Strategy for Innovation, President Obama called on all federal agencies to increase their use of prizes and challenges to mobilize America's ingenuity to solve some of our nation's most pressing challenges.
Within HHS, the Innovation Council has taken lead responsibility in coordinating challenges and competitions and implementing policies regarding the use of these tools. The HHS Innovation Council is an interagency Council charged with promoting innovation across HHS. It is co-chaired by Chief Technology Officer Brian Sivak and Assistant Secretary for Administration Ned Holland, and composed of representatives from each of the HHS operating and staff divisions.
Challenges and Competitions at HHS
HHS has sponsored challenges and competitions in a wide variety of areas such as recruitment efforts, health data applications, and communications. All current and previous challenges sponsored by HHS are accessible through the website challenge.gov/hhs.
The resources provided below may be useful for those wishing to conduct or learn about challenges or competitions sponsored in connection with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, Section 105 (PDF)
Relevant OMB and GSA Guidances and Frequently Asked Questions
- OMB’s Memorandum for General Counsels and Chief Information Officers for Executive Departments and Agencies – FAQs issued by OMB regarding prize authority in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act
- OMB Guidance on the Use of Challenges and Prizes to Promote Open Government (PDF) – Guidance issued by OMB on implementing prizes and challenges
- OMB’s Frequently Asked Questions related to Challenges and Prizes – FAQs issued by OMB regarding applicability of Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) to challenge competitions
- PRA Guidance (PDF) – GSA’s guidance regarding the relation between PRA and challenge.gov
- PII Guidance (PDF) – GSA’s guidance regarding the relation between privacy issues, personally-identifiable information (PII) and challenge.gov
- Security Guidance (PDF) – GSA’s guidance regarding the security of challenge.gov to host challenges
- Children’s Privacy Guidance (PDF) – GSA’s guidance regarding the protection of young user’s participating in challenges on challenge.gov
- Cookie Guidance (PDF) – GSA’s guidance regarding the use of persistent cookies safely to enhance user’s experience on challenge.gov
HHS Guidance and Documents
- Guidance on Using a Generic Clearance to Request Additional Information from Solution Providers – Guidance on using an HHS Generic Clearance for the purpose of requesting additional information from solutions providers. This guidance contains an abbreviated template and instructions for the supplemental document that must be submitted to OMB.
- Challenge Manager’s Checklist - Checklist containing overview of the key steps and resource materials for HHS challenge managers.
- Compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act – Q & A on issues related to ensuring compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in the context of challenge competitions
- Eligibility for Competitions - This document clarifies the eligibility of federal entities, federal employees, federal grantees and federal contractors to participate in challenge competitions sponsored by HHS.
- HHS Delegation of Authority (PDF) – Document delegating authority vested in the HHS Secretary under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 to the heads of operating and staff divisions and chairs of the HHS Innovation Council to administer and fund prize competitions
- HHS Competition Judging Guidelines - Guidelines for the selection and appointment of judges for challenges and competitions
- Guidance for Federal Register Notices - Guidance for the mandatory Federal Register notice announcing requirements and registration for challenges and competitions at HHS
- Liability and Insurance Requirements - Q&A on liability and insurance requirements in the America COMPETES Act.
- Managing Intellectual Property Rights - Q&A on managing intellectual property rights in challenges and competitions at HHS
- Template for Annual Challenge and Competition Reporting Requirements at HHS – Contains the reporting information that will be required annually of challenge managers about their competitions
- Approval of Prizes of more than $500,000 – Challenges and competitions offering prizes of more than $500,000 require Secretarial approval. The procedure to obtain this approval in HHS is addressed in this document.
- Governing Principles for Use of Challenge.Gov - This document clarifies expectations for HHS employees utilizing the challenge.gov platform for posting and managing challenges on behalf of the Department
Financial Management Policy for Competition Awards
The Department’s financial management policy for competition awards, entitled “Competition Award Policy” dated October 5, 2011, and the associated obligating and payment forms have been distributed to OpDiv and StaffDiv Chief Financial Officers, Budget Officers, Acquisitions and Grant Officials. The financial management process involves eight key steps to ensure the appropriate funds are available and the proper obligation, payment, and tracking of funds for prizes and challenges directly funded by HHS. All HHS challenge managers should consult with their agency’s finance or budget office to ensure that their financial management duties are appropriately carried out.
- Competition Awards Policy (revised February 28, 2012) (PDF)
- America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Reauthorization Act of 2010 (PDF)
- Prize Authority in the America COMPETES Act Fact Sheet (PDF)
- HHS Competition Award Obligating Document (CAOD) (PDF)
- Standard Form 1034 (SF 1034) “Public Voucher for Purchases and Services Other than Personal (PDF)
- HHS SF 1034 Supplemental Competition Award Payment Document (CAPD) (PDF)
- Department of Health and Human Services’ Payment Information Form (PDF)
- Template for Annual Challenge & Competition Reporting Requirements at HHS
Agencies can choose platforms that best meet their needs for specific challenges. Please note that all HHS challenges, even if run by an outside vendor, must be advertised on challenge.gov/hhs.
- Challenge.gov is a no-cost government platform administered by GSA.
- GSA's Advertising and Integrated Marketing Solutions, Schedule 541.4G: Challenges and Competitions Services - Lists challenge firms on the approved GSA schedule.
- Additional free tools with negotiated federally-compatible Terms of Service that can be used for online challenges are available on apps.gov.
Networks for Federal Employees
- Federal Challenge Listserv - For federal employees, this group discusses challenge and competition activities occurring at federal agencies and within our stakeholder communities. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- HHS Prize and Challenge Portal - HHS employees are also eligible to join the HHS Prize and Challenge Portal, which contains useful resources such as a wiki, discussion boards, and other resources for HHS employees engaged in running challenges and competitions. For more information, contact Michael Yea at HHS.
- Implementation of the Federal Prize Authority: Progress Report (March 2012) - On April 10, 2012, OSTP released a comprehensive report detailing the use of prizes and competitions by federal agencies to spur innovation and solve grand challenges.
- Center for Excellence for Collaborative Innovation – serves as a convening body to harness and redistribute the collective experience of all participating federal agencies regarding best practices in collaborative and distributed innovation, including challenge competitions.
- Challenge.gov – Access all previous and current challenges from across the federal government
- GSA’s Innovation Challenges & Contests page – Provides important resources for those wishing to host challenges and competitions in collaboration with federal agencies
- Promoting Your Challenge/Contest – Tips on Promoting your Challenege
- ONC’s Investing in Innovations ("i2") – Website created in conjunction with Health 2.0
- “And the Winner is…” (PDF) – Report by McKinsey & Company that explores how incentive prizes are a unique and powerful tool and discusses 6 prize archetypes
- Promoting Innovation through Challenges – On April 30, 2010, the White House and the Case Foundation hosted an event on promoting innovation.
- President Obama's updated Strategy for Innovation - 2011 – Report by the Obama Administration on enhancing the United States’ capacities to innovate
- OSTP Memo on Prizes and Challenges - An introduction to the Administration’s work on prizes from OSTP that discusses the benefits of prizes and six different prize archetypes
- HHS Webinar on Challenges and Competitions – A webinar conducted on July 27, 2011 providing an overview of challenges and perspectives from HHS challenge managers and policy experts