Challenges made easy: GSA offers crowdsourcing competition tool

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GSA has developed a Web-based challenge-building tool to help agencies build their own external, public-facing crowdsourcing competitions.

From DARPA’s Grand Challenge to build autonomous robots to the White House’s We the People petitions, federal agencies are increasingly soliciting ideas, code, tools and even prototypes through online challenges.

Given the number of competitions now being held, the practice must be delivering  results.  According to General Services Administration, more than 290 challenges have been run in federal government since 2010. But while agencies may be eager to tap citizen resources, the tasks of creating, running, promoting and evaluating these contests can be daunting to first-time challenge builders.

GSA offers a variety of resources for hosting a challenge, and it has recently added an "ideation platform" -- a WordPress-based challenge building tool -- to help agencies build their own external, public facing crowd sourcing competitions.

Federal employees can also use their PIV card to log into Challenge.sites.usa.gov to post a challenge in a non-public area. The tool walks users through the challenge building process, including:

  • How to create a challenge with the platform
  • Incorporating public voting into the judging criteria
  • How entrants submit their solutions
  • Potential for media on the platform
  • Social sharing capabilities

Most challenges are launched by posting a title along with a one-to-two sentence tag line describing the competition. There is also a box that allows for a more detailed description of what the agency is trying to accomplish, as well as ways to link to media resources like images and YouTube videos.

The contest pages require users to fill in information such as the rules of the competition, eligibility information, partner agencies, terms and conditions, incentives, who the judges are and the judging criteria. GSA recommends that federal agencies include as much information as possible about the judges so participants know whom they are trying to impress.

There is a also discussion board feature that allows challenge participants to ask questions and federal agencies to answer individually or to broadcast additional information to all participants.

Once the challenge is ready for publication, users get a URL for promotion on social media sites, and the challenge will automatically be listed on the challenge.gov site.

Challenges built with the GSA tool not only help the agencies running the contest but also support participants who now have an easy-to-use entry form.  For more information, watch GSA’s Challenge.sites.usa.gov: A Federal Crowdsourcing Tool demo on YouTube.

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