Prizes to Promote Open Government
We've written previously about the Obama Administration's Open Government Directive. Among other things, the Directive has led to a proliferation of innovative "ideas sites" across the federal agencies.
Last week the White House issued a new memorandum titled "Guidance on the Use of Challenges and Prizes to Promote Open Government" (PDF) â€” a further step towards citizen engagement. The report cites a number of examples of successful contests, including from DARPA, Energy Department, EPA, and the U.S. State Department. Much of the report draws on information from the recent McKinsey study "And the Winner Is...: Capturing the Promise of Philanthropic Prizes" (PDF).Â
The memorandum also mentions that the government is building a new web platform for the management of challenges, as well as a community of practice for federal employees and contractors involved in these initiatives sector. The memorandum encourages partnerships across corporations and consulting groups.Â
The government's active support of challenges and prizes is a big deal. There are countless issues which lend themselves well to this format, and the combination of high-profile challenges, enthusiastic citizen participation, and meaningful rewards and outcomes all bode well for very innovative activities.
One hurdle addressed in the memorandum is legal: how to comply with federal laws in this new realm. A closer look shows the realm isn't all that new. At a Forum One'sÂ Web Executive SeminarÂ in 2008, Jeremy Ames of EPA spoke about federal government prizes in the 1920s (including for the design of Memorial Bridge over the Potomac). More information on legal issues is provided on nextgov.
Contests unfortunately are difficult to design well and run. They do offer, however, tremendous promise. We look forward to working with our clients in this exciting area.