USA — Government Invites Public to Solve Challenges

WASHINGTON — The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has a lot of prob­lems to solve, and a new web­site it launched this week will give aver­age cit­i­zens a forum to dis­cuss and poten­tial­ly solve those prob­lems while vying for rewards for the best solu­tions.

Bev God­win, direc­tor of the U.S. Gen­er­al Ser­vices Administration’s Cen­ter for New Media and Cit­i­zen Engage­ment; Bran­don Kessler, founder and CEO of Chal­lenge­Post; and Tami Grif­fith, sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy man­ag­er for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Sim­u­la­tion and Train­ing Tech­nol­o­gy Cen­ter, dis­cussed the new site — — dur­ing a “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table yes­ter­day.

God­win over­sees the site for the gov­ern­ment. Kessler’s com­pa­ny designs and builds “chal­lenge” sites for dif­fer­ent clients. is an exten­sion of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Strat­e­gy for Amer­i­can Inno­va­tion, which opens gov­ern­ment solu­tions to the gen­er­al pub­lic.

“Chal­lenges and prizes can real­ly change the way gov­ern­ment in our coun­try works, as it allows the gov­ern­ment to bring new play­ers to the table, to look at new ways to solve prob­lems that can lead to new dis­cov­er­ies or new indus­tries,” God­win said. “It also pro­vides the gov­ern­ment a way to only pay for results. It also allows gov­ern­ment a way to set forth a goal and let oth­ers decide how best to reach that goal.”

Entre­pre­neurs, lead­ing inno­va­tors and cit­i­zen solvers can com­pete for prizes on by pro­vid­ing solu­tions to tough prob­lems.

“The whole con­cept behind the plat­form is that if you have a cen­tral­ized net­work around chal­lenges, more peo­ple will inter­act with mul­ti­ple chal­lenges,” Kessler said. “We see, in fact, that peo­ple who engage in one chal­lenge tend to engage in mul­ti­ple chal­lenges, because they’re con­nect­ed to a net­work.”

The site works pret­ty sim­ply – an agency or office can post a “chal­lenge” to which peo­ple can pro­vide a “solu­tion.” It also allows par­tic­i­pants to blog, inter­act on dis­cus­sion boards, and eas­i­ly share items via dif­fer­ent social media.

Griffith’s Fed­er­al Vir­tu­al Worlds Chal­lenge, which asks the pub­lic to sub­mit ideas for inno­v­a­tive and inter­ac­tive train­ing and analy­sis solu­tions in vir­tu­al worlds, is an Army ini­tia­tive to bet­ter under­stand dif­fer­ent social envi­ron­ments on the Web.

“We’re using this chal­lenge as a way to let the pub­lic teach us in the gov­ern­ment how to use these tools bet­ter,” Grif­fith said.

Chal­lenges have been post­ed so far by gov­ern­ment agen­cies includ­ing NASA; the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency; the Social Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion; and the Defense, Edu­ca­tion, Ener­gy, Trea­sury, Agri­cul­ture, State, Inte­ri­or and Labor depart­ments.

“I haven’t seen any lag­gards,” God­win said. “Many agen­cies are work­ing on chal­lenges. Some take longer to ramp up than oth­ers, so you’ll see more com­ing out over the next few months.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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