Improving Your Challenge and Contest Innovation Program

Challenge Improvement


Step 1. Assess Whether You Met Your Goal

Review your challenge's original purpose and take an honest look at whether you achieved your goal. You did? Great! Repeat your success.
Were the submissions different than what you expected? Don’t despair. There may be good ideas to pursue among non-winning entries, so take a look at all the submissions.
Remember that in innovation challenges, you don't have to award a prize if none of the submissions meet your goal. Reserve this right by stating it in your rules.
Think about how you can craft your next challenge, so that the results more closely match what you want to achieve.

Step 2. Decide How You Will Track Results On an Ongoing Basis, and Who Will Do It

The results you track will depend on what type of challenge you did:
  • With an apps challenge, you may want to track how many times the winning apps are downloaded;
  • In a video contest, you may decide to monitor how many times the winning video is viewed;
  • If your challenge was an ideas competition, you should designate someone to track the implementation of the winning ideas. 
Document who is responsible for reporting back to the original challenge team, as well as how often they will report back.

Step 3. Document Lessons Learned

As you conduct your challenge or contest, document lessons learned (PDF, 292.85 KB, 3 pages, January 2011). Think about what went right and what went wrong.  
Share liberally via listservs and online forums. Your advice will help colleagues at your agency—and at other agencies.

Step 4. Document Internal Procedures For Challenges and Contests 

Document the "go to" people in other departments, and internal procedures (PDF, 1.04 MB, 39 pages, August 2011) such as General Counsel review, and how you paid the prize. DOT created a report that pulls together how many agencies handled these matters. You may want to use it as a model for your agency.

Step 5. Keep In Touch With New Communities

If you built new relationships, with software developers for example, add these individuals to your listservs and keep in touch so the momentum continues.
You can use the update feature on, to send a thank you letter to all who entered your challenge. Here is a good example from Karen Mills, Administrator of the Small Business Administration. It thanks the participants, tells what the results were, and lets everyone know how the winning videos will be used.
Dear Video Challenge Participant,
Thank you for participating in the SBA National Small Business Week Video Challenge. Every week, I travel around the country and meet amazing small business owners that are creating jobs, strengthening our economy and improving their community. No matter where I am, one thing is the same: small business owners have a very busy schedule. I appreciate you taking the time to create a video and sharing how the SBA helped you.
As you may have heard, the response to SBA's first video contest was incredible—we received over 100 submissions. It was a very difficult process, but SBA selected four winners to participate in the Google+ Hangout with me. The winning small businesses were KissTixx, Rodgers' Banana Pudding Sauce, Rustic Crust and The Fresh Diet.
Your story was inspirational and we look forward to highlighting your video this summer at  SBA will notify you through when your video has been posted on our website.
Thank you again for your video submission and the opportunity to learn about your small business.
Karen Mills
SBA Administrator
Consider adding content that tells contestants about challenges you might run in the future, and how they can keep in touch with you (blogs, Facebook, Twitter). 

Step 6. Take Any User Feedback You Received and Act On Whatever You Can has a built-in discussion board capability. Review the comments and discussion board questions to figure out how you can improve in the future. For example, you may have gotten a lot of questions and comments due to unclear or incomplete rules.


Content Lead: Karen Trebon
Page Reviewed/Updated: March 28, 2013

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