Brain Canvas

Reach inside your brain and pull out something Beautiful.

Building the GSA/ChallengePost Community

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In case you missed it, our theme for June is to give our own little Brain Canvas preview to an initiative being launched by the General Services Administration in July to crowdsource solutions to the problems faced by different government agencies. Throughout the month of June we’ll be posting different challenges in government, along with our proposed solution.

Ironically, the first challenge that the GSA posts might be to ask for solutions on how to promote and market its new project effectively. While the GSA crowdsourcing initiative is a fantastic concept, it can really only work effectively if there is a critical mass of individuals using the platform. Its worth pointing out that this is by no means a given, as Challenge Post currently has just 60 posted challenges, only one of which has been tagged “government”. Most of those only have a handful of people who have actually submitted solutions (with a few notable exceptions for the ones with large cash rewards – an important point which we’ll consider momentarily). Not exactly the kind of numbers that put the “crowd” in crowdsource.

So figuring out how to get an appropriate number of people using this thing is certainly a challenge that the GSA at least better consider. But its not just about the volume of people, its also making sure that these people fit a particular kind of profile. They’ll need to make sure that innovative, entrepreneurial and creative people are applying their mental prowess to these challenges. At the same time this is a great chance to get more people participating in government with fresh new ideas, so it also needs to appeal to people who aren’t already lobbying, consulting or otherwise influencing or commenting on policy.

So in summary you need bright, entrepreneurial, laypeople. People who are equipped with the right education, experience or genuine creativity who are outside of government. Something of a tall order, but what you ultimately need is a world class marketer to really promote the heck out of this.

I am certainly not that marketer, but here are a few ideas I have on how this sort of campaign would have to look.

1. Build a sense of community

Peer pressure and a sense of belonging are two pretty powerful motivators. Whatever the final platform looks like, it needs to incorporate specific elements of social networking platforms in order to give users a community to connect with and a personal identity that can exist within that community. I would see this as something akin to Facebook, where you could form groups, send messages, post contact and get updates on different challenges by say, which department they are coming from or which issues they might be trying to tackle.

In fact, they might just want to make it a Facebook app, or at least a standalone app that interfaces with Facebook. Its quite possible that this would be enough to do it on its own, provided that the challenge content being posted is good enough to be driven by users over existing channels and platforms.

2. Go Global

Nowhere could I find whether the ability to propose solutions to challenges would be restricted by national origin. At first it seems almost stupid to ask whether this would become an issue, but the nativist counter-argument is almost too easy to predict. “Americans are the most innovative people in the world. Why do we need non-residents, or even resident non-citizens, to tell us how to solve our own problems?”

Of course, that question would be stupid to ask. The challenges that America faces (e.g. reducing our reliance or hydro-carbons while promoting economic growth) are often ones that ultimately end up impacting other people outside this country as well. The other, simpler, answer is that a good idea can come from anywhere. To reject it out of hand just because “you” didn’t come up with it is the worst kind of self defeating arrogance. Simply put my response to that would be, “grow up”.

At any rate, lets hope the GSA isn’t pressured in any way to make this concession. It would kill the entire concept before it even started, in my opinion.


3. Exploit the incentives

There are three major incentives that this concept provides for would be participants. Whomever is writing the guidelines for what challenges should look like, along with whomever is responsible for marketing this, should give ample credence to all three, in no particular order:

  • Helping your community, country and world
  • Recognition. This is why the community is so key. Who cares if you win something that nobody you respect cares about?
  • Money. People should be compensated justly for their solution if its selected. It obviously also attracts more individuals or start-ups to participate. The best part is it would probably still be a fraction of the amount it would cost to get a ‘professional’ consultant

So there you have it. Build a global community motivated by a few monetary and social incentives and you should have a good starting base of users. If we actually see this up on the GSA platform next month, my next step will be to actually propose how to do those things.


Written by Andrew

June 14th, 2010 at 12:14 am

2 Responses to 'Building the GSA/ChallengePost Community'

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  1. One other huge incentive I forgot to include is tapping into the anti-government sentiment that has apparently swept the nation (I’m not 100% sold that this is true, btw).

    But it at least makes for a pretty convincing message: “Mad as hell about big government taking control of your life and telling you what to do? Then you tell us what you think we should do.”

    Might even be cool to have a feedback function (like the ‘like’ thumb). That way government agencies could easily see what other users think, and the community at large would be able to see what sort of correlation there is between what the public likes and what the government ultimately decides.


    14 Jun 10 at 00:20

  2. Andrew,

    Posts like this are one of the many gather ideas about how to make the platform better. Thank you for being engaged, and for caring about what we are trying to do. We’re looking forward to getting the site out in front of the public. When we do, hopefully you’ll get a sense of where we’re taking the platform and community. Feel free to reach out to me directly with feedback.



    14 Jun 10 at 16:05

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