World Problems + Your Solutions =

Content From: Read Holman, New Media Strategist, U.S. Department of Health & Human ServicesPublished: October 29, 20102 min read


Good ideas are everywhere. No organization, individual, or government has a monopoly on good ideas. Recognizing this, a new federal website,, has been created as a place where the public and government can solve problems together. Federal agencies post “challenges”, or contests, on the site, and members of the public can offer innovative solutions to these challenges. Challenges are great for encouraging public/private partnerships, as well as stimulating an interest and innovation around a particular topic. was launched in response to the Obama Administration’s Open Government Directive, which calls for the Federal government to increase transparency, participation, and collaboration with the public. Check out the White House Guidance on the Use of Challenges and Prizes to Promote Open Government (PDF 98 KB).

Contests can be a great way to identify new and creative solutions to long-standing problems. Contests can improve processes, build community, and save taxpayers money. By offering a place for public engagement, helps encourage communication and knowledge sharing between government and the public.

There are two broad categories of contests that you’ll find on

  1. Contests to develop a desired product. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has created a contest to build a robot. The National Cancer Institute currently is holding a contest to develop prototype web and/or mobile applications that would enable communities to use population data for cancer prevention and control.
    Are there opportunities for the HIV community to do something similar?
  2. Contests to bring awareness to an issue. The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) is asking individuals to submit original music videos that celebrate healthy and creative living or portrays the dangers of drug abuse. Can a poetry or video contest be used to highlight a particular aspect of HIV/AIDS in your community? Often the true value in these types of contests is found in just having the contest in the first place. The very act of participating can build needed conversation and community. has many contests that you can participate in right now: Show us how to become the President of the United States, create nutritious school lunch recipes that kids love to eat, or make a video of how you protect the environment! Here’s a link to additional health challenges.

Have an idea for an HIV/AIDS-related contest? We want your insights on how could be used to further HIV prevention, treatment, testing, and care innovation. Share your ideas in the blog comments.

For more examples of how the Federal Government is using contests and challenges, go to