What will challenges and crowdsourcing mean for open government?

Yesterday, I reported on how the United States federal government plans to approach crowdsourcing national challenges with the new Challenge.gov at ReadWriteWeb. As I wrote there, Challenge.gov is the latest effort in the evolution of collaborative innovation in open government.

Should the approach succeed, challenges and contests have the potential to leverage the collective expertise of citizens, just as apps contests have been used to drive innovation in D.C. and beyond.

In the interview below, Bev Godwin and Brandon Kessler explain what Challenge.gov is and what it might do. Kessler is the founder of ChallengePost, the platform that Challenge.gov is built upon.

I interviewed Godwin and Kessler in August, when senior government officials and private sector enjoyed a preview of Challenge.gov at the Newseum at the second annual Fedscoop forum on reducing the cost of government. The following excerpts from their panels offer more insight into how challenges work, how they’ve been used in the private sector and what results citizens might anticipate as this approach to open government moves forward.

What is a Challenge?

Kessler defines a challenge.

The Value of Challenges to the Government

Bev Godwin discusses the importance and value of challenges to the government.

Results from Challenges

Brandon Kessler discusses the results he has seen from challenges.

Different Classifications of Challenges

Michael Donovan, Chief Technologist, Strategic Capabilities, HP, explains how he would classify different types of challenges.

Dean Halstead, collaboration architect at Microsoft, discusses how he would classify different types of challenges.

ROI from Challenges at NASA

Dr. Jeffrey Davis, director of space life sciences at NASA, talks about the return on investment shown by some of the challenges he has run or been involved with.

What Makes a Good Challenge?

Dr. Jeffrey Davis explores the characteristics of a good challenge.

Challenges in the Private Sector

Dean Halstead explains how Microsoft leverages challenges.

Michael Donovan explains how HP leverages challenges.

Will Crowdsourcing and Challenges Enable More Open Government?

Challenge.gov “is the next form of citizen engagement, beyond participation to co-creation,” said Godwin at the Newseum. Many questions remain about how the effort will be received. Will citizens show up? Will challenges see participation from industry leaders and the innovators in the private sector? Will intellectual property rights be clearly and fairly addressed up front and afterwards, in a sustainable way? Will Congress pass legislation enshrining this approach to open government?

The answers to most of those questions, in other words, will often not be driven by legal or technological challenges. Instead, the results will have to be used to drive acquisition, civic empowerment or even more data-driven policy. Opening the doors of government to innovation will not be easy. Whether these efforts can spur the evolution of a more efficient, innovative government in the 21st Century may be the most difficult challenge to win of all.

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.