The Berkman Center for Internet & Society is pleased to release “Public-Private Partnerships for Organizing and Executing Prize-Based Competitions,” co-authored by Berkman Center Researcher Raymond Tong and Berkman Center Faculty Associate Karim R. Lakhani, and developed in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

For more information on public sector prizes, please see materials related to the June 12, 2012 Collaborative Innovation: Public Sector Prizes event, hosted by the Case Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Download the paper from SSRN.

From the Executive Summary:

Prizes can be effective tools for finding innovative solutions to the most difficult problems. While prizes are often associated with scientific and technological innovation, prizes can also be used to foster novel solutions and approaches in much broader contexts, such as reducing poverty or finding new ways to educate people.

Now that the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act has given all government departments and agencies broad authority to conduct prize competitions, agencies may find themselves looking for resources to learn about prizes and challenges. This paper describes how government agencies can design, build, and execute effective prizes – though these models can easily be adapted to meet the needs of foundations, public interest groups, private companies, and a host of other entities with an interest in spurring innovation.

As an informational guide to promote the use of prizes within government agencies, with an emphasis on opportunities to form different types of private-public partnerships, this paper:

  • Provides an overview of the prize lifecycle to help agencies better understand when to use prizes and the various elements involved in developing a prize;
  • Presents a framework outlining the various roles agencies can fill in the prize process and the importance of using partnerships to maximize the effectiveness of a prize; and,
  • Highlights important steps and considerations regarding partnerships with other organizations.

Drawing on interviews and secondary research on existing prizes that rely on multi-sector partnerships, it explores every aspect of forming partnerships and implementing prizes across the broad range of activities that occur within various stages of the prize lifecycle.

While prizes may not be suited to solve every type of problem, they offer a powerful complement to govern­ment agencies’ traditional channels of innovation. As the use of prizes in the government sector increases, new practices and novel ways of structuring contests and partnerships will undoubtedly emerge. To share best practices, agencies are encouraged to collaborate by offering lessons learned from previous competitions and seeking opportunities to assist other agencies in conducting prizes when objectives overlap.