Mobilizing and Empowering the Nation and Technology to Address Loneliness & social isolation (MENTAL) Health Innovation Challenge
Develop a software platform that increases awareness of, access to and use of social engagement technologies and programming to help curtail the impact of loneliness and social isolation.
Department of Health and Human Services - Administration for Community Living
Type of Challenge: Technology demonstration and hardware, Software and apps, Analytics, visualizations, algorithms, Ideas
Partner Agencies | Federal: Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Communications Commission
Partner Agencies | Non-federal: Consumer Technology Association Foundation
Submission Start: 06/23/2020 07:15 AM ET
Submission End: 09/08/2020 05:00 PM ET
This year, we’ve been forced to rethink the myriad of different ways we connect, socialize and interact with each other. In the absence of face-to-face time, can technology and online tools help us make, maintain, and strengthen those connections so vital to everyday life? We believe they can. That’s why we need your help.
Can you design an easy-to-use online directory of social engagement programs and technology tools and products that matches end-users who are socially isolated with customized suggestions, tailored to meet their specific needs, interests, and abilities, in one seamless end-to-end experience? Then we want to hear from you.
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) along with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), components of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are offering up to $750,000 in prizes and an opportunity to reach up to 10 million Americans. The prize will be awarded to the winner at the CES in January 2021. ACL and OASH are joined by the Consumer Technology Association Foundation (CTA Foundation), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in promoting the competition and judging and/or evaluating the submissions.
Are you up to the challenge? Learn more about the competition and how to apply below.
The number of people in the United States aged 65 or older will almost double from 49 million in 2020 to 95 million by the year 2060 comprising nearly one quarter of the total US population. Among the senior population, nearly 25% of Americans aged 65-and-over are considered to be socially isolated - “the objective state of having few social relationships or infrequent social contact with others” - while 43% of those 60-and-over report feeling lonely.
A constellation of harmful health outcomes have been associated with isolation and loneliness including premature mortality, a higher risk for developing dementia, heart failure and stroke, and increased risk of hospitalizations. In light of these health risk factors, it is unsurprising that analyses of Medicare spending has revealed an additional $6.7 billion spent annually on enrollees who are socially isolated.
Recognizing the importance in fostering the development of innovative solutions to combat the harmful effects of these risk factors and the role technology has in addressing social isolation and loneliness, in March 2019, the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) released a report on “Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population.”
The challenges brought forth by social isolation and loneliness has come to the fore during the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. As the nation continues to adhere to public health recommendations of social distancing, an increasingly recognized secondary outcome is the risk social distancing can have on rates of loneliness and social isolation especially among our nation’s most vulnerable populations including older adults, persons with disabilities living alone, as well as those who live in care facilities and group homes and our nation’s Veterans population.
While there are an array of technologies and social engagement programs in the marketplace, there are considerable gaps in both awareness of and access to these technologies and programming for those individuals most likely to be lonely and isolated. Consequently, there is an opportunity to increase access and awareness to technologies and social engagement programming.
ACL and OASH are pleased to announce the Mobilizing and Empowering the Nation and Technology to Address Loneliness & social isolation (MENTAL) Health Innovation Challenge to address this need. Supporting partners include the VA, FCC, and the CTA Foundation.
With this health innovation challenge we hope to recognize innovative ideas and solutions that seek to develop a software platform that increases awareness of, access to and use of social engagement technologies and programming to help curtail the impact of loneliness and social isolation.
Subject and Scope of Prize Competition
The MENTAL Health Innovation Challenge asks care partners, local communities, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions, healthcare providers, technologists, academics, among others in the global community for innovative solutions to combat loneliness and social isolation in vulnerable populations including Veterans, older adults, persons with disabilities living alone, racial and ethnic minority populations, as well as those who live in care facilities and group homes that may be isolated from visitors and family members during a quarantine.
The goal of this challenge is to increase consumer awareness and use of technology tools that keep older adults, people with disabilities, racial and minority populations, and Veterans socially engaged and connected to families, friends, communities and activities of interest. The Challenge is seeking solutions that assess socially isolated individuals and match them with appropriate technology tools and social engagement programming that best meet their needs. The winning solution will become part of a public-private campaign to reach up to 10 million socially isolated older adults, people with disabilities, racial and minority populations and Veterans. Successful solutions will build from existing assessments, technology tools, and utilize state of the art matching algorithms to address the following topic area:
Topic Area: Increase Awareness and Use of Technology and Social Engagement Programming Through an Accessible Social Engagement Clearinghouse
- Create an accessible technology and social engagement clearinghouse that catalogs and links the array of technology, apps and social engagement programming resources.
- Allow consumers to be matched to appropriate technology tools and programs based on their identified needs, interests, and abilities. This will require the design of a consumer interface and a user friendly assessment process that can inform the development of algorithms to match individuals to technology tools and social engagement programming that would best meet their needs and interests.
- Design a user centered process to enable a seamless end to end experience for an individual in identifying, acquiring/accessing and using appropriate solutions to address their social isolation. This would include making informed decisions on options, enrolling into selected programs, acquiring technology, and securing training necessary to use selected solutions. The Social Engagement Clearinghouse will be interoperable, enable real-time indicators on program, technology and service availability, and enable assessment and screening information to be pushed by the consumer to their provider(s) of choice or whoever is supporting their care needs.
- Propose a mechanism to include and update user reviews and other information about usability, quality, accessibility and availability of social engagement programming and technology tools that informs individual decisions about which products to select.
- Pilot the use of the assessment and clearinghouse in a variety of settings including Aging and Disability Resource Centers.
- The user interface of prototypes should be designed with a feedback loop to continue to assess quality and accessibility of experience during the pilot.
- Evaluation of the pilot should also include the performance of the matching algorithms, the ability of the individual to enroll in selected social engagement programs and acquire the selected technology, and the impact the selected social engagement programs and technology tools have had on increasing the individual’s level of social engagement (i.e. reducing social isolation).
Critical partners for designing solutions to this challenge should include a team of key stakeholders with relevant technical expertise as well as knowledge in technologies and programs that address social isolation. Preference will be given to teams that coordinate with or are informed by a state ADRC/No Wrong Door (NWD) System. Since 2003, states and community-based organizations (CBOs) have invested in state NWDs to streamline access to long term services and supports for older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers. State NWD systems include a community-based approach to person-centered planning and assessment, information and referral to state and community resources, and a governance structure that ensures these functions are available across the state.
The challenge will compete in two phases with cash prizes awarded in each phase. The total prize award available is $750,000.
Phase 1: Plan and Design a Social Engagement Clearinghouse and User Interface Prototype
- Open June 23, 2020 through September 8, 2020.
- Informational Webinar will be held on July 9, 2020.
- Registration email to register for the competition are due ideally by July 15, 2020 and no later than September 8, 2020.
- Submissions for Phase 1 are due September 8, 2020.
- Judging for Phase 1 will occur from September 8, 2020 through September 29, 2020.
- Finalists that move into Phase 2 will be awarded by September 30, 2020.
Phase 2: Pilot and Test Social Engagement Clearinghouse Prototype
- Competition occurs October 1, 2020 through December 4, 2020.
- Phase 2 submissions are due by December 4, 2020, 11:59 pm EST.
- Judging occurs December 4, 2020 through December 14, 2020.
- The top two contenders of Phase 2 will be notified by December 15, 2020.
- The top two contenders will be asked to present their solution at CES 2021. The winner will be announced at CES 2021 January 6-9, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV.
A prize purse of $750,000 is available for this prize challenge. The Phase 1 Prize Challenge fund is $150,000. For this challenge we will award up to $150,000 total prize funds for Phase I. We expect to select up to 3 Finalists to progress on to Phase II. Each Finalist will win $50,000 upon selection. Please note - In the event we choose fewer than 3 Finalists, the $150,000 will be split evenly among those teams selected (for example, if 2 teams are selected as Finalists each will receive $75,000).
The Phase 2 Prize Challenge award amount is $550,000. The winner will be awarded $450,000 and the runner-up will be awarded $100,000. Finalists and the winner are eligible for a bonus prize if they submit a written assessment detailing their continued work to implement, scale and sustain the solution. Total funds available for the bonus prize is $50,000. The bonus prize submissions will be due September 30, 2021 and details will be provided at a later date.
The top two contenders will present their solution at the CES 2021 in Las Vegas, NV (January 6-9, 2021).
To be eligible to win a prize under this challenge, an individual or entity may participate as part of one or more teams. Team formation is strongly encouraged, and teams are not limited in the number of members. Each team must designate a captain who must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is responsible for all correspondence regarding this Challenge. An individual or entity:
- Shall have registered to participate in the competition under the rules promulgated by the Administration for Community Living;
- Shall have complied with all the requirements under this section;
- In the case of a private entity, shall be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States, and in the case of an individual, whether participating singly or in a group, shall be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States;
- May not be a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment (all non-HHS, non-FCC or non-VA federal employees must consult with their agency Ethics Official to determine whether the federal ethics rules will limit or prohibit the acceptance of a COMPETES Act prize);
- Shall not be an HHS, FCC, or VA employee;
- Federal grantees may not use Federal funds to develop submissions unless consistent with the purpose of their grant award; and
- Federal contractors may not use Federal funds from a contract to develop COMPETES Act challenge submissions or to fund efforts in support of a COMPETES Act challenge submission.
- The top 2 contenders of Phase 2 must agree to use a portion of their prize award to travel to the CES 2021 in Las Vegas, NV.
- Entrants must also agree to indemnify the Federal government against third-party claims for damages arising from or related to competition activities.
- The Federal government will not select as a winner an individual or entity that is on the Excluded Parties List.
Terms and Conditions
- An individual or entity shall not be deemed ineligible because the individual or entity used Federal facilities or consulted with Federal employees during a competition if the facilities and employees are made available to all individuals and entities participating in the competition on an equitable basis.
- Federal grantees may not use Federal funds to develop their Challenge Submissions unless use of such funds is consistent with the purpose of their grant award and specifically requested to do so due to the Challenge design, and as announced on challenge.gov.
- Federal contractors may not use Federal funds from a contract to develop their Submissions or to fund efforts in support of their Submission.
- Multiple entries are permitted. Each solution must be sufficiently novel and unique and not be a minor modification of a prior submission.
- A demonstration of the developed technical solution must be included in your phase 2 submission, as per phase two conditions, either via web link, or as a downloadable app from a website. If a login is required, demo accounts with password should be provided which will enable evaluators to access all parts of the product. If there are different interfaces, separate logins should be provided.
- Participants must also agree to assume any and all risks and waive claims against the Federal Government and its related entities, except in the case of willful misconduct, for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue, or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from my participation in this prize contest, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise.
- Participants are required to obtain liability insurance or demonstrate financial responsibility in the amount of $0 for claims by a third party for death, bodily injury, or property damage, or loss resulting from an activity carried out in connection with participation in a challenge.
- Participants must also agree to indemnify the Federal Government against third party claims for damages arising from or related to Challenge activities.
- The Administration for Community Living and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health reserves the right, in their sole discretion, to (a) cancel, suspend, or modify the Challenge, and/or (b) not award any prizes if no entries are deemed worthy.
The Judging Panel will be composed of federal and/or other technical and subject matter experts.
Applicants will be judged on the following criteria for each phase of the competition. Additional detail and updates to the judging criteria and submission guidelines will be posted prior to the submission start date.
Phase 1: Solutions will be evaluated for usability, user-centeredness, and technical approach that meets the goal of successfully getting individuals to solutions that meet their needs. For Phase 1 submissions, the approach should be feasible and have a high likelihood to succeed.
Innovation and Value to Stakeholders – 20%
- Degree to which the proposed solution bridges the gap in consumer awareness and available social engagement products and programs in the market and across organizations.
- Degree to which the proposed solution creates a simplified consumer experience that matches individual needs with social engagement products, programs and training that are appropriate for their level of functioning, interests, English proficiency, preferred primary language, literacy level and preferences.
Product Functionality and Usability – 30%
- Degree to which the proposed solution is informed by user needs which may include Veterans enrolled in the Veteran Directed Care program.
- Degree to which the proposed solution includes an accessible, computer assisted assessment and screening process that identifies individual needs, interests, English proficiency, preferred primary language, literacy level and preferences.
- Degree to which the clearinghouse includes relevant technologies and social engagement products, programs and training.
- Degree to which the proposed solution enables real-time query and response with an electronic clearinghouse.
- Degree to which the proposed solution includes a process to add new technologies and social engagement programming and maintain up to date information on existing listings.
- Degree to which the proposed solution includes the availability of training videos for consumers to learn how to use the technology and/or ability to request a demonstration of technology options.
- Degree to which the proposed solution includes an ability to acquire technology and/or enroll in social engagement programming.
- Degree to which the clearinghouse and user interface meets accessibility requirements.
Partnerships & Collaboration – 25%
- Degree to which the applicant proposes a team of key stakeholders with relevant technical expertise as well as knowledge in technologies and programs that address social isolation.
- Degree to which the applicant proposes a governance model that ensures appropriate oversight, transparency, and maintenance of the user interface and clearinghouse.
- Degree to which the proposed plan for testing the prototype includes a state No Wrong Door System and ADRCs.
- Degree to which partnership and collaboration occurred with the state’s No Wrong Door System.
Technical Feasibility – 25%
- Degree to which the proposed solution design and/or architecture leverages existing technology and social engagement programming databases, including no tech, low tech and high tech solutions to increase social engagement.
- Degree to which the proposed solution embeds technology training videos and streamlines enrollment in social engagement programming and acquisition of technology.
- Degree to which the proposed solution includes robust matching methodologies with plans to modify them based on experience overtime.
- Degree to which the proposed solution uses open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for related consumer facing apps and standards for social isolation consistent with the Interoperability Standards Advisory.
- Degree to which the proposed solution is interoperable to enable consumers to push assessment data, screening information and the provision of technology and enrollment in social engagement programming solutions to the provider(s) of choice’s electronic health record, family member and/or whoever is supporting the consumers’ care.
Impact – 25%
- Key evaluation factors shall include: superior matching capability which improves upon prior efforts, ease of use, and security and verification capabilities which improve upon prior efforts.
Technical Feasibility / Viability – 20%
- Integration of other efforts, data, and platforms. Key evaluation factors shall include the extent to which the prototype has short- and long-term feasibility and sustainability, security and verification, matching accuracy, interfaces with social engagement programming and technology data sources.
Design Quality, Usability and Functionality – 30%
- Completeness, clarity of workflows, and quality; results of user testing. Key evaluation factors shall include the ability of the solution to match end users to social engagement programming and technologies that meet their needs and interests. The usability of the proposed solution by end users. The ability of the proposed solution to enable the end user to enroll in social engagement programming and/or acquire technologies to address social isolation. The ability of the user to push data to family members and providers of choice. The ability of the prototype to capture and display user reviews of social engagement programming, technologies and apps.
Deployment Approach and Refinement – 25%
- Key evaluation factors shall include: the proposed plan to refine the prototype based on results from user testing and the plan for the clearinghouse to evolve over time informed by experience of users including a Veteran receiving service through the Veteran Directed Care program and the extent to which the prototype has short- and long-term feasibility and sustainability.
- Degree to which the state NWD Systems and ADRCs are utilized as part of the deployment strategy.
How to Enter
Registration for this Challenge:
Beginning June 23, 2020 at 7:15 am EDT, the identified Official Representative (individual, team, or legal entity) may register for this Challenge by sending an email to MENTALHealthChallenge@acl.hhs.gov with the subject line stating ‘MENTAL Health Challenge Registration’. In this email you must identify only one Official Representative for each Challenge registration. The Official Representative must provide a name and email address and, by sending in the registration, affirms on behalf of the Solver (individual, team, or legal entity), that he or she has read and consents to be governed by the Challenge Rules. Registration for this Challenge is due by Sept. 8, 2020 at 11:59 pm EDT.
Questions concerning this Challenge should be sent by email to MENTALHealthChallenge@acl.hhs.gov.
How to Apply for this Challenge:
Submissions for Phase 1 of this Challenge are due by September 8, 2020 at 11:59 pm EDT. The identified Official Representative (individual, team or legal entity) may apply for this Challenge by submitting an application by email to MENTALHealthChallenge@acl.hhs.gov. The application for Phase 1 of the Challenge shall meet the following requirements:
- Entries must consist of PDF files with font size no smaller than 11-point Arial.
- All submissions must be in English.
- Solvers must not use HHS, ACL, OASH, FCC, VA, or other government logos or official seals in the submissions and must not otherwise give an appearance of Federal government endorsement.
Submission details should be sent to MENTALHealthChallenge@acl.hhs.gov:
- Title the email subject line “MENTAL Health Challenge Phase I Proposal”.
- Email sender (person and email address) must be Official Representative/person of contact for the team.
Following documents should be attached:
Proposal cover sheet as PDF
- Solver Official Representative (person of contact) contact information (full name, email, phone)
- Name of organization(s) and all team member(s) submitting entry
- A three-page MAX concept paper describing the design and functionality of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse and User Interface Prototype document as PDF
- Wireframe sketch of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse and User Interface Prototype: The wireframe sketch should be included as either an attachment or included as a link in the body of the email Submission to a clickable website. A one-page document description of the wireframe sketch should be included with the Submission with sufficient information to understand the prototype.
- A URL link and any information needed to access the working prototype of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse and User Interface Prototype.
- A one-page max written description of the proposed plan to pilot the prototype in Phase 2 should the submission be selected as a finalist to move to Phase 2.
- A one-page max written description of the proposed approach to evaluate the prototype during the pilot phase.
Description: The plan and design a social engagement clearinghouse and user interface prototype phase invites all eligible entities to submit a concept white paper outlining their technology, the potential impact for older adults, people with disabilities, racial and minority populations and Veterans that may be socially isolated, the innovative idea / concept behind how their platform could work and leverage existing efforts, and how this is informed by user needs they have identified. Each concept, wireframe, and prototype will be reviewed by a panel of judges with knowledge and expertise in technology, user design and experience. Only the first three pages (inclusive of any visual representations or graphics) of the concept description document will be reviewed along with the wireframe sketch submission and its one page description, the working prototype, and the proposed plan to pilot the prototype in Phase 2. During the Phase I review process, the concept paper, wireframe sketch, and the proposed plan to pilot the prototype in Phase 2 will be redacted for both applicant and any specific organizational partner names referenced (versus broader categories of organizational partners) and reviewed by Federal evaluators screened to avoid conflicts of interest. Judges will review all submissions for Phase 1. A subset of the highest scoring submissions will be asked to be available September 15 through September 22, 2020 to participate in a 45 minute session to present and demo their Social Engagement Clearinghouse with user interface to the judges. ACL will provide additional criteria throughout the various phases to further define requirement expectations.
A panel of judges will review and score submissions between September 8, 2020 through September 29, 2020. Finalists to move to Phase 2 will be notified by September 30, 2020.
Phase 2: Pilot and Test Social Engagement Clearinghouse Prototype
- Participant teams will pilot the prototype in collaboration with at least one Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) and convene in person to demonstrate the user experience with the tool and summarize results achieved during the pilot.
- Winners will present their solution at CES in January 2021.
Finalists will be asked to demonstrate the Social Engagement Clearinghouse with User Interface and submit the results of their pilot and testing of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse Prototype to MENTALHealthChallenge@acl.hhs.gov by December 4, 2020 at 11:59 pm EST. The submission will include:
- A written description of how the Social Engagement Clearinghouse with user interface prototype was modified to address the suggestions from the Phase 1 judges.
- A live demonstration of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse with User Interface prototype. The Phase II awardees (up to 2 Solvers) will be invited to demonstrate their Social Engagement Clearinghouse with User Interface with actual users (older adults, people with disabilities, racial and minority populations and Veterans) in a virtual user testing session the week of December 7, 2020 (exact dates TBD). Solvers selected to participate in phase 2 must participate in the user testing in order to be evaluated.
- The wireframe of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse and User Interface prototype that was piloted. A written description of the wireframe with sufficient information to understand the functionality of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse.
- A three-page max written description of the results of the pilot test of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse Prototype. The written description shall include the numbers of people that used the Social Engagement Clearinghouse, the number of people that were successfully matched to social engagement programming, technology, software and apps. The number of people that enrolled in social programming and/or acquired technology, software and apps through the Social Engagement Clearinghouse, the number of people that participated in the social engagement programming and/or used the technology, software and/or apps, user feedback regarding the usability and functionality of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse, and the functionality of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse and the testing results for each function.
- All of the user testing feedback, data and evaluation information collected during the pilot phase.
- A list of lessons learned through the pilot test and suggested action steps to further develop the Social Engagement Clearinghouse.
- A proposal to scale the Social Engagement Clearinghouse and User Interface over the next 6 months with clear benchmarks.
- ACL will provide additional criteria throughout the various phases to further define requirement expectations.
The top two contenders will be notified December 15, 2020. The winner and runner-up and will be asked to present their solution at the CES 2021. The winner will be announced at the CES 2021 in Las Vegas, NV—January 6-9, 2021.
Point of Contact
Have feedback or questions about this challenge? Send the challenge manager an email