Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

The Opportunity Project Prize Challenge

Creating digital tools for the public with federal open data

U.S. Census Bureau

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $100,000
Type of Challenge: Software and apps, creative (multimedia & design)
Submission Start: 09/23/2019 09:00 AM ET
Submission End: 11/01/2019 11:59 PM ET

The Opportunity Project Prize Challenge held an open Q&A and informational webinar on Monday, October 28. Dowload the recording.

View the final scoring rubric for the prize.


Key Dates:

  • September 23: Submissions Open
  • November 1: Submissions Due
  • December: Prize winners announced


The Opportunity Project (TOP), a program run by the Census Open Innovation Labs (COIL) at the U.S. Census Bureau, brings together government, communities, and the technology industry to create digital tools that address our nation’s greatest challenges with open data. Through 12-week sprints, TOP challenges technologists outside of government – companies, non-profits, and universities – to create digital tools with Census and other federal open data to expand American economic opportunity.

TOP works with experts from the Census Bureau and other federal agencies to identify high-priority challenges facing the public, and then engages experts from the private and nonprofit sectors through technology development sprints. Each 12-week sprint results in new data-driven tools that directly serve families, local leaders, and businesses. This process helps to empower people with technology, make government data more accessible and user-friendly, and facilitate cross-sector collaboration to build new digital solutions with open data.

Since launching in 2016, 30 federal agencies and over 100 external organizations including companies, universities and community organizations have worked together to create 80 new digital products for the public. These products provide solutions to challenges including the opioid crisis, disaster response, connecting veterans with jobs, promoting STEM education, and more.

TOP supports the Census Bureau’s mission and Title 13 mandate to disseminate data to the public. It is also a component of the President’s Management Agenda — namely, Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Goal 2: Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset, championed by Commerce Deputy Secretary Karen Dunn Kelley, which focuses on utilizing data as an asset to grow the economy, increase the effectiveness of the Federal Government, promote transparency, and make government data more useful to the public, businesses, and researchers. TOP is also a Proof Point within the first ever Federal Data Strategy.

The Problem

Over 9 sprint cycles and nearly 4 years, it has become clear that one of the greatest challenges associated with civic technology development is product sustainability and adoption – in short, what happens to these solutions after The Opportunity Project sprint process. Now, in order to help advance some of the most promising technology solutions developed through The Opportunity Project, the Census Bureau is launching a Prize Challenge to help tech teams deploy their technology solutions, ensure they reach end users and drive impact on the critical problems they aim to solve. This prize challenge is open to teams that have previously participated or are currently participating in The Opportunity Project, and built a digital product with open data through an Opportunity Project facilitated sprint or utilizing The Opportunity Project toolkit, which provides a step-by-step outline for replicating the sprint process. The Census Bureau is conducting this challenge under the authority of and in accordance with the America COMPETES Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 3719.

Challenge Goals and Categories

The Opportunity Project Prize Challenge is a new opportunity for teams who have participated in The Opportunity Project to compete for funding to expand their impact, deploy tools to end users, and begin to or continue to deliver impact on critical problems facing the public.

Because the challenges tackled in The Opportunity Project to date are so broad, COIL has identified five categories that capture a range of critical problems, described below. Teams applying for the prize must submit their product in at least one category, and can submit in up to 2 categories.

  1. 2020 Census: Reaching Hard-to-Count Communities: e.g., products focusing on challenges such as increasing response rates in hard-to-count communities, bridging the digital divide, promoting online self-response through digital literacy, and promoting 2020 Census jobs;
  2. Revolutionizing the Workforce: e.g., products focusing on challenges such as employment, training, education, supporting entrepreneurship, creating multiple pathways for careers, and developing regional talent pipelines for high growth development;
  3. Building Thriving Communities: e.g., products focusing on challenges such as affordable housing, transportation information and infrastructure, public safety, investment in communities, and community infrastructure development;
  4. Creating Resilient People and Places: e.g., products focusing on challenges such as disaster preparedness and response, environmental stewardship, and local address databases to support first responders and other community needs;
  5. Creating the Future of Health: e.g., products focusing on challenges such as the opioid crisis, connecting patients with clinical trials, public health and disease prevention, emotional wellbeing, and tick borne diseases.

**If you missed the May 21 Informational Webinar on The Opportunity Project Prize Challenge, you can view the recording at this link.**


This is a single-phase prize competition in which five (5) prizes will be awarded, totaling $100,000. One $20,000 prize will be awarded in each of the following five (5) categories: 1) 2020 Census: Reaching Hard-to-Count Communities, 2) Revolutionizing the Workforce, 3) Building Thriving Communities, 4) Creating Resilient People and Places, 5) Creating the Future of Health. Each of these categories is described in more detail in the above “Challenge Goals & Categories” section.



This prize challenge is open to any team that has built a digital product in The Opportunity Project, including in 2019, whether through a facilitated sprint, or the digital toolkit. Applicants must:

  • demonstrate eligibility through participating in a TOP sprint or leveraging the TOP toolkit;
  • submit a working digital product (i.e. a product that can be accessed via a web URL or download); and
  • provide documentation of collaboration with end users, federal open data used, and plans for implementation, sustainability, and impact.

Additionally, to be eligible to apply for and win a prize in this Challenge, an individual or entity:

  1. 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.
  2. Must have created a functioning digital product in a facilitated sprint of The Opportunity Project sprint (including any of The Opportunity Project sprints facilitated between 2016-2019) or using The Opportunity Project toolkit (between 2016-2019) by the submission deadline. High-fidelity wireframes such as InvisionApps and other clickable prototypes are not eligible; the product must have a functioning URL or be available for digital download.
  3. Must have created a functioning digital product that uses federal open data. Products that do not use federal open data in any capacity are not eligible for this competition.
  4. Digital products that cannot demonstrate that they were created through The Opportunity Project sprints or toolkit are not eligible.
  5. Must have registered to participate in the Challenge under the rules promulgated by the Census Bureau.
  6. Must have complied with all the stated requirements of The Opportunity Project Prize Challenge.
  7. May not be a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment.
  8. May not be an employee of the Census Bureau.
  9. Federal grantees may not use Federal funds to develop COMPETES Act Challenge applications unless consistent with the purpose of their grant award.
  10. Federal contractors may not use Federal funds from a contract to develop COMPETES Act Challenge applications or to fund efforts in support of a COMPETES Act Challenge Submission.
  11. A product may be disqualified if it fails to function as expressed in the description provided by the participant, or if it provides inaccurate or incomplete information.
  12. If applicable, the proposed application must be HIPAA compliant to be eligible for entry into the challenge.
  13. Must not be currently under contract with the Census Bureau or other federal agency to perform work related to the product submitted for this competition.
  14. An individual or entity shall not be deemed ineligible because the individual or entity used federal facilities or consulted with Federal employees during a challenge, if the facilities and employees are made available to all individuals and entities participating in the challenge on an equitable basis.
  15. Participants may be asked in future stages of this competition to provide additional confirmation of their eligibility. The Census Bureau will determine whether applicants meet eligibility criteria.

Submission Requirements

What to Submit:

Applications for this prize challenge have four (4) required parts and one (1) optional part. To enter this challenge, participants should submit all of the information described below by the deadline, November 1, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Please include Parts 1-3 (i.e., Team Information, Product Information, and Narrative) in a single document. If any responses are missing your application will be considered incomplete. Please include Part 4, and if applicable Part 5, in separate documents. Submit all components of the application package together by email as described in the “How to enter” section.

PART 1: Team information

  1. List the organizations and individuals that contributed to the tech team that built this product. For each individual, please provide name, organization (if applicable), and role in developing the product.
  2. Name one company, organization or individual as the lead organization who will receive the prize funds if awarded.
  3. How and when did this team participate in The Opportunity Project? Please indicate either facilitated sprint or digital toolkit, and year of participation.

PART 2: Product Information

  1. Product Name
  2. Product Access link: Teams must provide a web link to the working product they are submitting. If the solution is web-based, provide a URL and any other access instructions. For example, if a login is required, demo accounts with password should be provided which will enable judges to access all parts of the product. If there are different interfaces (i.e., a separate interface for patient and a different interface for a provider [e.g., physician]) separate logins should be provided. If the solution is a smartphone or tablet-based app, identify a web location to download the application. The product should not be submitted via desktop software that requires installation (i.e.; do not attach an executable software installer as your submission). A submitted digital product must run on at least one of the following: Smartphone, tablet, web or mobile web, desktop computer.
  3. Product Overview: A one-sentence overview of the product that must be in the following specific format: [Product name] uses [federal open data sets] to [solve XX problem] for [end users]. Please do not diverge from this format for the purposes of this section of the application; there are numerous other places to provide open ended descriptions of your product.
  4. In which category (or at most 2 categories) are you applying?
    • 2020 Census: Reaching Hard-to-Count Communities
    • Revolutionizing the Workforce
    • Building Thriving Communities
    • Resilient People and Places
    • Creating the Future of Health

PART 3: Narrative

Applicants must submit a narrative document describing the team’s build process, data used, implementation and sustainability plan, in no more than three (3) pages (minimum 11 point standard font, single spaced, 1” margins, submitted as a .docx or PDF document). This narrative is the team’s opportunity to address elements of the five judging criteria. The sections below are suggested, but the specific items within each are not intended to be exhaustive and applicants are encouraged to include other points they consider relevant to address the judging criteria, within the stated page limits. Submissions exceeding the allowed length may not be reviewed.

  1. Product overview and functionality: Explain how the product works, what problem it was intended to solve, the target end user/audience, and an overview of the user journey.
  2. Design and build process: Describe the process used to design and build this product, focusing in particular on strategies employed for end user engagement and any other notable collaboration around product development or implementation, the timeline along which it was created, and where it is now in the product life cycle. As part of their process, teams should have completed user research, such as in-person interviews, focus groups, needs analysis, ethnographic research, or collation of existing research, which should be described in this section.
  3. Federal open data used: Specific types of federal open data used in the product from the Census Bureau or other federal agencies, and what purpose each data set serves in the product. Applicants may also choose, but are not required to highlight what other state, local, or proprietary data they used in the product.
  4. Target or documented impact: Describe the target end users of this product and the problem or user need it aims to address. What impact do you expect this product will have if it reaches the target users? If the product is already in use, describe its utilization and impact to date.
  5. Product implementation and sustainability plan: Describe how the product has been or will be implemented (i.e. deployed to and used by the target end users), how the product will be maintained in the long term, and how impact will be tracked (qualitatively and quantitatively). If the product is not already live, indicate the planned time to market, and implementation timeframe. This should address the question: when can end users actually begin to use this product, if not currently? This is not intended to be a business/commercialization plan; the product can but does not necessarily need to generate revenue.

PART 4: Collaborator letters of support

Teams must submit at least one (1) and up to three (3) letters of support from collaborators on this project who represent user advocates and/or implementation partners. This can include community-based organizations, state or local governments, national advocacy organizations, unions, direct end users, non-profits, foundations, or other representatives of the target end user. Each signed letter should indicate how this partner collaborated or will collaborate with the applicant on the specified product, should include the collaborators’ contact information (email and/or phone), and must be no longer than one page (minimum 11 point standard font, submitted as a .docx or PDF document).

PART 5: (Optional) Multimedia supporting documentation

Teams have the option to submit an up to 4-minute video or webinar recording that demonstrates the product’s functionality. In place of a video, teams may also submit images or screenshots of the product in a PPT or PDF document of five (5) slides or fewer. Submissions exceeding the allowed length may not be reviewed.

Additional submission guidelines and requirements:

  • Applications must be written in English, follow all page limits and document specifications (for the required narrative, this must be single spaced, minimum 11-point font, 1” margins, page dimensions of 8.5 x 11 inches, submitted as a .doc/.docx or .pdf file).
  • Any material that does not follow instructions may not be considered.
  • Each product should be submitted in at least one (1) and no more than two (2) categories.
  • Applicants must submit a working, interactive application/digital product that uses open government data to address one or more of the challenges in the categories above.
    • Working indicates that the intended features of the product have been created and are currently usable. For example, a clickable prototype that illustrates future functionality, but does not yet provide it to the user, cannot be considered.
    • The product must include interactive functionality for the end user to access and/or use the open data.
    • The product must be capable of being successfully installed and running consistently on the platform for which it is intended, and must function as depicted or expressed in the text description.
    • A submitted digital product must run on at least one of the following: Smartphone, tablet, web or mobile web, desktop computer.
  • Teams applying for the challenge who have participated in The Opportunity Project more than one time may submit multiple products.

Terms and Conditions

By participating in this challenge, participants:

  1. 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 their participation in this prize contest, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise.
  2. Agree to obtain liability insurance, or demonstrate financial responsibility, in the amount of $500,000, for claims by (a) 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, with the Census Bureau named as an additional insured under the registered participant’s insurance policy, and (b) the Federal Government for damage or loss to Government property resulting from such activity.
  3. Agree to indemnify the Federal Government against third party claims for damages arising from or related to Challenge activities.
  4. May not be a judge of the challenge, or any other party involved with the design, production, execution, or distribution of the Challenge or the immediate family of such a party (i.e., spouse, parent, step-parent, child, or step-child).
  5. Applicants must understand that it is their sole responsibility to review and understand their employers’ policies regarding eligibility to participate in this prize challenge. If applicants are participating in violation of employee policies, they may be disqualified from entering and/or receiving prizes. The Census Bureau disclaims any and all liability or responsibility for disputes arising between an employee and their employer related to the competition, and prizes will only be awarded in compliance with the employer's policies.


  1. An application may be disqualified if it fails to function as expressed in the description provided by the participant, if it provides inaccurate or incomplete information, or if any components of the application are missing.
  2. Submissions must be free of malware. Participant agrees that the Census Bureau may conduct testing on the application(s) to determine whether malware or other security threats may be present. The Census Bureau may disqualify the application(s) if, in the Census Bureau’s judgment, the application may damage government or others' equipment or operating environment.
  3. The submitting team must not use government logos or official seals and must not claim endorsement by the Census Bureau or Department of Commerce

Judging Criteria

Judging Panel

Submissions will be reviewed by experts in technology, open data, product development community engagement, user centered design, and the policy issues covered in the prize categories, from federal agencies as well as external organizations.

Judging Criteria

View the final scoring rubric.

Each submission will be scored by multiple reviewers on the following five (5) criteria:

  • Quality + Technical Evaluation (20%): This score focuses on the overall user experience and user interface (UX/UI) design of the product, designing and implementation of product functionality, visual design if applicable, and generally how well the product achieves its stated functionality. This includes questions such as:
    • Does the product have a sufficient number of well-functioning features to serve the end user/use case?
    • Is it user friendly?
    • Does the product employ user interface and code best practices?
  • Cross-Sector Collaboration and Diversity (15%): This score focuses on the team’s build process, and the extent to which “user advocates” and diverse end user perspectives were included in developing the product. This includes questions such as:
    • Was user research conducted to identify specific community or end user needs, and does the product’s functionality reflect those needs?
    • Has the product been tested and iterated upon based on feedback from end users?
    • Do the partner/collaborating end user organizations represent diverse perspective within the overall user audience? Does the product account for diverse needs across communities and offers a solution that is inclusive of many end users within the target audience?
  • Use of Federal Open Data (25%): This score focuses on the extent to which the product uses federal open data creatively and effectively. This includes questions such as:
    • Does the product meaningfully use federal open data sets from the Census Bureau and other federal agencies to solve a problem or deliver value for the end user?
    • Does it creatively align federal data alongside state, local, or other types of data?
    • Does the product present or analyze the data in a new or creative way?
  • Implementation + Sustainability (20%): This score focuses on the team’s stated or demonstrated plans for deploying the tool to end users or an existing user base. This includes questions such as:
    • Does the product have a thorough and realistic implementation plan that includes deploying the product to end users
    • What is the product’s time to market, if it is not currently live and available to users?
    • How sustainable is this product for the team in terms of maintenance and operation, and other considerations?
    • Has the product team deployed the tool to end users, whether directly or via a partner, or have they described a compelling, specific, and feasible plan to do so?
    • Is this product well designed to scale and grow with increasing users?
  • Impact (20%): This score focuses on the team’s documented or planned impact on the target issue and end user community. This includes questions such as:
    • How compelling and realistic is this product’s ability to achieve important outcomes for end users?
    • Does the product directly address the problem statement and community it was built for?
    • If this product is deployed to end users, has it or will it deliver meaningful improvement on an important problem?
    • Has the product team described what metrics it will use or is using to measure the product’s tangible social impact

The Census Bureau reserves the right to choose not to award prizes in one or more categories if a quality threshold is not met.

How To Enter

Each team or individual wishing to participate in this challenge competition can apply by submitting an application package by email to, by 11:59 ET on November 1, 2019. Application materials received after this time will not be evaluated. Submissions can be modified until 11:59 p.m. ET on November 1, 2019. Please note that the latest application package sent will be the only one evaluated. Any questions about this prize challenge can be directed to

Submission Email: