In this phase you will analyze and document the results, outcomes and impact of your incentivized competition. You will evaluate avenues for remaining engaged with your solvers as well as and next steps for high-potential solutions, whether moving them into an "accelerator" or exploring other channels for transitioning prize solutions to procurement.
Continue Community Engagement
After awards are made, it is vital to continue a regular dialog with users and stakeholders. User feedback may be delayed, and unintended consequences may not immediately be realized. It takes time to form new companies and ventures that were incentivized through participation in a challenge. It can also take time for new products to get to market. Also, opportunities for additional follow-on challenges often arise over time. One practice for ongoing engagement is to conduct stakeholder interviews six months and one year after challenge completion. Lessons-learned documents should be updated based on this ongoing feedback. The "Award Nonmonetary Incentives" step outlines many creative ways to reward and incentivize participants. The implementation of these nonmonetary activities may occur over months or years.
If a variety of stakeholders or partners were engaged in the challenge implementation, they will each have expectations for outcomes. Be clear about what will follow and manage those expectations up front to help everyone involved maintain a positive sense that their time and resources are worth investing in the process. Think about how to thank your judges, subject-matter experts and other participants in your challenge—and how you keep them up to date on progress associated with it. Go beyond the "Document the Challenge" step and contemplate how to continue to derive value from the outcomes of the challenge with other challenge partners.
With money already awarded, winners and other participants will no longer have a direct, financial motivation to stay engaged with you. That doesn't mean, however, that they don't want to. By investing time and money into developing their solutions, participants have effectively raised their hands to say they're interested in this work. Make sure you know what will motivate them to continue their work and their dialog with you, and make it as simple as possible for them. Review the variety of incentives detailed in the "Award Nonmonetary Incentives" step for additional ways to motivate your participants. Also ensure that you're implementing the community engagement and capacity building items you developed in the second phase of your challenge.
For example, if you are hoping the innovation will have external impact or even commercial viability, you may find that your innovators need additional assistance with their business plans, market access and other elements. Thinking this through and providing expertise can make all the difference. These additional expert resources can come in the form of mentors, access to official contracts and business support services, deal-making with external investors and much more.
Create a mailing list to help you stay connected to your cohort of participants and winners and let them know when additional opportunities of interest to them might become available. Invite your cohort of winners to events they might not normally be able to access to enable those innovators to continue to develop a relationship with you and each other.
It is also helpful to consider if resources or mechanisms are needed to prevent participants from feeling abandoned once the process ends. They are interested in the outcomes of the process just like you, so consider how you'll keep them informed and engaged.
Though some participants in challenges may have dissimilar innovations or consider themselves competitors, it is more likely that in developing and testing an innovation and tackling challenges in local markets, innovators will address different aspects of a very large problem and will have a great deal of knowledge to share with each other. Thus it can be useful to think of them as a cohort. Bringing innovators together for peer learning can be an effective acceleration activity with many different forms. It can be a stand-alone event or part of an annual program. When considering peer learning activities, involve innovators in your planning process so that these activities are relevant to their interests and needs, timed to optimize participation and geographically feasible to travel to if in-person.
Promoting winners requires communication efforts that extend beyond the winner announcement, especially because the newsworthiness of the innovators' stories will become more interesting to the media, innovation communities, acceleration partners and the general public once the program begins to yield results. Communicating the work of awardees as a cohort, rather than as individuals, can amplify each group's work and creates a wider variety of communications opportunities.
Just as awardees of the program should be treated as cohorts of innovators, non-winners are also an important part of the open innovation communities that your organization's innovation programs are trying to engage. All applicants should be treated as valuable assets. Non-winners of your challenge may be future winners of other challenges; influencers capable of attracting new applicants to future prizes, grants, contracts or other activities; or even organizations that will take an innovation forward by adapting it for another part of the world. Engaging non-winners can and should be included in the communications strategy. Creative, unanticipated collaboration is what open innovation is all about.
Both winners and non-winners can play vital roles in current and future programs, including by
- serving as nodes in a network for promoting future prizes, grants, contracts or other activities and amplifying the messages of the campaign;
- being sources for feedback on future prizes, grants, contracts or other activities before they are finalized so that program teams can make design decisions in the future that better serve nontraditional actors;
- being information resources for problem definition and the state of innovation in target markets or by enlarging the peer-to-peer learning pool;
- constituting the pool of applicants for subsequent rounds of a challenge or other innovation programs; and
- providing public comment on related programs in the future.
Look for ways to inspire innovators to see that they are part of a larger, groundbreaking movement. Consider activities and communication tactics that help awardees view themselves as part of a cohort, unified in the pursuit of piloting and deploying innovations to solve a development problem. The value of their successes and failures may not always be visible in day-to-day implementation; your team should take efforts to make common connections visible.
Try to migrate your new innovation community into a virtual realm. It can be as simple as setting up a Facebook page, a website or a partner platform, but it is critical to continue a relationship with your innovators that moves beyond your email inbox. Decentralizing the community so it doesn't rely on your mediation allows it to grow more organically and on its own after the challenge.