The Need for Challenge Grants!


Image by jim.greenhill via Flickr

Opinion piece posted by Claire B. Rubin

In recent weeks I have noticed two requests for ideas that can use new digital and interactive media to improve some aspect of emergency management. The first was the challenge issued by Craig Fugate for ideas on preparedness, and the second is in the popular blog done by Eric Holdeman, titled Mobile Apps for Emergency Management. Both share the same sentiment – make your good ideas public, essentially giving them away, with no remuneration.  After that, who knows who will pick them up and develop them.

Now, I am a public-service oriented person, and I do a great deal of pro bono work in the EM community. In fact, this blog is just one of many examples. But I have to wonder how many people think this is the way to advance the state of the art and practice of emergency management. As someone who just happens to have quite a few ideas of projects that would be a contribution to EM, I  wonder just how widely held this expectation of a “challenge-with-no-grant” is. ( I would also add that people on salary who expect this pro bono work may not realize that such innovative work often is done by those not on salary.)

So, How about some contests or challenges with a modest incentive – like $10 or 20 K? This would allow independent thinkers and doers to come up with some much-needed projects and products. Several federal agencies have done this and had a return on their investment that was substantial. And businesses use competitions with great success.

In the emergency management and homeland security communities most of the funding goes to large contractors, where the total cost is in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Let’s be fair and let’s be creative.  We need a few good challenge grant opportunities, especially for the newly emerging area of endeavor of applying digital and interactive media to emergency management.

How about some of our readers stepping up to the plate and supporting small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs?  I hope we have some brave leaders out there who will sponsor a challenge.

2 responses to “The Need for Challenge Grants!

  1. Claire, really enjoyed your post! In the spirit of social media and crowdsourcing, InnoCentive would be a place to host…

  2. Claire,

    Great opinion piece. From a private investment side, this type of funding is also lacking. $10 – 20K will go a long way for a developer with a great idea. Without this seed money, it has been challenging, but certainly not impossible starting up DisasterNet ( I hope to add more possibilities with more funding.

    In reading Eric’s piece on mobile applications as well, he offers some thoughts on the future of applications. I look forward to how mobile applications will force us to better think about the segmentation of our audience and how they will drive demand for particular applications.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s