Bring your best ideas; deadline nears for News Challenge: Health

There are only five days left to submit your idea to News Challenge: Health; it closes Sept. 17 at 5 p.m. ET. As John Bracken and I have toured the country hosting events and talking to people in the field, we’ve gotten a few common questions, and want to tackle them publicly.

There are four, and I’ll answer each in turn. RELATED LINKS 

Data: Why we care” by Esther Dyson

Pizza tracker versus patient tracker” by M. Bridget Duffy

1) What’s in a good application? What should I put in the open text box?

2) What do you mean by “health”?

3) What do you mean by “data and information”? Does all my data have to be public?

4) Who’s reviewing my entry?

1) What’s in a good application? What should I put in the open text box?

We’ve given you a free-form text box to “describe the idea.” Here are the most important tips, drawn from my longer post about how to create a great application.

  • Be absurdly clear about the idea. You’d be surprised how often applications fail to describe the actual idea being proposed. Describe the project as though you were describing it to a stranger on the street with no knowledge of your field or area of interest.
  • Tell us about your users/audience. The best indicator of a strong proposal—and successful project—is having a clear sense of who it’s for, how that group of people behaves, and what they’re currently doing that you can support or change with your idea. Show us your thought process; “the general public” is a vague, uninformative answer.
  • Tell us what leads you to this idea. How do you know your users are experiencing the problem you think they’re experiencing? Give us a sense of your experience, research, testing or whatever you’ve done that leads you to this concept.
  • Introduce the team. We like to know whether people proposing an idea have the skills to get it done. That doesn’t mean you have to have everyone on board already, but if you don’t, let us know how you plan to get them there. Links to previous, relevant work are always good, too.
  • Share assumptions and challenges. We like to see teams that acknowledge and test their own assumptions. The most successful projects do this constantly. Tell us about the assumptions you’re making, the challenges you might face and how you plan to tackle them.

2) What do you mean by “health”?

The most important part of the answer is that our definition is broad. A good place to start getting a little more specific is with the World Health Organization’s definition: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Since we launched the contest, we’ve heard ideas from food access to fitness to diabetes care to environmental data—and all of those fit into our notion of “health.” We try to avoid getting more specific than that because we like to be surprised by what all of you think of when you read our challenge question.

3) What do you mean by “data and information”?

At our core, we believe that democracy is healthiest when we, and the communities we form together, know about what’s going on around us and can participate in shaping it. The News Challenge is about supporting innovative ideas for using news and information—in all its forms, from a journalist’s article to a wearable device—to advance and achieve that vision. In this case, we’re interested in what we can do with the tremendous amount of information we now have about health, from big data sets released by government agencies to individual patient info tracked by devices and doctors’ offices. We’re not just interested in things that crunch big data; we’re interested in every idea that might fit our challenge question. You don’t have to use publicly available data sets, but we are looking for projects that are public-facing in some way; that could be through a report, or through journalism, or through an app or tool.

4) Who’s reviewing my entry?

Our staff reads every application we get, and we make recommendations to our trustees, who select the final winners. But we couldn’t do it without the help of two tremendous groups of outside advisers. The first, our “readers,” help us review the applications as they come in and during the weeklong “feedback” phase that follows. You may find them on the News Challenge site commenting and asking questions on applications; their profile photos are marked to indicate their role. Here are our 10 readers:

We’ll have more on the second group as our final review phase approaches.

You have until 5 p.m. ET Sept. 17 to submit your entry to the News Challenge. You can contact John Bracken (@jsb) or me (@cskopher) on Twitter with questions, or e-mail me. We’re also holding our final online offices hours Monday at 1 p.m. ET. You can access the meeting here (ID 752 815 136), or participate via phone at 888.240.2560.

By Chris Sopher, journalism program associate at Knight Foundation