How the Government Engaged the Public to Help Rebuild After Sandy: The Rebuild by Design Competition

Today we’re pleased to share a blog post written by one of our 2016 summer interns, Lauren Shaman, a graduate student at Indiana University.

rebuildbydesignAs the fourth anniversary of superstorm Sandy draws near, let’s take a look at one of the unique ways the government responded to this disaster.  In June of 2013, the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to launch a prize competition to generate ideas on how to rebuild communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  The competition, named Rebuild by Design, offered $200,000 cash prize awards to finalist design teams to develop proposals to increase the resiliency of communities and the region.

To administer and fund the competition HUD partnered with research, advocacy, and philanthropic organizations from the region, which officials stated was critical to the initiative’s success.   This network of partners helped the agency and participating design teams engage hundreds of local stakeholder groups from communities affected by Sandy. Ultimately, HUD selected 6 winning designs and one finalist design, all of which they allocated money to implement. For example, one winning design funded by HUD would create a protective system around the southern end of New York City to shield against floods while also providing social and environmental benefits to the community.

This is just one example of many of how a federal agency is harnessing the expertise of the public to help carry out its mission.

How else do government agencies engage the public?

The government is increasingly using technology to engage with citizens, experts, and organizations to harness their ideas, expertise, and resources to solve some of today’s greatest issues, which is known as open innovation.  But how do they do this?  Our recent report found that there are five open innovation strategies agencies have frequently used.

Listen to Chris Mihm, managing director of our Strategic Issues team, discuss what agencies should consider when choosing among strategies:

You can learn more about the five open innovation strategies and examples of how they’re being used in our newest infographic:

Open Innovation infographic


  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Chris Mihm at mihmj@gao.gov.
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact blog@gao.gov.
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