Announcing Winners of COVID-19 Challenge Grant Competition

Projects tackle disinformation, improve remote learning, and connecting citizens to community resources.

San Francisco, CA, June 1, 2020 The Aspen Tech Policy Hub, a West Coast-based Aspen Institute policy incubator, announced six winners of its COVID-19 Tech Challenge Grant competition.

The Hub is dedicated to training technologists to achieve social change through policy, whether it be combating a devastating pandemic or mitigating the effects of systemic racism. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for civic technologists to build new tools and policy solutions to support communities in need, the Hub Challenge Grants represent a first effort to give players across the ecosystem the opportunity to propose and execute timely projects. 

In the coming weeks, the Hub will be launching a webinar series revealing work Hub fellows have been doing improve emergency management, reduce race-based discrimination, and more.

The Challenge Grant competition awarded teams of policy-oriented technologists with up to $15,000 each for efforts to help mitigate the short- or long-term effects of COVID-19. Winning projects include a global platform to help journalists track accurate information on the virus and technology to help schools decide when and how to re-open.

These grants will be awarded to experienced technologist teams who propose ideas to mitigate the short and long-term effects of COVID-19. Example projects to be funded might include providing best practices on mitigating cybersecurity risks while small businesses are shut, using emerging technologies such as virtual reality to mitigate effects of social isolation or providing data analysis of real-time COVID-19 information to help health care workers. 

“We’re thrilled at the response that our call to action has received and excited by the impact these tech policy projects will have on informing and connecting the public during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Betsy Cooper, founding director of the Aspen Tech Policy Hub. “We applaud the talented and purpose-driven technologists who are coming together to innovate for communities in need.”

The challenge grants are generously supported by the Ford Foundation and Omidyar Network. Support for the grant application was provided by Screendoor, a product of Citybase Inc.

Our challenge grant winners include:

COVID-19 Data Deficits Dashboard
Team: First Draft (Leads: Tommy Shane & Pedro Noel)

First Draft is building a tool to help journalists and researchers find and identify sources of accurate information on the coronavirus globally. Working with a data scientist, they are building the capability to visualize where existing credible information is flowing and where it is not to inform and guide new coverage of the pandemic.

Suggestion Box – Responsive Redesign for Remote Learning
Team: Nidhi Hebbar & Yusuf Ahmad

The Suggestion Box provides schools with an iterative design toolkit to continuously improve COVID-19 response plans throughout the school year, with frequent involvement from students, teachers, and families. This project will be developed in partnership with school leaders, researchers, and iterative design experts, in addition to students, teachers, and families from a diverse set of schools across the country.

Responsive Messaging for COVID-19 Support
Team: Human Agency (Lead: Brendan Lind)

Millions of people are navigating a rapidly changing and overburdened social safety net for the first time. While major cities have websites and outbound text services sharing crucial information, none are using interactive texting services. Human Agency will deploy an interactive messaging system programmed to help cities communicate with citizens and access the community resources they need.

Cultural Engagement To Mitigate Social Isolation
Team: Michael Peter Edson & Dana Mitroff Silvers   

A diverse group of ten museums, libraries, and performing arts organizations are collaborating to accelerate the development of experimental digital programs to strengthen a sense of connection in their communities. The ten groups across eight states will receive coaching and support for digital strategy, design thinking, creative development, and online engagement techniques.

The CrowdMeter Project
Team: Human Computation Institute (Lead: Pietro Michelucci)

CrowdMeter is an app being developed by the Human Computation Institute to reduce virus transmission by helping people make informed decisions about where and when to run their errands. For example, someone who wants to buy groceries might be willing to drive an extra mile to a different, less crowded store that could be a safer option. The goal is to help achieve a sustainable “new normal” by aligning individual goals with population outcomes.

COVID-19 DataCollector
Team: MuckRock (Lead: Michael Morisy)

Bringing together MuckRock’s network of 3,000 newsrooms and building off of the success of their Assignments crowdsourcing tool, this crowdsourcing platform harnesses civic interest in bolstering quality data on the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 DataCollector will help quickly scale efforts to collect and analyze the data that is needed to inform national policy, original reporting, and community responses to the evolving health and economic crises.