2016-17 Challenges


1. The Diabetes Institute at Ohio University

Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), or more commonly called, diabetes, is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin. Diabetes is a devastating disease that affects more than 29.1 million Americans, that is about 1 out of every 11 people. Alarmingly, it is estimated that 8.1 million of the 29.1 million are undiagnosed, which is problem since, left untreated, diabetes can cause a number of significant health complications. Moreover, another 86 million Americans have a condition known as prediabetes. Without lifestyle changes, 15% to 30% of people with prediabetes will develop diabetes within five years.

In the Appalachian region, and particularly southeastern Ohio, the rates of diabetes and obesity have been increasing every year, and rates are higher than many other areas in the state and the nation. Thus, increased screening, awareness and prevention measures are urgently needed for this region. Importantly, this population encounters a number of external obstacles creating unique challenges to improving their health, such as limited access to healthcare, low health literacy, poverty, as well as limited access to healthy food, transportation, and physical activity facilities. These same factors also create barriers to the awareness of and participation in health services in addition to the lack of available/affordable media outlets (ex. Newspaper subscription), lack of internet access, and a sense of fatalism that pervades the culture.

November is recognized by many organizations as Diabetes Awareness Month. The American Diabetes Association recognizes it as “American Diabetes Month”, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease recognizes it as “National Diabetes Month” and the International Diabetes Federation recognizes November 14th as “World Diabetes Day”. The Diabetes Institute at Ohio University is committed to bringing awareness, screening and education for diabetes prevention and management to this Appalachian region. As such, over the past three years, the institute has celebrated the month with a variety of events catering to the Ohio University faculty, staff and student population as well as the Athens school districts and communities. Unfortunately, to date, we have not been able to get significant participation by the community and, in particular, community members outside of the city of Athens. The reasons are likely related to the many factors mentioned above related to the barriers faced for awareness and participation. However, as a relatively new event to the region, it is also possible that our approach to reaching the public is inadequate. 

 The Challenge

Create an awareness campaign specific to the Diabetes Institute and the Ohio University Brand that will reach community members in Athens County and, if possible, its seven surrounding Appalachian counties. Create an innovative solution that will be specifically crafted for the persons living in the Appalachian region (e.g. incorporate area cultural beliefs/practices, suitable for lower health literacy levels). The target audience is adults with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes and those caring for someone with diabetes. The solution should include and encourage populations with limited access to technology to participate. The innovative solution can target a specific event or events (e.g. diabetes screenings, foot screens, eye exams) offered to the community during that month or it can be a general awareness campaign about screening and preventing the condition that would be rolled out that month. You must provide a budget for the costs for developing, marketing and implementing the campaign and any associated events.

Special Incentive Prize

Two students from the team with the best entry for this challenge will be reimbursed for up to $1000 towards travel to present at a rural health-related conference.  (Examples might be: the 2017 Appalachian Translational Research Network (http://appalachianresearch.org/), the Annual Health Educator's Institute Conference for Ohio (http://www.ohiosophe.org/calendar/icalrepeat.detail/2016/10/20/674/115/health-educator-s-institute), the Primary Care Research Group Conferences (http://www.napcrg.org/Conferences/FutureConferencesCalendar), or the American Diabetes Association annual meeting.

The team with the best entry for this challenge will also be invited to present at the Diabetes Institute Executive Board, the Diabetes Institute membership meeting or the Diabetes Institute Diabetes Summit. 

2. Foundation for Appalachian Ohio

Appalachian Ohio is in the midst of a battle with generational poverty. A great many of our citizens face barriers to educational, economic, and essential quality of life opportunities. At the root of these many challenges, we find a gap in philanthropic support that thwarts efforts to solve deeply-rooted challenges.

Citizens in Appalachian Ohio’s 32 counties have access to only $762 in per capita philanthropic support while Ohioans outside of our region have access to $7,437. This means fewer scholarships are available to our graduating high school seniors, fewer programs to help struggling families, less support for public safety concerns, and less investment in and exposure to the arts in all forms. Closing this philanthropy gap will unleash the potential of our region by creating the grant dollars that nonprofits, schools, and communities in Appalachian Ohio so desperately need to advance their missions and make a lasting difference.

Foundation for Appalachian Ohio Funding Graphic

Community philanthropy provides an opportunity for many donors to give to causes that are most important to them – arts and culture, community and economic development, education, environmental stewardship, or health and human services – while joining together for greater impact. For many people who grew up in Appalachian Ohio but have since moved away, they have never had an opportunity to give back to their home communities. They identify deeply with their hometown or county and would want the opportunity to "grow home” through charitable giving, if they only knew that community foundations are now locally creating opportunities for local citizens and communities through the investment of permanent philanthropic resources.

The Challenge

As a nonprofit, regional community foundation for Appalachian Ohio, the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is driven by its mission to create opportunities for the region’s citizens and improve the overall quality of life through philanthropy. How can the Foundation identify, communicate, and encourage charitable giving from former citizens of Appalachian Ohio who have left the region in the past 20 – 50 years? What innovative tools, technologies, and strategies can create connections with these adults that would educate and encourage them to invest through charitable giving in order to shape the future of their hometowns and communities? What resources and financing would be required to implement your solution?

Special Incentive Prize

Members of the team with the best entry for this challenge will be invited to present their idea to the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio Board of Trustees, staff, and local community fund representatives for consideration.

3. Natural Resources Defense Council

 The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is one of the nation’s largest and most influential environmental organizations. In 2015 the nonprofit group spent more than $133 million on programs and advocacy, meaning that it must constantly be working to raise operating funds.

NRDC both educates and advocates. It has roughly 2.4 million members and online activists, and it often wages court battles to press for enforcement of anti-pollution laws. Its programs are wide-ranging, focusing on things like restoring marine vitality in the oceans, promoting energy efficiency, reducing harmful chemicals in foods and protecting the planet from dangerous air pollution and global warming. 

Because NRDC is involved in so many environmental issues, and because it has such a large base of members and others who are concerned about environmental issues, it has a huge potential fundraising base. A high percentage of NRDC’s donations are from individuals who give modest amounts (the average donation in recent months has been between $50-100). And many of those who make donations do so several times a month, indicating they’re passionate about the environment and support NRDC’s work. Because NRDC’s programs are vast and ever-expanding, it must work hard to sustain its revenue stream from contributions while finding creative new ways to solicit donations.

Direct mail and email fundraising continue to be key drivers of NRDC’s fundraising. But it wants to expand and diversify its fundraising sources and sees potential in other digital media avenues. For example, NRDC is an early user of Facebook’s new “Donate” button for nonprofits.

The Challenge

Create innovative fundraising methods, tools or strategies using new media products and/or features. These might include developing new ways to use Facebook’s “Donate” button. Or, you might explore new opportunities for using the “Click to Buy” features that already exist with Snapchat and Instagram (which, for example, NRDC already uses to urge followers to sign petitions: https://www.instagram.com/nrdc_org/ and https://www.facebook.com/nrdc.org). Or, you might explore the use of other platforms like Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Vine, Tumblr, Foursquare or interactive gaming. Your challenge solution must be truly innovative, not simply a knockoff of a tool or strategy used by similar organizations seeking donations. Your solution also must be uniquely geared to those who care deeply about the environment and are therefore most likely to want to donate in support of NRDC’s programs. Finally, you must explain how much your innovative solution will cost in terms of development, marketing, implementation and maintenance. Your overall goal: An innovative challenge solution that helps NRDC raise money.

 Special incentive prize

For the best entry tackling this challenge, NRDC will provide an all-expenses-paid trip for up to three team leaders to its offices in either Washington, D.C., or New York City, depending on which office is more closely aligned with the winning challenge entry. For each of the three team members, NRDC will cover round trip airfare from the airport most convenient to Athens (Columbus), a night’s hotel stay and three meals while the team members are in Washington or New York. During the day of their visit, the team members will spend time with NRDC communications staff involved in some aspect of the challenge project, offering a window into NRDC and the organization’s communications work

 4.  Ohio Association of Broadcasters

 The broadcast industry has a rich history of serving the public by providing important news and public safety information, offering coverage of local sporting events, and entertaining listeners and viewers of all ages. Even with the explosion of available media options, over-the-air radio and television remains important to Americans. AM and FM radio reaches 93% of Americans on a weekly basis, and 87% of American adults watch television each week. 

That said, the evolving media landscape is driving innovation and new technologies in the broadcast industry. Local radio and television stations must meet their listeners and viewers where, when and how they want. In addition to broadcasting over-the-air, stations are delivering content online and via social media sites. The industry is also investing in cutting-edge technologies. For example, a new standard for television broadcasting will be launched in the next few years which will deliver ultra high-definition TV, along with interactivity, personalized services, mobility and more. Radio stations continue to innovate with HD radio, which offers crystal clear sound and additional channels, as well as hybrid FM radio, which provides interactive opportunities and allows listeners to stay tuned on their mobile devices.  

These innovations provide a wealth of career opportunities for young professionals with journalism, marketing, creative and technology-related training, particularly those with an interest in serving the public. Studies show a large percentage of students who seek broadcast industry careers still want to be seen or heard on air. But the emergence of these innovative technologies has created a sharp increase in new behind-the-microphone opportunities for broadcast careers with specializations in areas like online sales, marketing, advertising, digital audience analytics, electronic technical support, and multimedia producing. 

 The Challenge

Develop an innovative product or communication strategy aimed at college students to increase awareness and interest in these many new career opportunities that are opening up beyond traditional over-the-air broadcasting. Your solution may rely upon the full range of existing apps, devices and platforms. But it must be truly novel in the way it targets and engages students who might be intrigued by a career in “new” forms of broadcasting. In addition to journalism students, these might include those with non-broadcast specializations in business, advertising, information and telecommunications systems or engineering. Ideally, your product or strategy will not only identify these potential students, but also will offer ways for them to learn about these new broadcast career opportunities and immediately engage with industry professionals who might be interested in hiring them.

Your solution must be far more creative than simply offering a new version of the many searchable broadcast industry job boards that already exist. Instead, you should think about a solution that employs interactive gaming, for example. Or, your solution might rely on popular communication or networking platforms like Snapchat, Foursquare or LinkedIn. Or, you might explore using geolocation apps that could connect interested students with recent broadcast industry hires in the same zip code who can provide career guidance. The key is to employ technologies and strategies in truly innovative ways to increase the number of young people pursuing careers in the rapidly changing broadcast industry. You must explain the cost of developing and promoting your idea, as well as how it can produce revenue that yields a profit or, at a minimum, pays for itself.

Special Incentive Prize

Members of the team with the best entry for this challenge will have the opportunity to present their innovative solution before the Ohio Association of Broadcasters’ Board of Directors, which includes top executives from broadcast outlets throughout the state.

5.  Scripps Howard Company – Newsy

Building brand awareness among target audience is a challenge every business faces. This is particularly true within digital media, where thousands of news and information brands vie for consumer mindshare across a rapidly expanding array of video distribution platforms. Newsy, a wholly owned subsidiary of The E.W. Scripps Company, is a video news network built to inform and engage millennial consumers by delivering today’s top stories across a variety of platforms. Its content is available on many of the leading over-the-top devices and services such as Roku, Apple TV, Sling TV, Amazon Fire TV, Watchable from Comcast, Pluto TV and Google Chromecast; connected televisions including Panasonic, VIZIO and Samsung models; mobile apps for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire; Amazon Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices; and at newsy.com. Even with its broad and growing distribution, Newsy does not yet have the name recognition of other millennial-focused news brands such as BuzzFeed News, Vice and Vox. As a result, consumers may not think to look for Newsy content on the platforms they already use for streaming movies, television shows and other video content.

 The Challenge: 

So-called “word-of-mouth” marketing has been used for a long time. In its most basic form, you build awareness of a product by telling two friends, who tell two friends, and so on. In today’s Digital Age, social media is widely employed by companies and organizations to quickly build enormous brand awareness using this timeworn “friends telling friends” word-of-mouth marketing approach. It’s highly effective. Studies show that consumers are most likely to trust recommendations from friends, family and colleagues.

Your challenge is to come up with an innovative communication strategy or set of tactics to build brand awareness for Newsy among millennial consumers primarily by leveraging social media and word-of-mouth referrals. You may rely in part on paid media (print or broadcast ads) or “paid word-of-mouth” (example: paying people to blog about your product). But the thrust of your idea must rely on low-or-no cost social media to build awareness. While you are expected to offer a solution that aides Newsy, your proposed solution should be adaptable to other websites (and their mobile platforms) seeking increased brand awareness among millennials. And, importantly, it must be truly innovative.

You may rely on the full range of social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Periscope, Vimeo, Digg, Reddit, etc. And you may use devices and schemes employing incentives, badges or rewards. You also may wish to use interactive gaming to entice consumers to visit Newsy, engage them and convince them to tell others about it. Your idea must go beyond merely collecting information about those who might become loyal to Newsy. Rather, your goal is connecting with consumers in a way that builds a large, loyal audience. 

Special Incentive Prize

The team judged to have the best solution to this challenge will be awarded free transportation and room and board for three team members to travel to Cincinnati to attend the 2017 Scripps Howard Awards ceremony, where you will watch some of the best journalists in the country be honored. The team members will also get to meet with staffers at the headquarters of Scripps and present their recommendations to Newsy’s leadership team and employees from Scripps Digital marketing.


WPCO-TV (Channel 9) in Cincinnati is an ABC affiliate television station owned by the E.W. Scripps Co. Its website, WCPO.com, offers free content. In 2014, WCPO.com launched a premium subscription service called WCPO Insider. For a fee (the regular price is $50 a year), you become a member of WCPO Insider and gain access to an enhanced level of stories and information far beyond what is offered for free on WCPO.com. Stories on WCPO.com marked by a “+” are available in full to WCPO Insider members only. In addition, WCPO Insider members receive special discounts on a wide variety of products and services. For example, you can get $20 off your first Uber ride; a free introductory class at a local fitness center; a free donut every month at a local donut shop; half-off tickets to local college sports events; or reduced price tickets for concerts featuring major recording stars. Being a WCPO Insider member also gives you a free digital subscription to The Washington Post.

 WCPO.com (and by extension, WCPO Insider) is fully optimized for mobile devices and is accessible from any device with a web browser. Members can gain access through iPhone, iPad and Android operating systems.

Having readers pay to become WCPO Insider members produces revenue and deepens WCPO’s engagement with its audience. And the access fee, plus the many discount arrangements with advertisers, combine to generate extra revenue for WCPO.

The Challenge

 Come up with a solution that uses geocoding technology that would benefit WCPO Insider members in new ways.

This should include how members could instantly learn about news that has occurred in a specific location in their community. In addition to news stories, what other information could WCPO provide that would be of value (such as geolocated crime reports)? How would WCPO collect and disseminate such information? How could members filter the stories and information? How might they share it in a way to encourage others to become members? Your challenge solution should spell out the resources needed for these new offerings, and how much those resources will cost (things like additional staffers, marketing, technical equipment or develop). 

In addition, what extra value can you provide for member deals beyond the kinds that already are being offered to WCPO Insider members? And how would a WCPO Insider member deal differentiate itself from those being offered by any other geolocation-based deal sites that exist?

 The overall goal is to use geocoding to deepen engagement with WCPO Insider members and, in the process, generate revenue. In tackling this challenge, you should think broadly and creatively. How might geocoding be used for sporting events (example: a baseball trivia game for all WCPO Insider fans seated in a section of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, with special rewards or discounts for the first to provide the correct answers?) Or, how might geocoding be used to identify historical events that occurred where a WCPO Insider member is located, along with a trivia contest that provides rewards or discounts to area commercial establishments like restaurants, historical museums, or retail shops.

Your challenge solution must be based on geocoding but may rely on other innovative technologies that exist. However, your solution must truly be innovative in the sense that it is unique in its creativity. And while your proposed solution need not be fully tested and operational, you must offer a detailed explanation of how it will work. Finally, while you are expected to offer a solution that aides WCPO Insider, your proposed solution should be adaptable to other websites (and their mobile platforms) interested in using geocoding to provide localized content that can help produce revenue.  

Special Incentive Prize:

Members of the team with the best entry for this challenge will be able to tour WCPO and present their winning idea before members of WCPO's leadership team as well as WCPO’s innovation committee.

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