HeroX Designer Derby

Have you got what it takes to design a kickass challenge? Join HeroX’s Designer Derby and see if you have what it takes to join our team!

This challenge is closed


This challenge is closed



Crowdsourcing is everywhere these days.  Companies and organizations crowdsource ideas and solutions to problems for things ranging from trivial and fun (Frito Lay contests have helped determine new potato chip flavors) to tremendously important (Innocentive hosted challenges that helped identify ways to clean up oil from the Exxon Valdez spill).  

Do you ever wonder what goes into designing a good challenge, or think, “that seems cool, I’d like to do that”?  Are you comfortable interacting with a range of clients, able to communicate complicated problems in a clear and straightforward manner, and confident in your problem-solving and facilitation skills?  If so, this challenge is for you.  HeroX is expanding our challenge designer team, and we are looking for a few good designers.

This two phase Designer Derby challenge has a total prize purse of $4500.  In addition to receiving a cash award, winners will design a challenge for a HeroX client that will run on the HeroX platform.  Additionally, winners may be invited to join the HeroX challenge designer team.



In the last 15 years, crowdsourcing in the form of contests, challenges, and grand challenges has moved from a quirky oddity to a mainstream innovation tool.  Large international businesses, numerous government agencies, and major non-profit organizations all routinely use this tool to cost-effectively stimulate innovation in different areas of interest.

In spite of this mainstream adoption of the challenge tool, the art of designing a successful challenge remains a niche skill.  Challenge design requires an interesting amalgam of different skills.  Although challenge designers come to the job with a wide variety of previous experiences, they are all good at facilitation, critical thinking, problem definition, communication, and writing.  Having good attention to detail and a curious mindset are also common attributes.

If you need proof that good challenge design is a skill, the example of Boaty Mcboatface is an excellent cautionary tale.  In 2016, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), a UK government agency, decided to crowdsource the name of their newest scientific research vessel.  The ship was ultimately named the RRS Sir David Attenborough, but the winning name from the effort was Boaty Mcboatface.  At the time and since then, those less familiar with open innovation have highlighted this case as an example of the limitations of crowdsourcing.  All challenge designers look at this as an example of poor challenge design.

Designing a successful challenge is more than just stating the problem or goal and offering a prize.  Things like setting context for and defining the problem, developing the right challenge structure, providing an appropriate prize strategy, as well as providing robust evaluation criteria, all help to ensure that submissions to a given challenge are relevant, credible, actionable, and of high quality.

We can teach challenge design mechanics, but successful designers also need to have other, softer skills to enable successful interactions with clients.  Clients frequently benefit from an objective third party to help them more fully define the problem to be solved, to draw out the unspoken assumptions, and to distinguish between immediate goals and longer term objectives.  This requires good facilitation skills, active listening, and being comfortable with dynamic, client-facing conversations and ambiguous situations.  If this sounds a little bit like consulting, then it won’t be surprising that many challenge designers come from a consulting background.  These skills are critical to information gathering, relationship building, and challenge designs that represent a faithful embodiment of a client’s goals and objectives.

Most challenge designers fall into this role by accident, or from working on other related projects, and they learn the ropes as they successively design more and more challenges.  We are looking for people with the right expertise and experience, who are intrigued by the role, and are interested in learning as they are doing.  If this sounds fun and exciting to you, then join the Designer Derby!  Winners will get to design a challenge for one of our clients, receive top level feedback on their efforts, win a cash award, and may be invited to join the HeroX team on a project-by-project basis.


Phase 1

The deadline to submit to Phase 1 is March 25, 2021.  This Phase 1 submission is your opportunity to introduce yourself to HeroX, to share why you would be a great challenge designer, and to critique a challenge that has already finished.  Additionally, you will be asked to submit a short video where you present a summary of the written information in your submission.  During the submission evaluation period, up to 5 authors of the most compelling submissions will be invited to one-on-one interviews with HeroX team members.  Ultimately, up to 3 submitters will be selected to participate in Phase 2.


Phase 2

Participants in Phase 2 will each be paired with one of our clients, and during Phase 2 you will design a single phase challenge for your assigned client.  To help you be successful, we will provide several support mechanisms.  Prior to working with your client, we will host two training webinars.  These webinars will present an introduction to challenge design, to the HeroX platform, and to how we work with clients.  Additionally, each webinar will have a Q&A session, allowing you opportunities to ask specific questions.  

Once you start working with your client, you will have a HeroX team member alongside to provide guidance and support.  We expect that challenges will be fully designed after 2-3 meetings with the client.  We will provide a template to help you design a complete challenge, and your HeroX partner will ensure that your challenge meets minimum performance expectations.  The challenge you design will be your submission for Phase 2, but you will be evaluated on both the challenge you designed and your interactions with the client.  

We anticipate that it will take 3-4 weeks for each participant to complete her/his challenge design.  Because the timing for each participant/client interaction will be slightly different, winners may not be announced until several weeks after your particular challenge is completed.



All winners will receive a crash course in challenge design, mentoring from a HeroX team member, and the opportunity to design a real challenge with an actual client.  The first place winner will receive $2500, the second place winner $1250, and the third place winner $750.  Winners may be invited to join the HeroX team to design future HeroX challenges on a per project basis.



Challenge LaunchFebruary 9, 2021
Phase 1 Submission DeadlineMarch 25, 2021
Phase 1 Evaluation PeriodMarch 25 - April 22, 2021
Phase 1 Winners AnnouncedApril 27, 2021
Phase 2 Design Period

April 27 - June 22, 2021

(Each participant within this phase will have 4 weeks to design her/his challenge)

Phase 2 Winners AnnouncedJune 29, 2021


Judging Criteria

Phase 1 Judging Criteria



Submission qualityDemonstrates integrity and pride in work.  Submission demonstrates good communication skills and critical thinking.  Content is relevant and responsive.  Writing is clear, compelling, and grammatically correct.  


Why would you be a good challenge designer?Reasons for participating are well-articulated. Experience and expertise are appropriate.  


Challenge case study and critiqueSummary of a selected challenge highlights all its important aspects.  Observations and critique are incisive.


VideoDemeanor is confident and professional.


InterviewDemonstrates good front-facing skills, is comfortable with asserting a differing viewpoint.


Phase 2 Judging Criteria



Company fitWill be a good fit for HeroX culture (see HeroX core values to learn more about our culture).  Will be happy with the nature of the work.   


Challenge design

Structure and mechanics

Challenge design is complete (see Challenge Design Checklist below).  Challenge defines the problem to be addressed, describes what success looks like, and provides appropriate incentives.  


Challenge design

Writing and presentation

Writing is clear, concise, compelling, and grammatically correct.  Content is presented in a straightforward and logical manner.


Client interactions

Communication and demeanor

Interactions with the client are articulate, professional, and personable.  

Client had a positive experience with the challenge designer.


Client interactions

Critical thinking and facilitation

Demonstrates critical thinking and an ability to facilitate productive client discussions.



Participation Eligibility:

The challenge is open to anyone age 18, or older. Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.

No specific qualifications or expertise in the field of crowdsourcing or challenge design is required. Prize organizers encourage outside individuals to compete and present new viewpoints. 

To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement

Registration and Submissions:

Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the website, on or before March 9, 2021, by 5pm ET. No late submissions will be accepted.

Intellectual Property Rights:

Innovators who are awarded a prize for their submission must agree to grant HeroX a royalty free, non-exclusive, irrevocable, world-wide license in all Intellectual Property demonstrated by the winning/awarded submissions. See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for complete details.

Selection of Winners:

Based on the winning criteria, prizes will be awarded per the weighted Judging Criteria section above.

Judging Panel:

The determination of the winners will be made by a HeroX Evaluation Panel.  The panel will consist of HeroX team members. 

Additional Information

  • By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.
  • All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
  • All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.
  • No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.
  • Void wherever restricted or prohibited by law.

Challenge Updates

We are proud to announce the winners of the HeroX Designer Derby!

July 22, 2021, 9 a.m. PDT by Shane Jenkins

This challenge tasked innovators from around the world to present their experience with crowdsourcing challenge design and then for the Challenge Finalists to put their skills into action by designing a real challenge with a real client.

By the submission deadline, we received a variety of talented entries from more than five different countries and were able to select two finalists for the second phase or the Challenge. 

In total, HeroX is awarding $3,750 USD between the two challenge finalists:

1st Place: Tom Haxton - $2,500 USD

2nd Place: Lauren Fell - $1,250 USD

Please join us in congratulating Tom and Lauren for their quality work in the HeroX Designer Derby. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who entered the challenge and who gave their time to promoting the power of crowdsourcing. While we were only able to recognize a fraction of those who entered, there were so many other talented entrants that we are confident many of you will do great things in the future. Thank you all for helping to make this challenge a huge success.

We hope to see you on the next exciting challenge!

The HeroX Team

Check out these additional star Heroes from the Designer Derby!

May 3, 2021, 10:30 a.m. PDT by Shane Jenkins

We want to extend our gratitude to these two talented innovators:

  • Kate Ruston
  • George Bugan

These Heroes were selected as finalists in Phase 1 of our Designer Derby for their displayed familiarity with the fields of crowdsourcing and client interactions. Each of them holds an impressive track record of prior crowdsourcing experience, but they will not be moving onto Phase 2 of this challenge.

That aside, please lease join us in thanking George and Kate for their participation in the Designer Derby and for their sizable contributions to the world of crowd sourcing at large!

Thank you!

Congratulations to our Phase 1 Winners!

April 27, 2021, 10 a.m. PDT by Shane Jenkins

We are excited to announce the Phase 1 winners of our Designer Derby Challenge!

This challenge tasked innovators to present their experience with crowdsourcing and to tell us why they would be skilled candidates for guiding the design process of future crowdsourcing challenges.

These winners were chosen among our pool of applicants to advance to Phase 2 where they will soon cut their teeth on some upcoming HeroX challenges and learn about challenge design from the HeroX team. Let us all join voices in congratulating our Phase 1 winners!

  • Lauren Fell
  • Nick Sawyer

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who entered the challenge. Challenge design requires a unique skill set - a combination of strong client facilitation, critical thinking, and excellent writing. There is an art to asking great questions (and listening closely to responses) to get to the root of a problem and understand the foundation of the challenge. Great challenge designers thrive off of jumping into unfamiliar technical content and translating it into something approachable by outside innovators. Congratulations again to Lauren and Nick!

8 Hours Remaining to Submit!

March 25, 2021, 9 a.m. PDT by Shane Jenkins

If you're still assembling your submission, you have exactly 8 hours left to complete it! 

Here's a Tip: HeroX recommends innovators plan to submit with at least a 3-hour window of time before the true deadline. Last-minute technical problems and unforeseen roadblocks have been the cause of many headaches. Don't let that be you!

Two Day Warning

March 23, 2021, 9 a.m. PDT by Shane Jenkins

This is your official two-day reminder!

That's right, the Designer Derby will be closing this coming March 25th at 7:59 PM Eastern Time (New York/USA).

Please be sure to complete your submission form well before the exact cut-off time. 

At exactly 7:59 PM ET, we can no longer accept new submissions! 

Got questions?

Now is the time to speak up! Comment directly on this update with any questions about the submission process and we'll get back to you right away!

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