I've embarked on a journey. Along with my friend and colleague, Jeremy Hill, I have begun preparing an entry for the Scripps Innovation Challenge.
The challenge is a "university-wide student competition to create innovative solutions to real-world media and communication problems." Each year, Ohio University's Scripps College of Communication posts several real-world challenges that media organizations are facing. The idea is that students will form teams, and tackle one of the problems over the course of several months. The potential takeaway is $25,000 in prize money, and the chance to further develop your solution with the people in the field who are facing that problem.
There are several challenges, but the one that drew my eye focuses on audience engagement. Mashable has teamed up with the college to provide this particular challenge, and is offering a trip to its Social Good Summit for the best solution.
"[The] Challenge: Come up with a way to intrigue and motivate a connected audience to better interact with publishing sites. The goal is for the publishing site to increase reader feedback that it can use to deepen audience engagement, and for the person offering the feedback to be meaningfully rewarded for their effort."
I recruited Jeremy, the guy in the background of the above photo, to help with the project and we have become quite the dynamic duo. We've adopted a slimmed down Agile operation where we set deliverable goals for each one-week sprint. So far, tasks have included reaching out to specific industry professionals, or finding a certain number of supportive research articles. This week, we are working to create the skeleton of our solution.
The process feels fantastic. There is a real problem that we are creating a real solution to. We set goals each week, and have had some difficulty in meeting them, but we are getting better at setting and working towards completing them. With all the stress of the student paper and school work, having a project you're passionate about makes all the difference.
Over the next few months, I will be talking about the process as much as I can while not giving away our solutions, because it is a competition at the end of the day. The next few weeks will involve finalizing our solution, really figuring out where the weak points are.
I'm excited for the results. Even if we don't end up winning, the practice and process of creating innovative solutions feels right. It's the type of thing I want to be doing in a real newsroom.