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About the SC2 Hartford Challenge

The goal of the SC2 Hartford Challenge is to obtain a detailed, feasible, and sustainable plan for the City of Hartford that will include comprehensive strategies and systems to attract, identify, assist and retain:

Effective economic development requires leadership, fresh thinking and citizen engagement. As part of the Obama Administrations Strong Cities Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative, and through a competitive process, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) selected Hartford to host the SC2 Hartford Challenge. This program is designed to strengthen local government capacity by encouraging multidisciplinary teams to develop innovative strategies that spur Hartford’s economic growth.

The City, thanks to funds awarded by the EDA, will offer a total of $900K in cash awards for winning strategies that deliver local, feasible, and sustainable economic development plans that establish Hartford as the city for entrepreneurs.

  • The most likely to succeed first-time and serial entrepreneurs as they start and grow companies.
  • Stage II companies having the potential to grow significantly with new techniques, innovations and improvements.

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The SC2 Hartford Challenge


The Big Picture

Effective economic development initiatives and actions require leadership, fresh thinking and citizen engagement. Through a competitive process, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) selected Hartford to host the SC2 Hartford Challenge. This program is designed to strengthen local government capacity by encouraging multidisciplinary teams, comprised of people like you, to develop innovative strategies that spur Hartford’s economic growth.

The City, thanks to funds awarded by the EDA, will offer cash rewards for winning strategies that deliver local, feasible, and sustainable economic development solutions. The competition is open, fair and transparent. You are encouraged to form a team and enter the competition. Please note: The cost to compete is entirely yours. Credible authorities will score submissions and provide feedback. By participating, you will connect to others who are focused on solving the same challenges, and you will meet and share ideas through live chat forums, discussion threads and team building exercises. And, you have the opportunity to win cash awards from a total pool of $900,000 in the two phases of the competition.

The SC2 Challenge is a new approach to government. Rather than hiring a firm to develop a plan, we are asking people who might not otherwise participate to offer their best and brightest solutions. When multidisciplinary teams compete, it brings new perspectives to an entrenched set of problems. For many, this means having a voice in planning the future of their own communities. For others, it means developing ideas with people around the world—a banker in London or a computer scientist in Singapore. Each team contributes to the pool of ideas, and winning plans will be selected for cash awards and recognition. City leaders will select those solutions that meet Hartford's specific needs.

At the outset, it is important for you to understand the Rules that govern the SC2 Hartford Challenge. They are an extension of the Terms & Conditions that you accept by using this Website. You will have opportunities to meet other participants who are attempting to solve the same or similar problems, and you are required to conduct yourself appropriately. By entering the SC2 Hartford Challenge, you are joining a community of citizens who are all working towards better conditions for our City.

For updates and breaking news regarding the SC2 Hartford Challenge, please visit our Press page.

Form Your Team


Hartford is joined by Greensboro, NC, and Las Vegas, NV in offering SC2 Challenges. You may only join one team per City (see Rules). While each City requires you to develop a customized solution based on local needs, all prize competitions use the same framework. You and your team members will develop concepts that comply with specific instructions. A panel of community leaders, using a common scoring tool, will judge your submission. As described below, the framework provides you with enough flexibility to develop your most creative and ambitious solutions.

You must register to participate in the SC2 Hartford Challenge. Once registered, you are encouraged to form a team. Research indicates that prize competitions are more likely to produce optimal results when a wide variety of disciplines are involved, particularly those not typically associated with the target problem. In other words, you stand a better chance of winning when you invite team members who do not ordinarily focus their attention on economic development and planning, but who offer specific experience and rigorous skills that may transfer from one field to another. Teams should incorporate a multitude of disciplines consistent with achieving the goals set forth by the SC2 Hartford Challenge. Start thinking of whom you want to invite—participants who may understand what it takes to create a plan for the city of Hartford that is feasible, implementable, and sustainable. It may be helpful to consider what is required to participate and to build a team around the skills necessary to successfully respond to the challenge.

After you register, you will develop a user profile, and you will have the opportunity to "nominate" colleagues to join your team. After your user profile is activated, you can chat with team members, join discussion threads and use the Website to communicate your needs in other ways. One objective of the SC2 Hartford Challenge is to foster a strong sense of community—a team of problem solvers, people who are dedicated to competing and collaborating.

To see examples of active communication among the participants, please visit our Forums, where you can read about key topics, witness teams answering questions, and learn more about what's happening on any given day.

By registering, you agree to comply with specific Terms & Conditions and Rules governing each phase of this prize competition.

Develop Your Proposal


The SC2 Hartford Challenge has two phases. During phase I, the City’s goal is to attract proposals from qualified, multidisciplinary teams. A panel of community leaders will evaluate initial proposals. These community leaders possess extensive experience working with entrepreneurs.  Phase I winners will be selected and awarded cash prizes totaling $100,000. The winning teams may use those funds to further develop their proposals into formal plans. After Phase I, a select group of Finalists (including the top three winners) will be named and will advance to Phase II. Those Finalists will develop more comprehensive Economic Development Plans, to build a roadmap to Hartford's success.

Here is more detail:

Phase l

In the first phase, your team will submit one Economic Development Proposal (Proposal) to establish Hartford as TheCity for entrepreneurs. Your Proposal must meet specific criteria and formatting requirements per the Proposal Instructions.

Your Proposal must identify and address ways of leveraging the City’s existing resources and assets as well as identify necessary new or enhanced resources. It may address ordinances and policies that may impact entrepreneurs relocating into the City, such as transportation, housing, workforce education, taxes, etc. It should define potential impediments to entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as methods for overcoming them.

Winning Proposals will include the following preliminary components:

  • Sustainability and operational plans
  • A budget with sources and uses of both private and public investment
  • Plans for recruitment and branding/marketing
  • Curriculum for technical capacity programming
  • Designs for infrastructure and equipment

The purpose of these submission criteria is to provide the City with a cursory understanding of the team's approach.

Where possible, each Proposal should leverage and enhance Hartford’s existing strengths. To date, private partners have launched successful organizations and programs that support entrepreneurs in the following areas:

  • Social Enterprise – Commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being. Private, for-profit corporations operate with a civic reinvestment mission.
  • MakerSpace – Community workspace that incorporates machinery, technology and shared resources for users to prototype their ideas and applications.
  • Immigrant Entrepreneurs and International Investment – Attracting and assisting immigrants to overcome inhibitors to starting and growing businesses. The City is designated an EB-5 approved jurisdiction, which allows foreign investment in new commercial enterprises. The City also hosts to two active foreign consulates and an international airport. Respondents are encouraged to study City demographics and understand the City’s available assets to support and enhance foreign and immigrant investment.
  • Food Manufacturing and Distribution – Hartford has a strong identity with food manufacturing and distribution. A small representation of companies in this industry calling Hartford home including: Culinary and hospitality schools, a large-scale baking manufacturer that serves 216 national chain locations, tortilla chip manufacturing for the nation’s leading brands, nationally recognized coffee brand, produce distribution, a West Indian baked goods manufacturer and regional farmers markets, among others.
  • Investor Incubator   – Providing technical capacity programming can teach interested parties how and where to invest locally. Teams should consider utilizing other programs that encourage and facilitate investment.
  • Arts and Digital Design – Hartford has a vibrant and active artistic community. Artists are entrepreneurs and the City would like to support their unique needs. Additionally, several corporations that provide broadcast and telecommunications services operate in the Hartford region. Consider how to attract and support firms and industries, such as movie production, including sound, music and foley art.

These strengths are not exclusive of one another. A successful Proposal will consider how one entrepreneur may leverage several or all of the above. Teams are also encouraged to consider alternative concentrations, such as biomedical, aquaponic farming, defense and aerospace manufacturing, etc.

Each complete Proposal will include a detailed Project that embodies your strategic approach. The purpose of including a specific Project is to showcase your talent for being concrete and pragmatic. You must include budgets, timelines, projected returns on the proposed investment and measurable impact. Think short-term and long-range. Judges from the Evaluation Panel will rank the Proposals, identifying up to three winning teams who will receive cash prizes. Then, a group of Finalists (including all three Phase I winners) will be invited to participate in the second phase. So, while Hartford will provide cash awards for up to three winners, additional teams may be selected to advance to the second phase. In any case, every team that submits a complete Proposal will receive detailed feedback from the Judges, to ensure that every effort is awarded with serious consideration from credible experts. 

Phase I prizes are:

  • 1st place:      $60,000
  • 2nd place:     $30,000
  • 3rd place:      $10,000

Phase ll

In the second phase, Finalists will expand upon their Proposals by developing a more comprehensive Economic Development Plan (Plan). Requirements for final Plan submissions will include community engagement and other deeper considerations not required in the Proposal writing process (see below). An effective Plan will provide actionable goals and objectives in the context of a deeper analysis of local and regional trends. Plans will focus on requirements that lead to implementation. A separate Selection Committee will determine the winning teams who will receive final cash prizes. Finalists will receive detailed feedback after each Plan has been scored.

Phase II prizes are:

  • 1st place:       $500,000
  • 2nd place:      $100,000
  • 3rd place:       $ 75,000
  • 4th place:       $ 50,000
  • 5th place:       $ 50,000
  • 6th place:       $ 25,000

Below are the instructions to submit a Proposal and a Plan. Also, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA), has provided a set of tips, to showcase key elements of effective strategies. These documents, both for Phase I and Phase II, will ensure that you have every opportunity to understand Hartford’s expectations and what is required to deliver the best possible final product:


You have the opportunity to spend more than fifteen (15) months focusing on Hartford's needs. Here is the detailed timeline with key deadlines and phases, so that you may better coordinate your effort: 

You are provided the first eight (8) months to develop your Proposal. However, you must register your team within the first six (6) months. The registration deadline allows prize administrators to calculate the need for any additional judges over the remaining two (2) months, to ensure that everyone will receive sufficient attention and feedback. After the deadline for submitting Proposals, Hartford staff will review each Proposal to ensure that it complies with the instructions before distributing those complete Proposals to members of the Evaluation Panel. Panel members will spend between one to two (1-2) months reading, commenting on and scoring all of the completed Proposals. At the end of that process, the top three (3) teams will receive cash prizes. Also, each team will have the opportunity to see what the Judges remarked about their work. From the top ranking teams, a group of Finalists will advance to Phase Two. Those Finalists will spend five (5) months developing more comprehensive Plans. During that process, members of the Selection Committee may invite the Finalists to present their working concepts and can coordinate opportunities to interact with each team (e.g., interviews, presentations, public roundtables, etc.). Following the deadline for submitting Plans, a Selection Committee will spend one (1) month scoring the final results. They will use the same scoring tools as the Evaluation Panel, a copy of which is available here for your review. Once they have determined the top six (6) scoring teams, those Finalists will receive the final cash prizes. The winners will be announced at the close of the final judging period.

Any requests for winning teams to participate in one or more awards ceremonies will be scheduled separately. 

Submit Your Proposal


The SC2 Hartford Challenge is powered by citizens. For each phase, reviewers who represent community leaders and highly credible officials will volunteer their time and talent to help Hartford. You can learn more about each of their credentials at

Teams will submit their Proposal to the Evaluation Panel during the first phase. If your team is invited to participate in the second phase as a Finalist, then you will submit a more comprehensive Plan that delves further into the planning process and provides more detail to the Selection Committee. Members of the Evaluation Panel and the Selection Committee will ensure that team submissions comply with Proposal and Plan Instruction requirements. They will use a common scoring tool to rate each team's submission. To provide absolute clarity for how judges will consider your submission(s), you may test-drive their scoring tool.

The purpose of providing you with the scoring tool is to ensure that you understand the specific instructions and requirements expected of each Judge. Again, The SC2 Hartford Challenge intends to adhere to a completely transparent process thus enabling you to develop your Proposal(s) and Plan(s) to match the scoring criteria. Please spend some time reviewing the judging criteria.

(0 - 5)
Does the Proposal/Plan take into account local economic conditions, focusing on existing and potential competitive advantages, in its recommended solutions? Is the Proposal/Plan expected to result in direct economic benefits to the city and its surrounding area? Does the Proposal/Plan identify local assets, economic strengths and weaknesses, and describe how the city can leverage assets and strengths to result in economic benefits?
Failed to recognize any unique conditions in the City; recommendations could have applied to anywhere...Paid basic attention to general conditions but not based on any specific City need. Recognized local conditions and demonstrated an understanding of the economic climate.Paid attention to specific City needs and focused on targeted economic issues.Grounded by a detailed understanding of the needs of the City and its people.


(0 - 5)
Can the Proposal/Plan yield practical and concrete results in a realistic timeframe that justify the level of required investment, addressing likely obstacles, such as resources available to the city? Does the Proposal/Plan identify economic development strategies that are achievable using existing city resources, or propose ways in which the city can utilize nonexisting/currently unidentified resources to implement these economic development strategies? Does the Proposal/Plan outline a timeline by which the city can develop actionable strategies to implement the ideal contained in the Proposal/Plan?
Misguided by an optimistic understanding of obstacles and underestimated the effort required to deliver results.Addressed basic obstacles to general recommendations but not with specific or realistic tasks.Demonstrated a realistic and efficient level of effort and attention to detail.Addressed specific obstacles with recommendations tied to detailed, measurable and cost effective tasks.Guided by practical and concrete recommendations; considered timing, funding, return on investment and measureable outcomes.


(0 - 5)
Is the Proposal/Plan offering a fresh and forward-looking approach that will lead to a clear set of strategically-aligned goals that other economic development initiatives have failed to deliver? Are the ideas and strategies submitted in the Proposal/Plan duplicative of existing plans or strategies being utilized by the city? Does the Proposal/Plan outlay strategies that propose to utilize city resources in more effective and efficient ways to realize the city's economic development goals?
Promoted style over substance or lacked new and original methods with not enough practical thinking.Raised novel and interesting concepts but failed to tie approach to clear outcomes.Delivered new and different methods with focus on concrete goals and improving outcomes. Raised creative and new ideas that offer a clear roadmap to improved conditions.Introduced ground breaking and advanced thinking that exceeds the promise of any previous approach.


Judges are asked to consider only those submissions with local, feasible and innovative traits. Those labels are clearly defined through a series of questions that each Judge is asked to consider, and as they rate your submission they are provided even more specific direction for what defines a particular range of scores for a particular trait. For example, if a Judge is considering a score of 3.2 for the trait Feasible, then he/she agrees that your proposed solution “addresses specific obstacles with recommendations tied to detailed, measurable and cost effective tasks." We hope that by providing you with the common scoring tool, you will consider those definitions when developing your Proposal and Plan.

Each submission will receive five (5) reviews from separately assigned Judges. Specific members of the Evaluation Panel, who are assigned to judge your Proposal, will be anonymous, but – if you are invited to the second round – each member of the Selection Panel, who will review each Plan, will be identified. To ensure that every team is treated fairly, the members of the Evaluation Panel assigned to review your Proposal will be randomly selected. Once they are assigned to you, they will designate a score for each trait and provide an explanation for each score. Your team will receive the scores and explanations from each judge at the end of the first round. If you are invited to participate in the second round, then you will receive the Judges' scores and explanations for your Plan from each Judge, as well.

We realize that certain teams may realize an advantage if they are randomly assigned five (5) easy Judges, while others may object to judges who are prone to assigning low scores. To account for biases, scores from each Judge are "statistically normalized." Through a mathematical process, we are ensuring that everyone receives fair treatment. To learn more about how the normalization process works, please read our overview here.

Finally, we would like to remind you that Terms & Conditions, governing your use of this website and participation in the SC2 Hartford Challenge stipulate important Rules. By registering, you have agreed to provide an unconditional license for use of any ideas submitted in a Proposal and Plan that receive a cash award. While the SC2 Challenge is designed to declare many winners for helping Hartford, it is also designed to ensure that Hartford can benefit from a range of ideas. So, while we may celebrate a first-place winner, it is within our discretion to pursue any of the many Proposals, Projects and Plans that are awarded at any point. In fact, each winner may help shape a different aspect of our investment strategy. If you find that others may have exceeded your ranking, please know that your ideas may still have an important impact not reflected in the amount of your cash prize.