Aspen Tech Policy Hub Announces Winners of COVID-19 Challenge Grant Competition

June 1, 2020

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

Aspen Tech Policy Hub
Betsy Cooper

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. 

While the Hub has initially focused on training technologists through its 10-week full-time incubator fellowship, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Hub leadership to seek new and innovative ways to support the tech and policy ecosystem.

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.

“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 COVID-19 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. 

“Now, more than ever, we need to create the conditions that enable a new wave of purposeful tech entrepreneurs and empowered users,” said Sarah Drinkwater, director with Omidyar Network’s Beneficial Technology group. “With support from Aspen Tech Policy Hub, the challenge grant winners will show the world how responsible tech can be a force for good in the battle against COVID-19.”

Learn more about the winning projects here  

COVID-19 Tech Challenge Grant Projects

COVID-19 Misinformation Map for Journalists
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 DataCollecteor
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.


The Aspen Institute’s Tech Policy Hub is a West Coast policy incubator, training a new generation of tech policy entrepreneurs. The Hub takes tech experts, teaches them the policy process through an in-residence fellowship program in the Bay Area, and encourages them to develop outside-the-box solutions to society’s problems. It models itself after tech incubators, like Y Combinator, but trains new policy thinkers and focuses the impact of their ideas. 

The Hub is part of the Institute’s Aspen Digital program, which empowers policy makers, civic organizations, companies, and the public to be responsible stewards of technology and digital media in the service of a more just and equitable world.  For more information, please visit:

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Aspen Institute is adapting to address the challenges of the pandemic. Learn more about some of the solutions we’re proposing, the actions we’re taking, and the changemakers we’re supporting.

View Comments