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FAQs

Answers to the questions we hear most frequently.

Who runs this program?

The Opportunity Project is a program managed by the Census Open Innovation Labs, part of the U.S. Census Bureau. Learn more about COIL.

How long has TOP been around?

TOP has been operating since its launch in 2016.

Who owns the resulting products?

The products created through TOP sprints are owned and maintained by the technology developers who built them. In other words, the government agencies involved do not own and maintain these products. Teams can choose their approach after the sprint, often including taking them to market, open sourcing, or handing them off to partners.

How do you select participants?

Participation in The Opportunity Project takes many forms and is open to the general public. Problem statements are sourced through a government-wide intake process. Most of our workshops (around the country and now virtual) are open for public registration and advertised widely. Our sprint participants are selected based on interest, bandwidth, and alignment with specific problem statements. We select judges for our prize competitions based on expertise, and anyone who has completed TOP’s toolkit or sprint process are eligible to apply. Learn more about how to get involved and the roles in our sprints.

This is cool! Is anything like this happening elsewhere?

While we think there’s nothing exactly like TOP, similar sprint programs exist at other federal agencies, internationally, and increasingly at the state and local level. Here are some links to peer organizations and programs:

I’d like to use TOP at my federal agency!

We believe in the potential for this process to transform government and are eager to help federal agencies adopt this model, either through working directly with us or by utilizing the TOPx toolkit for federal agencies. Please contact us for more information on introducing TOP within your agency. If you’re from a state, company or other type of organization, please contact us about ways to adopt the TOP model.

Does this cost money?

TOP is a lightweight process by design. Attending our events, participating in our sprints and challenges does not cost money. It is free and open for nonprofits, companies, civic tech groups, and agencies to get involved. Our TOPx toolkit is now open to all federal agencies and interested stakeholders. Receiving technical assistance from our team specifically to launch TOPx in other federal agencies may require an interagency agreement. Please contact us for details.

How can I get involved?

Check out our Get Involved page to see if there is an active sprint running, and if not, sign up to receive updates about upcoming sprints and opportunities to engage with us.

What if the sprint timeline doesn’t work for me?

There are many other ways you can engage with The Opportunity Project that can meet your own needs. If you are interested in any of these options, send an email to census.opportunityproject@census.gov to get in touch with the TOP team.

  • The Opportunity Project Toolkit: for technologists, students, civic tech groups, and others to follow the sprint process and build their own products. Any team that uses the toolkit may be eligible to apply for the TOP prize challenge.
  • TOPx for federal agencies: specifically for agencies looking to run a sprint on a flexible and modifiable timeline, the TOPx toolkit open-sources the TOP model of sprint facilitation. The TOP team is available to offer support to your team and guide you through this process.
  • Have another idea? Email us.

Does participation in The Opportunity Project take place in-person or remotely?

Most of TOP is virtual, with the exception of in-person user engagement workshops and our end of year Demo Day in Washington DC. Currently due to COVID-19, 100% of TOP is virtual in 2021.

If I join an Opportunity Project sprint, what am I signing up for?

What you’ll be doing in the sprint varies on your role. Tech teams are signing up to build a product or feature — whether new or within an existing product or platform — that uses open data to solve one of our sprint problem statements. User advocates are signing up to give feedback and ensure the products built are meeting real community needs. Data experts are signing up to give feedback and share insights on federal open data sets. Product advisors are signing up to help tech teams develop products with a viable long term strategy. Learn more about each role.