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Innovation ENJINE Challenge Winners Announced

Gov. Phil Murphy announced five winning teams of the Innovation ENJINE Challenge, an open innovation competition launched this spring to elicit state employees’ unique perspectives and ideas to make government more effective and efficient.

To participate in the challenge, State employees submitted brief ideas for new policies and practices that would result in direct cost savings, more streamlined processes, or better services for the people of New Jersey. Over 2,000 participants joined in via an online platform. The twenty top-voted ideas and five additional selections advanced to a final round in which teams crafted implementation plan proposals for one of the winning round one ideas.

The ENJINE Challenge — which is part of the State’s SmarterNJ initiative focused on creating new and innovative ways for the public to contribute meaningfully to the policymaking process — is also among the first of the Governor’s and Chief Innovation Officer Beth Simone Noveck’s efforts to encourage innovative public problem-solving and advance public entrepreneurship in New Jersey.

“The Innovation ENJINE Challenge is all about tapping the experience and expertise of the State’s talented public servants to help advance our efforts to make New Jersey the State of Innovation,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “I applaud the creativity, thoughtfulness, and dedication of the thousands of State government workers who participated in this competition, and I look forward to seeing the impact that these proposed innovations will have on our State.”

The winning implementation plan teams will now work to further develop their proposals for pilots, in partnership with State’s Office of Innovation and other key departments and agencies.

“By advancing public entrepreneurship in the Garden State, we’re cultivating our ability as a State to deliver better solutions to public problems in new and innovative ways,” said New Jersey State Chief Innovation Officer Beth Simone Noveck, whose office oversaw the challenge. “I’m excited to work with these committed public entrepreneurs to help bring these plans to fruition and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of New Jersey State government.

The winners of the challenge were selected by a committee of senior State leadership, and are as follows:

Chatbots (Chelare Baykal-Allen, Milly Ballash, Elizabeth Russell, Jennifer Seeds, Amanda Bergman, Ekta Gupta, Mary Leather): This project would focus on developing a user-friendly platform for automated assistance on State websites for the public in order to combat long phone waiting times, limited opening hours, and other issues that affect residents’ access to information.

Accumulated Overtime (Michael Arteen, Michael Palombo, Susan Davis, Renata Thompson, Nikita Patel): This project will explore developing an expansion program to allow State employees to work a capped additional number of hours per week to earn one-to-one hours of vacation rather than overtime pay, allowing employees to work more during busier work periods and reducing the need for overtime.

Paid State Fellowships for Youth (Jennie Blakney, Isabella Gonzalez, Jennifer Fearon, Kelly Laird, Lisa Asare, Thalia Sirjue, Valerie Weston-Bell): This project seeks to pilot a formalized paid internship program with the State for undergraduate students in New Jersey in order to encourage young professionals to stay in the state after college and pursue careers in public service.

Database of Shared Software Applications (Charles Williams): This project would work to develop a centralized location for State agencies to find and use applications developed by other State agencies, rather than having to spend more State funds procuring and redeveloping applications each time.

State Talent Bank (Trish Barby, Deborah Koneski, Alan Aspili, and others): This project would work to pilot a system to allow State employees with specialized expertise to temporarily work with other departments—rather than requiring the procurement of additional contractors—saving departmental funds and encouraging a more diverse and agile State workforce.

The members of all five teams were honored in a special ceremony with Governor Murphy in Trenton on Thursday, December 19th. Team members and their home departments will work closely with the Office of the Governor and the Office of Innovation to formulate proposals for pilots projects based on the winning ideas., which may include the identification of policy, regulatory, and legislative changes that would be required to potentially pilot and scale an idea.

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