ARPA-H Dash to Accelerate Health Outcomes

Case Study

Creating and producing a national idea-based bracket competition designed to attract an engaged community of bold thinkers and high-value ideas for an innovative new government agency that was established to change health outcomes for all Americans.

Using a bracket format and robust online discussion, debate, and voting, ​​the ARPA-H Dash to Accelerate Health Outcomes solicited, evaluated, and narrowed high-value idea submissions to quarterfinalists, semifinalists, finalists, and champion.

Key Strategic Questions

How can the newly established Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) increase brand and mission awareness on its one-year anniversary, with a broad group of health constituencies across the United States?

H&S proposed a national idea-based bracket competition designed to highlight the agency’s mission and drive participation among health professionals, advocates, and patients across the country. The Dash to Accelerate Health Outcomes, ARPA-H Dash, invited the community to submit an idea with the potential to transform health with a simple, evidence-based entry form. After review by ARPA-H, 64 ideas were seeded into brackets and opened to the public for commenting and voting — winnowing the brackets to four semifinalists and a final, winning idea.

How can ARPA-H meaningfully reach out to a nationwide community aligned with its mission?

H&S designed and supported the competition and solicited influencers with a robust, multi-channel promotional strategy that included customized digital assets for the ARPA-H Dash, web pages, social media art cards, newsletters, podcasts, and videos. All of which created a dynamic and agile digital media ecosystem. The competition saw participation from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.

ARPA-H Dash promotions were strategically blanketed across social channels, paid ads, and email newsletters with content optimized for the channels on which they appeared. Consistent, unified messaging guided audiences through the phases of the competition from entry to voting and ensured clear understanding of the call to action for each phase.

H&S Roles & Services
Strategy, Design, Communications, Digital Experience,
Event Production, and Program Management

  • Developed concept and plan for a multi-phase national bracket competition
  • Created a detailed messaging platform to communicate the values of the agency throughout each segment of the competition
  • Mapped, designed, and implemented a suite of digital assets to present a clear, branded experience for ARPA-H on the Polyplexus platform and across the digitial media ecosystem, targeted to the desired audiences
  • Developed and executed a multi-channel communications plan that included PR, social, coordinated cross-promotion efforts, videos, podcasts, Google Ads, and influencer outreach
  • Managed each phase of the competition across the Polyolexus platform, as well as all owned channels
  • Conducted rigorous digital media monitoring to sustain real-time engagement and increase the spread of competition content
  • Delivered in-depth metrics and reporting that informed on-the-spot decision-making to support deeper engagement and participation

“The ARPA-H Dash made me appreciate how lucky I am in terms of having something to feel hopeful about. I think a lot of my peers feel very demoralized and bleak about the future, but because I’m involved in doing hands-on research on very exciting technology, I feel like there really is reason to feel hopeful about the future because better things are not just possible in the abstract but actually achievable. And talking to people about this idea has made me appreciate that realization and how special it is.”

Anuradha Lingappa, Prosetta Biosciences
Submitter of the Champion Idea: One Drug for All Cancers

“The contest was fantastic fun and my company is in negotiations with the winners… It’s a great opportunity for both of us, and for the ultimate recipients of the treatment if we’re so fortunate as to prove its effectiveness. And it would never have occurred if it weren’t for this particular contest.”

Voting participant

“It’s inspiring to see all of the efforts that are going on. Sometimes everyone sort of gets down their rabbit hole, and you don’t always see what everyone is working on, but a lot of great ideas have come out of this. I’ve been really pleased by the conversations we’ve been able to have in the comments and the number of people that have engaged with us. I hope in the future that some of these people can become collaborators as we continue to advance the technology.”

Jeffrey Paten, Ph.D., Participant

“That’s been something very fun for us to see – everyone at every level, not just in the scientific community but from all across the country, including places like where I’m from in Oklahoma and beyond – to see folks engaging and really dreaming big on how can we tackle some of these health challenges in a way that we have not seen done before.”  

Willie Reeves, Participant

The Exceptional Eight quarterfinalists were diverse, high-caliber professionals and patient advocates who supported their ideas by responding to questions and comments online and promoting their ideas across their own channels and networks.

Participants came from all 50 states, represented a variety of professional and academic institutions, and had expertise in disciplines ranging from bioengineering to mental health. Above is a partial, representative list of participating institutions.

Key Results

The contest was approved and launched within seven weeks. H&S had four weeks to build awareness, solicit participants and submit ideas to ARPA-H for the brackets. We achieved millions of brand impressions and received hundreds of ideas to transform health from a highly qualified audience.

ARPA-H received the intangible benefits of brand awareness and social spread within the constituencies they wanted to reach. Additionally they were introduced to new potential program manager candidates and shortlisted several submissions for potential funding. By generating hundreds of ideas in a few weeks, the ARPA-H Dash proved a fast, efficient method of accelerating and advancing technical discussion within a qualified community for mutual benefit