Answering your Questions about Challenge Juries: Part Two

Impact Canada
Impact Canada
Published in
5 min readApr 12, 2021


Julie Greene, Senior Lead, Capacity and Partnerships

In my last blog, I answered some questions about challenge juries: why we use juries; who the jurors are, and; how the process is different from how we make other types of funding decisions in the Government. To recap, the main role of a challenge juror is to act as an impartial and credible assessor and adjudicator of challenge concepts and solutions. Jurors are usually external to Government, and are recruited based on their expertise, generally related to the assessment criteria for the challenge, and the perspective they bring to the decision-making.

In this blog, I would like to delve into a few more specifics about challenge juries and answers questions about how many jurors we usually have, how they are recruited, whether they are paid, how they make decisions and what authority they have in the process and decision-making.

How many people are typically on a jury?

While there is variation amongst Impact Canada challenges, the range of jurors in our current challenges is between 5 and 12 people. The number of jurors may depend on the type of expertise, knowledge and perspectives required for the challenge. When selecting the size of the jury, it is important to consider the number of anticipated or actual applications to assess and innovators to support. It may be that a smaller jury is all that is required or is more efficient to manage.

A few examples:

What is most important is that, regardless of numbers, a challenge jury represents both subject matter expertise related to the assessment criteria and the problem area, and the perspectives of those who will develop, use and benefit from the solutions the challenge will help to support.

How are jurors recruited?

We have covered why a juror may be recruited, and the simplest answer as to how they are actually recruited is…we just ask them! Impact Canada challenge jurors have been recruited by departmental staff at all levels — from the Minister to the working group who plans and implements the challenge. Leaders and stakeholders from all sectors will ask early questions about the composition of the jury, so advice and recommendations come from many sources.

During the research and design phases of challenge planning, the team responsible will speak extensively to all kind of stakeholders associated with the challenge, to ensure we understand the problem, current approaches, barriers and opportunities for innovation. The planning team will make note of certain stakeholders who we anticipate may be ideal jurors. (A side note: I have my own fantasy Juror list, which includes people like Col. Chris Hadfield and Arlene Dickinson (√)). We take note of this possible role, and include this when we map out challenge objectives and assessment criteria, against prospective jurors. A list of prospective jurors is sometimes vetted through the leadership of a department who is planning the challenge before jurors are ultimately secured.

Are jurors paid?

While there are variations, most challenge jurors are compensated for any expenses associated with travel to jury meetings (when and where in person meetings are required), but are not typically paid for their time spent undertaking assessment and adjudication. In some cases, when the commitment presents a financial hardship or loss of usual income, a juror may be compensated.

When a juror is recruited, the planning team will articulate expectations with regard to time, travel and responsibilities, and the prospective juror then decides whether they want to spend their time and talent supporting the challenge. This also means that they will be publicly affiliated with the challenge goals and partners, and be willing to speak in support of the challenge. In our experience, when a juror is recruited after careful deliberation and thoughtful engagement, the answer to the recruitment question is an enthusiastic YES.

How do juries make decisions?

The decision making process for each jury will vary depending on the Terms of Reference created for them. Terms of Reference typically outline the role and mandate of the jury, membership, conduct, roles and responsibilities, and governance structure, among others. The main decision points here are whether jurors will make decisions by consensus, or by majority, and how differences of opinion will be managed (e.g., those that may emerge amongst jurors on recommended winners).

What authority do juries have in the selection of winners?

From a technical perspective, Impact Canada challenge awards/prizes are funded using Grants and Contribution funds with the ultimate authority to release funds lying with the head of a federal department (e.g. Minister, President) or their delegate. Therefore, juries make recommendations for who should be awarded funding, and the challenge planning team acts as a conduit to get those recommendations approved, and funding released. In some cases, a challenge may be administered by a third party, where the funding is released to the third party, who ultimately administers the awards — and therefore may not require approval by a department head to release funding at each stage of the challenge.

Juries, no matter their size, structure or composition, are a key consideration in any challenge design, and, along with your innovators, become the face and voice of your challenge. It is never too soon to start thinking about who they may be.

Want to learn more about challenges? See our new Impact Canada Challenge Guide for the how and why of designing, launching and assessing challenges.

Thanks for reading!

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