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DSS team wins this year’s ‘Show Me Challenge’


A group of Department of Social Services (DSS) employees took first place over eight other teams in the “Show Me Challenge” this week. 

The competition, inspired by shows like Shark Tank, brought teams from across Missouri’s state departments together to pitch solutions to aid both the citizens of Missouri and the departments themselves, easing the flow of information and increasing efficiency and cost savings. The competition was sponsored by the Office of Administration (OA).

The winning team, made up of DSS employees Rene’ Brinkman, Shasta Miller, Bobbie Thomas, and Nicole Robinson, proposed expanding the Southeast Royals Unit, a project focused on helping youth aging out of foster care to transition into adult life, into a statewide program. The effort guides youths through opening bank accounts, acquiring driver’s licenses, and job hunting. 

Department of Revenue Director Ken Zellers, one of the judges for the competition, said it was a prime opportunity for state employees to use their creativity and teamwork to help improve the state government.

“This whole process really promotes an atmosphere of teamwork, friendly competition, and collaboration across all 16 state departments,” Zellers told The Missouri Times. “It goes way outside of the department itself and brings people together to share best practices. There are a lot of really smart people working in the Missouri state government and as far as I’m concerned, this is another avenue for them to bring their ideas to life and share ideas across the entire state. The benefactors of all this hard work are the citizens of Missouri.”

Second place went to a collaboration between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The group pitched a statewide campground recycling program designed to increase the accessibility of recycling services for campers and reduce landfill waste.

The team in third place was another collaboration between DESE and DNR employees that suggested expanding DESE’s educational video series. The program would have included video tours of Missouri state parks and historical sites in lieu of in-person visits. 

The process began in August, with teams applying and submitting pitches for consideration. By November, nine teams from seven state departments were chosen to compete. The final presentations were held Friday morning. 

Zellers said this year’s competition was handled differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that the virtual setting did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the teams or the judges.

“These teams have really risen to the occasion and it’s really been a neat process,” he said. “It’s a great program and I’ve got to give credit to everyone who worked to put it together. It’s such a great opportunity for people to come together across different departments and look at these issues in a different way to come up with new and creative solutions.”

The winning team will receive $500 and guidance in implementing its proposal. 

This was the fifth cycle of the Show Me Challenge and the first to be held virtually. The next competition opens to state employees in February.