Closed-Seeking proposals to improve/replace the Big ideas PHL website

The Office of Innovation & Technology (OIT), in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office and with funding from the Bloomberg Philanthropies, is seeking proposals to replace the Big ideas PHL website.

Big Ideas PHL hosts solicitations for professional service contracts less than $32,000. Big Ideas PHL allows City staff to post solicitations as simple text and handle questions and answers in a comments section so they are available for viewing by all interested parties. It also enables email notification when new opportunities are posted. Vendors are able to register to receive email notifications, review solicitations, and ask questions via the comments section.  

We seek to make improvements and add features that will garner interest from new vendors, support better proposal writing and better proposal reviewing, and support management and experimentation with better analytics and data.

We do not want to prescribe how to improve Big Ideas PHL in great detail. We have opinions but we also think vendors will have a lot of great ideas and we want to encourage creative and innovative proposals from the vendor community.

However, the following is a list of functionality we would like to pursue, and which we’d like to see reflected in your proposal as much as is possible:

  • Easy administrative login to post opportunities and manage the site.  
  • The ability to give structure to RFP writing, such as via an online template, for more consistent and effective RFPs that still retain the lightweight feel. We will provide RFP components/elements and also welcome input from the selected vendor (and the vendor community).
  • Simple to manage question and answer (Q & A) functionality that can support near real time Q & A between solicitation authors and interested vendors.
  • Simple proposal submissions (to replace “email us your proposal…”)
  • Proposal rating functionality that supports collaboration by the proposal review team and leads to better and more transparent decision making.
  • Simple to access analytics and open data regarding the operations of the site and performance.
  • Great outreach, including email notification based on vendor registration, opportunity-type filtering, etc.
  • A section or approach describing City buying to vendors that will help recruit interest and improve onboarding. We are eager for useful and different ideas from vendors for how to do this.
  • Interoperability via a feed or API and other means as guided by OIT
  • Cost not to exceed $32,000. (If the list of desired functionality is too great for this budget, give us the best you can.)

We would like to host one public outreach session to the vendor and government communities approximately 2/3rds of the way through the project to solicit feedback and hear from potential users. We would request the selected vendor demo a beta version of the site at this event and be available for questions and discussion. OIT will organize and staff the event, and handle invitations and outreach. Please budget for approximately 3-4 hours for participating in the event itself.

Additionally, we are open minded about how support and hosting will be handled. Likely we will want to oversee management of the site post construction but we are open-minded about vendor thinking on how the site should be supported, particularly if the approach will generate more interest from new vendors over time.

Additional Questions:

Please post any questions as a comment below this solicitation on so that additional information will be available for all potential submitters to review. Any questions sent via email will be directed back to the comments section below the solicitation on

Details on Submitting:  

Please send proposals to Todd Baylson  ( no later than Tuesday 12/22/15  at 5:00 PM EST.  Please articulate your proposal to build Big Idea PHL’s replacement as you see fit, but in less than 2,500 words and in no more than 5 pages/slides. How you use the up to 2,500 words and fill up to 5 pages/slides is entirely up to you.

We hope to select a vendor promptly, and begin the work early in 2016. We will work with the selected vendor on a mutually agreeable schedule (it won’t be as compressed as this)

We appreciate that this is a very short turnaround. We are working within the confines of a grant agreement and need to have this occur on an expedited timeline. Thank you in advance for your understanding.  


This project is funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of FastFWD. FastFWD was created through the City of Philadelphia’s participation in the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life. It included partnerships with GoodCompany Group and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. FastFWD is an accelerator for promising social impact entrepreneurs that sought to create an onramp for innovation in City government through procurement.


14 comments on “Closed-Seeking proposals to improve/replace the Big ideas PHL website
  1. Liam Dorpalen says:

    Hi Todd,

    Is your team anticipating integrations with other systems at the City? If so, which systems would be most valuable to your team and the end users?

    Liam Dorpalen

    • todd b says:

      Liam, Thanks for the question. At this time, we don’t have anything specific to point to. Our tech team suggested the language in the solicitation be: “Interoperability via a feed or API.” Thanks! TB

  2. todd b says:

    Hi everyone, I got 3 questions from a vendor and am posting them with the answers here:

    Q1: Are you coding language agnostic?

    A1: Yes. coding language agnostic. We have the functionality we think we would like to see as noted in the solicitation and intentionally do not want to prescribe things, or limit what is possible. Flexibility/management post build is also a consideration, as noted in the solicitation.

    Q2: What is the level of tech sophistication by the users? Is there any internal developer support? (mostly for knowing how developed an admin panel would need to be)

    A2: This was asked in an online forum as well. There is internal developer support here in OIT (Thank goodness!) but I think the more people in City government who are able to easily use the page the better, so a standard CMS/admin is probably the most sensible and desire-able. Big Ideas PHL is used for a specific type of solicitation called Miscellaneous Purchases, where we seek professional services within contracts that cant exceed $32k. The City does many of them every year. Only some go through Big Ideas PHL though, and we want to grow the percentage that do because it is a lightweight system, it offers transparency and email notification to people who self register (keys to true e-procurement, learn more here: and it offers near real time Q & A, which benefits both us and the vendors by allowing us to post simpler and shorter non prescriptive RFPs that can be refined and improved through near real time Q & A

    That said, if there is amazing functionality enabled by a more sophisticated approach, I would personally be curious to hear about it.

    Q3: What are the main criteria on which the proposal will be judged? Is it more around design/creative, the spec itself, past work, price, etc.?

    A3: Different folks who work for the City and will be reviewing the proposals will bring different considerations. We left the requested proposal format very open and made the length limit acute both because of the short turnaround time (trying to be considerate of that), but also because we really do want to leave it to the vendor to position their approach. The “change how we buy technology” thing is a national policy discussion as well as a local thing we are working on. It should be explicitly clear that we want to encourage interest from new vendors because a lot of gov tech work is won by gov contract frequent flyers and the thinking is that new vendors can help onboard innovation, bring new approaches etc., and the proposal is one place to very clearly highlight how you are different and have that capacity to bring new ways of doing things. I’m not saying that we want space ships proposed, but if you experience some of the City’s current public/vendor facing tech as a resident or a constituent, you probably know that we need new approaches, and procurement is one place to help initiate that. Hiring technologists is another, which we are also doing, and which is also very important.

    That said, examples of work are always a great way to showcase talent and approach, and they help build confidence that we would be selecting the right partner. It is better to spend less $ typically, but here we published the budget because that is what we are able, and prepared, to spend. I am not expecting any proposals for less than $32k and I want to note that that should have been more explicit in the solicitation.

    Thanks! TB

  3. todd b says:

    Hi everyone, I got a question from a vendor off an email listserv exchange which is summarized here:

    Q/statement (paraphrased): “When a solicitation bullets out a lot of features, I’ve found most firms look at that and interpret that as “they’re looking for a solution that meets *all* these requirements” when in reality you may just be looking for whoever can do the most of them.”

    A/clarification: The budget cannot exceed $32k, and we are prepared to spend $32k. Given that, please propose with the functionality we would like to pursue in mind (as many of the features as possible) + the things you think the site should have from a vendor perspective. What you prioritize is part of how we expect to understand your approach and selecting a vendor.

  4. todd b says:

    Hi everyone, there was a discussion about this opp. on an email listserv with someone from which I’ve tried to excerpt the actual questions below:

    Q1: “It’s hard to tell from this project, but is the contract for this some sort of Master Service Agreement that can be used by the company to go after bigger contracts?”

    A1: No. This is a standalone opp. and not tied to a master service agreement or any kind of pre qual list.

    Q2: “Can we propose changing the name? We think it will help attract vendors.”

    A2: Yes.

    Q3: “Don’t you think it makes sense to have vendors bid on a discovery before trying to get them to promise to poorly defined deliverables?”

    A3: You can propose a discovery rather than an implementation. At this time there is no $ for a subsequent project (more on this $ below), but as you know, 2016 is a whole new mayoral administration and a new budget approach and it is certainly possible that a great plan will garner more funding for the future. As hopefully useful background Big Ideas PHL is only able to be used for a specific type of solicitation called a Miscellaneous Purchase (MP). The overwhelming majority (both # and $) of City RFPs for professional services are posted to eContracts Philly which is not a lightweight process internally nor externally. Most departments do MPs but very few use Big Ideas PHL. Typically it is only used by OIT, Commerce, and the soon to be former Managing Directors office.

    Q4: “Where does quality come into play in vendor selection? From what I can tell, it doesn’t really, so it seems likely that you’ll just keep buying whatever is cheapest, rather than what’s best, which isn’t good for you or the city in the long run.”

    * The question resulted in some back and forth which I’ve tried to condense into a useful answer *

    A4: We tried to be clear that if the budget is too small for the list of functionality we want to pursue, folks should prioritize. How they prioritize is one aspect of how we will review the proposals and seek quality.

    Regarding the assertion that we keep “buying whatever is cheapest” – We will lose the $ funding this project if we don’t have certain documentation in place on 12/31/15. To accomplish this timeline, rather than return the $ to the funder, required using a contracting vehicle with a $32k ceiling. Spending more $ than $32k would force us into a contracting vehicle that would not have been able to accommodate the funder’s timeline.

  5. MarcColeman says:

    Will the new website need to continue to display legacy RFP’s once they have been awarded?

    Does the public outreach session to the vendor and government communities need to be timed in conjunction with an existing or planned event?

    • todd b says:

      Hi Marc, thanks for the questions

      It is not a requirement that the new site display legacy RFPs once awarded, but making that easy is a nice concept in terms of transparency. We have had requests for better analytics and intelligence around # of proposals per opportunity (not just, “who won?”) and I am sure we could use easy to access information like that to improve future solicitations.

      The public outreach session is just a concept to widen the feedback loop and not tied to anything existing or planned. We can handle that very flexibly I think.

  6. Hi,

    Do you have an idea of how many city staff members will need access to the administrative side of the system?

    Also an idea of how many solicitations you plan to post per year?


    • todd b says:

      Hi Natalie, Thanks for the question.

      Currently there are 7 admins. Maybe 20-25 is a good guess. Ease of use, as noted above, can help promote its growth by City staff. More people need to know it is a tool they can use to solicit for this specific type of contract opp. and how it supports Q & A etc. On # of solicitations, I bet we did somewhere around 20, and it would be great to do > 100+/- using Big Ideas PHL next year.

      As noted in the functionality list outlined above, we also think a new site could help us improve proposal writing + guide proposal reviews and we are curious to see if vendors also think that is important, and how they would propose accomplishing it.


  7. vborrelli says:

    Hello all…

    Question – Can the new site be delivered as SaaS? Meaning, can the vendor propose a cloud offering, or will this new site need to be hosted on a City server? How about ongoing support or enhancements?

    • todd b says:

      Hi vborrelli, Thanks for the question. Yes, we are interested in SaaS offerings and no the site does not need to be hosted on a City server. One of the benefits of SaaS, as I understand it, is that we would see ongoing enhancements and some level of support through our subscription. The one note that I suspect is obvious but which I’ll mention just to be clear is that we have a specific amount of $, so the implementation + “SaaS fee” would need to be under $32k which depending on your pricing might cap us at a year or two of use. Given the tight timeline we have to get this underway, I don’t have a great resolution for that issue except to say that if it is working great I would imagine OIT would be in a good position to try to seek more $ to continue the success. Thanks!

  8. MarcColeman says:

    Does the 5 page limit include cover, cover page and Table of Contents? May we include additional information as Appendices?

    • todd b says:

      Hi Marc, Thanks for the question. I’d request that you keep to the page limit. The intention is to enable you to position your approach as you see fit and to be mindful, on your behalf, of the short time line we’ve had to implement given the funding’s constraints. It is also a bit of an experiment of course. We are going to need to do a very expedited proposal review on our end so having long proposals is not something we will be able to handle and still meet the timetable we need to track. Thanks for your understanding.

  9. todd b says:

    Hi everyone, quick reminder that there is a 5 slide/page limit on proposals. In retrospect, the word limit is going to be difficult to really effectively enforce, but we will be sticking to the 5 slide/page limit for proposals and will disqualify proposals that exceed that. Thanks! TB

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