Famously, Netflix offered a million dollar prize for a group that could beat Netflix’ own algorithm for predicting customer movie rankings. The contest, whose main beneficiary was Netflix itself, garnered considerable participation.
The Analytics X Competition is a similar contest, but aimed at benefiting the public directly. The contest is to predict crime rates by zip code in the city of Philadelphia. (The contest is privately funded, though, so the prizes are much smaller. Still it’s an interesting idea.)