Simpler, smarter and innovative public services

Northern Future Forum: “How can governments deliver services better and more efficiently? This is one of the key questions governments all over the world are constantly dealing with. In recent years countries have had to cut back government spending at the same time as demand from citizens for more high quality service is increasing. Public institutions, just as companies, must adapt and develop over time. Rapid technological advancements and societal changes have forced the public sector to reform the way it operates and delivers services. The public sector needs to innovate to adapt and advance in the 21st century.
There are a number of reasons why public sector innovation matters (Potts and Kastelle 2010):

  • The size of the public sector in terms of percentages of GDP makes public sectors large components of the macro economy in many countries. Public sector innovation can affect productivity growth by reducing costs of inputs, better organisation and increasing the value of outputs.
  • The need for evolving policy to match evolving economies.
  • The public sector sets the rules of the game for private sector innovation.

As pointed out there is clearly an imperative to innovate. However, public sector innovation can be difficult, as public services deal with complex problems that have contradictory and diverse demands, need to respond quickly, whilst being transparent and accountable. Public sector innovation has a part to play to grow future economies, but also to develop the solutions to the biggest challenges facing most western nations today. These problems won’t be solved without strong leadership from the public sector and governments of the future. These issues are (Pollitt 2013):

  • Demographic change. The effects ageing of the general population will have on public services.
  • Climate change.
  • Economic trajectories, especially the effects of the current period of austerity.
  • Technological developments.
  • Public trust in government.
  • The changing nature of politics, with declining party loyalty, personalisation of politics, new parties, more media coverage etc.

According to the publications of national governments, the OECD, World Bank and the big international management consultancies, these issues will have major long-term impacts and implications (Pollitt 2013).
The essence of this background paper is to look at how governments can use innovation to help grow the economies and solve some of the biggest challenges of this generation and determine what the essentials to make it happen are. Firstly, a difficult economic environment in many countries tends to constrain the capacity of governments to deliver quality public services. Fiscal pressures, demographic changes, and diverse public and private demands all challenge traditional approaches and call for a rethinking of the way governments operate. There is a growing recognition that the complexity of the challenges facing the public sector cannot be solved by public sector institutions working alone, and that innovative solutions to public challenges require improved internal collaboration, as well as the involvement of external stakeholders partnering with public sector organisations (OECD 2015 a).
Willingness to solve some of these problems is not enough. The system that most western countries have created is in many ways a barrier to innovation. For instance, the public sector can lack innovative leaders and champions (Bason 2010, European Commission 2013), the way money is allocated, and reward and incentive systems can often hinder innovative performance (Kohli and Mulgan 2010), there may be limited knowledge of how to apply innovation processes and methods (European Commission 2013), and departmental silos can create significant challenges to ‘joined up’ problem solving (Carstensen and Bason 2012, Queensland Public Service Commission 2009).
There is not an established definition of innovation in the public sector. However some common elements have emerged from national and international research projects. The OECD has identified the following characteristics of public sector innovation:

  • Novelty: Innovations introduce new approaches, relative to the context where they are introduced.
  • Implementation: Innovations must be implemented, not just an idea.
  • Impact: Innovations aim to result in better public results including efficiency, effectiveness, and user or employee satisfaction.

Public sector innovation does not happen in a vacuum: problems need to be identified; ideas translated into projects which can be tested and then scaled up. For this to happen public sector organisations need to identify the processes and structures which can support and accelerate the innovation activity.
 Figure 1. Key components for successful public sector innovation.
Figure 1. Key components for successful public sector innovation.
The barriers to public sector innovation are in many ways the key to its success. In this background paper four key components for public sector innovation success will be discussed and ways to change them from barriers to supporters of innovation. The framework and the policy levers can play a key role in enabling and sustaining the innovation process:
These levers are:

  • Institutions. Innovation is likely to emerge from the interactions between different bodies.
  • Human Resources. Create ability, motivate and give the right opportunities.
  • Funding. Increase flexibility in allocating and managing financial resources.
  • Regulations. Processes need to be shortened and made more efficient.

Realising the potential of innovation means understanding which factors are most effective in creating the conditions for innovation to flourish, and assessing their relative impact on the capacity and performance of public sector organisations….(More). PDF: Simpler, smarter and innovative public services

Anyone can help with crowdsourcing future antibiotics

Springwise: “We’ve seen examples of researchers utilizing crowdsourcing to expand their datasets, such as a free mobile app where users help find data patterns in cancer research by playing games. Now a pop-up home lab is harnessing the power of citizen scientists to find future antibiotics in their backyards.
By developing a small home lab, UK-based Post/Biotics is encouraging anyone, including school children, to help find solutions to the growing antibiotics resistance crisis. Post/Biotics is a citizen’s science platform, which provides the toolkit, knowledge and science network so anyone can support antibiotic development. Participants can test samples of basically anything they find in natural areas, from soil to mushrooms, and if their sample has antibacterial properties, their tool will change color. They can then send results, along with a photo and GPS location to an online database. When the database notices a submission that may be interesting, it alerts researchers, who can then ask for samples. An open-source library of potential antimicrobials is then established, and users simultaneously benefit from learning how to conduct microbiology experiments.
Post/Biotics are using the power of an unlimited amount of citizen scientists to increase the research potential of antibiotic discovery….(More)”

Can Human-Centered Design “Fix” Humanitarian Aid?

Carnegie Council: “Design thinking has emerged as a new tool in humanitarianism. Proponents of the trend believe it can solve the problem long plaguing the aid community: that great ideas fail to be adopted in poor communities because they don’t always take context into account. But are design’s more inclusive methods still a kind of neo-imperialism? Is there a different way?

In this episode of Carnegie Council’s podcast Impact: Where Business and Ethics Meet, host Julia Taylor-Kennedy interviews Debbie Aung Din Taylor,Bruce Nussbaum, Susan Eve Oguya, and Jocelyn Wyatt….

With the rise of social enterprise and corporate social responsibility in the business world, and more efficiency and impact measurements in the non-profit world, one of the trends we’re tracking on the podcast is how global business and global society borrow ideas and methods from one another. This week, we’re looking at an approach that was developed in the business world that’s proving hugely effective in humanitarian work. It’s called human-centered design. And some say it might work even better in the social sector than it did in large corporations. We’ll get back to that later….(More)”


Toward a manifesto for the ‘public understanding of big data’

Mike Michael and Deborah Lupton in Public Understanding of Science: “….we sketch a ‘manifesto’ for the ‘public understanding of big data’. On the one hand, this entails such public understanding of science and public engagement with science and technology–tinged questions as follows: How, when and where are people exposed to, or do they engage with, big data? Who are regarded as big data’s trustworthy sources, or credible commentators and critics? What are the mechanisms by which big data systems are opened to public scrutiny? On the other hand, big data generate many challenges for public understanding of science and public engagement with science and technology: How do we address publics that are simultaneously the informant, the informed and the information of big data? What counts as understanding of, or engagement with, big data, when big data themselves are multiplying, fluid and recursive? As part of our manifesto, we propose a range of empirical, conceptual and methodological exhortations. We also provide Appendix 1 that outlines three novel methods for addressing some of the issues raised in the article….(More)”

Setting Government Procurement Data Free

Colin Wood in GovTech: “A new website may help drive down government procurement costs and make it easier for startups to sell their goods and services.

The website, called Open Procure, launched earlier this month and is the latest side project of Alan Mond, CEO and co-founder ofMunirent, the inter-jurisdictional equipment sharing service. Mond says the website is an experiment that he hopes will start conversations about procurement and ultimately prove beneficial for government and startups alike.

The website is simply a list of procurement thresholds for local and state government agencies nationwide. As of two weeks after launch, the website features thresholds for 59 agencies, many of which provide links to the original data sources. Users can see that in Boston, for instance, the city’s discretionary procurement threshold is $5,000 and the formal threshold is $25,000. So any startup wanting to sell goods or services to Boston — but avoid a public competitive bid process — can see that they need to keep their cost under $25,000. If they want to avoid competition altogether, they need to keep it under $5,000.

The website also creates a broader discussion around threshold inconsistency. In Philadelphia, for instance, the discretionary threshold is $32,000, compared to Boston’s $5,000, which means Philadelphia can procure without taking multiple bids on considerably larger projects. This is useful information for businesses, Mond pointed out, but also a conversation starter for the public sector. Do these disparities between different states, cities and counties exist for a good reason, or are they decided somewhat arbitrarily and left in the municipal code to rot?…(More)”

Demystifying the hackathon

Ferry Grijpink, Alan Lau, and Javier Vara at McKinsey: “The “hackathon” has become one of the latest vogue terms in business. Typically used in reference to innovation jams like those seen at Rails Rumble or TechCrunch Disrupt, it describes an event that pools eager entrepreneurs and software developers into a confined space for a day or two and challenges them to create a cool killer app. Yet hackathons aren’t just for the start-up tech crowd. Businesses are employing the same principles to break through organizational inertia and instill more innovation-driven cultures. That’s because they offer a baptism by fire: a short, intense plunge that assaults the senses and allows employees to experience creative disruption in a visceral way.

For large organizations in particular, hackathons can be adapted to greatly accelerate the process of digital transformation. They are less about designing new products and more about “hacking” away at old processes and ways of working. By giving management and others the ability to kick the tires of collaborative design practices, 24-hour hackathons can show that big organizations are capable of delivering breakthrough innovation at start-up speed. And that’s never been more critical: speed and agility are today central to driving business value,1 making hackathons a valuable tool for accelerating organizational change and fostering a quick-march, customercentric, can-do culture.

What it takes to do a good 24-hour hackathon

A 24-hour hackathon differs from more established brainstorming sessions in that it is all about results and jump-starting a way of working, not just idea generation. However, done well, it can help shave 25 to 50 percent from the time it takes to bring a service or product to market. The best 24-hour hackathons share several characteristics. They are:

  • Centered on the customer. A hackathon is focused on a single customer process or journey and supports a clear business target—for example, speed, revenue growth, or a breakthrough customer experience. It goes from the front to the back, starting with the customer experience and moving through various organizational and process steps that come into play to deliver on that interaction and the complete customer journey.
  • Deeply cross-functional. This is not just for the IT crowd. Hackathons bring together people from across the business to force different ways of working a problem. In addition to IT and top management, whose involvement as participants or as sponsors is critical, hackathon participants can include frontline personnel, brand leaders, user-experience specialists, customer service, sales, graphic designers, and coders. That assortment forces a range of perspectives to keep group think at bay while intense deadlines dispense with small talk and force quick, deep collaboration.
  • Starting from scratch. Successful hackathons deliberately challenge participants to reimagine an idealized method for addressing a given customer need, such as taking a paper-based, offline account-opening procedure and turning it into a simple, single-step, self-service online process. There’s an intentional irreverence in this disruption, too. Participants go in knowing that everything can and should be challenged. That’s liberating. The goal is to toss aside traditional notions of how things are done and reimagine the richest, most efficient way to improve the customer experience.
  • Concrete and focused on output. Sessions start with ideas but end with a working prototype that people can see and touch, such as clickable apps or a 3-D printed product (exhibit). Output also includes a clear development path that highlights all the steps needed, including regulatory, IT, and other considerations, to accelerate production and implementation. After an intense design workshop, which includes sketching a minimum viable product and overnight coding and development of the prototype, a 24-hour hackathon typically concludes with an experiential presentation to senior leaders. This management showcase includes a real-life demonstration of the new prototype and a roadmap of IT and other capabilities needed to bring the final version to market in under 12 weeks.
  • Iterative and continuous. Once teams agree on a basic experience, designers and coders go to work creating a virtual model that the group vets, refines and re-releases in continual cycles until the new process or app meets the desired experience criteria. When hackathons end, there is usually a surge of enthusiasm and energy. But that energy can dissipate unless management puts in place new processes to sustain the momentum. That includes creating mechanisms for frontline employees to report back on progress and rewards for adopting new behaviors….(More)”

Statactivism: Forms of Action between Disclosure and Affirmation

Paper by Bruno Isabelle, Didier Emmanuel and Vitale Tommaso: “This article introduces the special issue on statactivism, a particular form of action within the repertoire used by contemporary social movements: the mobilization of statistics. Traditionally, statistics has been used by the worker movement within the class conflicts. But in the current configuration of state restructuring, new accumulation regimes, and changes in work organization in capitalists societies, the activist use of statistics is moving. This first article seeks to show the use of statistics and quantification in contentious performances connected with state restructuring, main transformations of the varieties of capitalisms, and changes in work organization regimes. The double role of statistics in representing as well as criticizing reality is considered. After showing how important statistical tools are in producing a shared reading of reality, we will discuss the two main dimensions of statactivism – disclosure and affirmation. In other words, we will see the role of stat-activists in denouncing a certain state of reality, and then the efforts to use statistics in creating equivalency among disparate conditions and in cementing emerging social categories. Finally, we present the main contributions of the various research papers in this special issue regarding the use of statistics as a form of action within a larger repertoire of contentious action. Six empirical papers focus on statactivism against the penal machinery in the early 1970s (Grégory Salle), on the mobilisation on the price index in Guadalupe in 2009 (Boris Samuel), and in Argentina in 2007 (Celia Lury and Ana Gross), on the mobilisations of experts to consolidate a link between working conditions and health issues (Marion Gilles), on the production of activity data for disability policy in France (Pierre-Yves Baudot), and on the use of statistics in social mobilizations for gender equality (Eugenia De Rosa). Alain Desrosières wrote the last paper, coping with mobilizations proposing innovations in the way of measuring inflation, unemployment, poverty, GDP, and climate change. This special issue is dedicated to him, in order to honor his everlasting intellectual legacy….(More)”


Lawyer’s crowdsourcing site aims to help people have their day in court

 in The Guardian: “With warnings coming thick and fast about the stark ramifications of the government’s sweeping cuts to legal aid, it was probably inevitable that someone would come up with a new way to plug some gaps in access to justice. Enter the legal crowdfunder, CrowdJustice, an online platform where people who might not otherwise get their case heard can raise cash to pay for legal representation and court costs.

The brainchild of 33-year-old lawyer Julia Salasky, and the first of its kind in the UK, CrowdJustice provides people who have a public interest case but lack adequate financial resources with a forum where they can publicise their case and, if all goes to plan, generate funding for legal action by attracting public support and donations.

“We are trying to increase access to justice – that’s the baseline,” says Salasky. “I think it’s a social good.”

The platform was launched just a few months ago, but has already attracteda range of cases both large and small, including some that could set important legal precedents.

CrowdJustice has helped the campaign, Jengba (Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association) to raise funds to intervene in a supreme court case to consider reforming the law of joint enterprise that can find people guilty of a crime, including murder, committed by someone else. The group amassed £10,000 in donations for legal assistance as part of their ongoing challenge to the legal doctrine of “joint enterprise”, which disproportionately prosecutes people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds for violent crimes where it is alleged they have acted together for a common purpose.

In another case, a Northern Irish woman who discovered she wasn’t entitled to her partner’s occupational pension after he died because of a bureaucratic requirement that did not apply to married couples, used CrowdJustice to help raise money to take her case all the way to the supreme court. “If she wins, it will have an enormous precedent-setting value for the legal rights of all couples who cohabit,” Salasky says….(The Guardian)”

Partnership Governance in Public Management

A Public Solutions Handbook y Seth A. Grossman, Marc Holzer: “The ability to create and sustain partnerships is a skill and a strategic capacity that utilizes the strengths and offsets the weaknesses of each actor. Partnerships between the public and private sectors allow each to enjoy the benefits of the other: the public sector benefits from increased entrepreneurship and the private sector utilizes public authority and processes to achieve economic and community revitalization. Partnership Governance in Public Management describes what partnership is in the public sector, as well as how it is managed, measured, and evaluated. Both a theoretical and practical text, this book is a what, why, and how examination of a key function of public management.Examining governing capacity, community building, downtown revitalization, and partnership governance through the lens of formalized public-private partnerships – specifically, how these partnerships are understood and sustained in our society – this book is essential reading for students and practitioners with an interest in partnership governance and public administration and management more broadly. Chapters explore partnering technologies as a way to bridge sectors, to produce results and a new sense of public purpose, and to form a stable foundation for governance to flourish….(More)”

Privacy Bridges: EU and US Privacy Experts in Search of Transatlantic Privacy Solutions

IVIR and MIT: “The EU and US share a common commitment to privacy protection as a cornerstone of democracy. Following the Treaty of Lisbon, data privacy is a fundamental right that the European Union must proactively guarantee. In the United States, data privacy derives from constitutional protections in the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment as well as federal and state statute, consumer protection law and common law. The ultimate goal of effective privacy protection is shared. However, current friction between the two legal systems poses challenges to realizing privacy and the free flow of information across the Atlantic. Recent expansion of online surveillance practices underline these challenges.

Over nine months, the group prepared a consensus report outlining a menu of privacy “bridges” that can be built to bring the European Union and the United States closer together. The efforts are aimed at providing a framework of practical options that advance strong, globally-accepted privacy values in a manner that respects the substantive and procedural differences between the two jurisdictions….