Open innovation in the public sector

Sabrina Diaz Rato in OpenDemocracy: “For some years now, we have been witnessing the emergence of relational, cross-over, participative power. This is the territory that gives technopolitics its meaning and prominence, the basis on which a new vision of democracy – more open, more direct, more interactive – is being developed and embraced. It is a framework that overcomes the closed architecture on which the praxis of governance (closed, hierarchical, one-way) have been cemented in almost all areas. The series The ecosystem of open democracy explores the different aspects of this ongoing transformation….

How can innovation contribute to building an open democracy? The answer is summed up in these ten connectors of innovation.

  1. placing innovation and collective intelligence at the center of public management strategies,
  2. aligning all government areas with clearly-defined goals on associative platforms,
  3. shifting the frontiers of knowledge and action from the institutions to public deliberation on local challenges,
  4. establishing leadership roles, in a language that everyone can easily understand, to organize and plan the wealth of information coming out of citizens’ ideas and to engage those involved in the sustainability of the projects,
  5. mapping the ecosystem and establishing dynamic relations with internal and, particularly, external agents: the citizens,
  6. systematizing the accumulation of information and the creative processes, while communicating progress and giving feedback to the whole community,
  7. preparing society as a whole to experience a new form of governance of the common good,
  8. cooperating with universities, research centers and entrepreneurs in establishing reward mechanisms,
  9. aligning people, technologies, institutions and the narrative with the new urban habits, especially those related to environmental sustainability and public services,
  10. creating education and training programs in tune with the new skills of the 21st century,
  11. building incubation spaces for startups responding to local challenges,
  12. inviting venture capital to generate a satisfactory mix of open innovation, inclusive development policies and local productivity.

Two items in this list are probably the determining factors of any effective innovation process. The first has to do with the correct decision on the mechanisms through which we have pushed the boundaries outwards, so as to bring citizen ideas into the design and co-creation of solutions. This is not an easy task, because it requires a shared organizational mentality on previously non-existent patterns of cooperation, which must now be sustained through dialog and operational dynamics aimed at solving problems defined by external actors – not just any problem.

Another key aspect of the process, related to the breaking down of the institutional barriers that surround and condition action frameworks, is the revaluation of a central figure that we have not yet mentioned here: the policy makers. They are not exactly political leaders or public officials. They are not innovators either. They are the ones within Public Administration who possess highly valuable management skills and knowledge, but who are constantly colliding against the glittering institutional constellations that no longer work….(More)”