When we think about government these days, “open” and “collaborative” aren’t the first words that come to mind. Bureaucracy is typically a hindrance to innovation—both in the business and the public sectors. Forward-thinking government agencies, however, are seeing the potential of tapping into group intelligence and mass collaboration to better embrace innovation.
In the U.S., President Obama has challenged his cabinet members to ensure that every federal department finds ways to openly discuss innovative solutions with the public over the next 18 months.
In response, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) launched the Open Innovation Portal in February 2010 as a tool to reach out to the community for solutions to educational challenges, such as increased high school dropout rates and low reading scores. The Open Innovation Portal now has more than 4,000 members, each of whom can post innovative ideas and rate others’ ideas based on defined criteria. Organizations and businesses can even post “challenges” for members. For example, IBM is providing $500,000 in grants through the Open Innovation Portal to support educational innovations that integrate IBM technologies.
Other government entities are joining the crowdsourcing movement. The town of Manor, Texas (population 5,800) created an open innovation platform called Manor Labs which rewards Manor’s citizens with points for submitting ideas. Points can be redeemed for prizes including a ride-along with the Manor police or a meal at a local restaurant. Manor has implemented several crowdsourced ideas — including an automatic debit option for paying city utility bills and an open-source work order system.
Is crowdsourcing the future of government innovation?