Last month, leaders in public sector innovation gathered to discuss ways of crowdsourcing new solutions to longstanding problems at IdeaScale’s Open Nation DC. Speakers from a range of agencies as diverse as the FDA and the US Coast Guard presented best practices on creating actionable change in government.

Every organization, no matter what their goal (whether it was changing employment policy or working to make solar cost competitive with other form of electricity) looked to the crowd for guidance and collaboration on problem solving, but a few even looked to their citizens for ideation and partnership. But no matter the goal, department, or program, public sector organizations face a few similar challenges and also overcome those barriers with similar strategies. Here are a few of those challenges.

Regulations. There are limitations to who you can communicate with, how you communicate, who can offer solutions and more. It’s important to stay current so that the settings  and practices in your innovation program align to those regulations. For example, when the Department of Energy wanted to grant money or businesses that could help make solar cost competitive, they could only receive submissions from individuals in the US.

Collaboration Happens Online and Offline. It’s important that people be able to communicate (and get excited) in a number of different ways. Gather feedback and invite participation in online ideation communities, but also in real life. After all, not everyone is online all the time. For example, when the Department of Energy wanted to hear from a broad base of innovators, they not only hosted an online challenge, they showcased that challenge at live in-person events.

Resources are Limited. The crowd is key in overcoming this challenge – people who are interested can always spare a few extra minutes in the day to ask new questions, build an idea and then get back to the rest of their work. One customer teaches their crowd how to be a good conversation moderator so that they can ask more questions, encourage, and give feedback in a constructive way without disrupting their day.

Incentives are Limited. But even in government there are things that you can do without impacting budget or dealing with a lot of paperwork. For example, one customer encourages engagement by telling employees if they hit their participation goal for a campaign, then everyone gets to go home one hour early.

The Delta Between Idea and Results. Things move slowly in government, which is why you need to celebrate the milestones along the way. For example, one of our customers that integrates feedback into policy communicates to their crowd about meetings, new proposals, drafts, and more – not just the finished policy. The crowd is also invited to weigh in on other decisions so that they stay engaged.

To learn more about public sector innovation, you can view the presentation recordings and download the slide decks on our Open Nation DC resources page.


By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

Featured image via Unsplash.