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Strategies for Open Innovation: Co-Production / Co-Creation

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Earlier in our series of blogs on government innovation, we explored the background to the emerging innovation trends and defined the key principles and terminology to help illuminate this sector. In this second series, we are going to explore, over a number of posts, some of the implementation strategies and options within open innovation and help to bring this to life more practically.

Embracing co-creation to drive public sector innovation:

We work with a significant number of public sector organisations. It is a really interesting time within many of these public bodies as they face some very tough challenges and it is great to see many of them turning to more innovative approaches, tools and techniques to help them confront these challenges head on. Within the local authorities we work with they are currently facing another significant round of budget cuts due to kick in from November 2013. They are embracing co-creation as a key tool to help them seek out and implement radical new ways of delivering better services and outcomes at a significantly lower cost.

Samantha Cornick of Surrey County Council works as a manager in the shift innovation space and truly understands the importance Open Innovation has for local authorities: “[Technology] is of course important, but getting the right culture in the space and the right people are vital if you want to generate really innovative ideas,” Cornick says.

If we explore the specifics of what these organisations are doing we may be surprised to learn that a lot of it is really not as big, bold and scary as it may first seem. Embracing technology provides them with a highly scalable and flexible set of tools to create, often for the first time, a more open and collaborative approach to ideas and innovation than they have had before. There are natural concerns, typically around the resources involved to help manage these new (and unfamiliar) processes and tools. Questions are asked about how to avoid setting unrealistic expectations from those involved in the co-creation processes. In reality, and we have implemented communities across a range of public sector organisations, these concerns are mostly natural but do not materialise into real issues.

We have been part of some truly fascinating projects around co-creation within the UK public sector. Local authorities are being bold and running crowdsourcing campaigns seeking new and innovative solutions to complex local issues. There are no guarantees that the ideas will be implemented, no commitments that anything will happen with the ideas at all. It is most important to ensure that your co-creation and crowdsourcing initiatives are well positioned, expectations are set early, and that there is a commitment to following the defined process, to taking the input and ideas seriously, and to report back on the ideas submitted, in particular those taken forward.

So what does this all mean from a practical perspective? Simply put, there are new, inexpensive and highly innovative approaches that are driving real value for the pioneering public sector organisations and individuals who are brave enough to give them a go. At a time when resource is scarce, co-creation can be a method to help drive partnerships between the public service organisations and the communities they are there to serve and service.

We see co-creation communities emerge where public services, the general public, academia and SMEs are coming together to work on, ideate, and some times even solve complex challenges. There is much more to come. This is still a relatively new and evolving way of working. We are proud to be helping to drive it and look forward to detailing more of the outcomes and impact from our work in later posts. Already, we see new services such as youth theatres, solutions to complex parking, building or homelessness issues, and new collaborations between very disparate organisations spanning the public/private divide and there is much more to come. Watch this space!

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