Open innovation meets wikinomics

It's wonderful how great stuff can turn up at the last moment to make you feel you are on the right track. I've just posted this across at Designing for Civil Society

I'm with Paul Caplan in being really excited to see the guys who produced so much buzz with Wikinomics are now taking their gospel of innovation through open collaboration into the public sector. It's great encouragement for our team in the final hours of putting together an  "open source bid" to Government for a £1.2 million Innovation Exchange.

It seemed a bit crazy, when we started a few weeks back, to produce a competitive tender document in public promoting open collaboration as the means to improve third sector delivery of public services ... but as you can see from our Open Innovation Exchange website it's attracted a lot of support and great ideas.

The team, led by Simon and Jane Berry, are working on the final version today and Simon will be delivering it to the Cabinet Office tomorrow.

Anyway, back to Wikinomics. Government 2.0 is starting a global investigation around these initial themes:

Renovate the tired rules that inhibit innovation with new models of Web-enabled collaboration that cut across departmental silos to improve policy outcomes, reduce costs, and increase public value

Achieve breakthroughs in public service delivery and organizational effectiveness by deploying emerging Web 2.0 technologies

Understand what today's global youth really expect of government and how they will behave as citizens and consumers of public services

Differentiate employee recruitment programs to appeal to the incoming wave of Net Generation workers

Reinvigorate democratic processes with technology-enabled approaches to policy-making, problem solving, citizen engagement and stakeholder consultation

Solve enduring policy challenges with collaborative approaches to issues such as climate change, education, health care, and national security

Paul Caplan offers his own take which certainly resonates with me:

It’s all good. I’ve argued a number of times (here and here for instance) that Government needs to go through the sort of shifts that the corporate and media worlds are working through. I’ve also hopefully made clear that the sort of revolution we are talking about is not just a communications and marketing (let alone a ‘presentation’, thanks Gordon, issue) no it is about open sourcing policy too.

So the Wikinomics project is all right by me… in fact I’ll go as far as to say Mr Tapscott, Mr Williams and Mr Brown, “can we do it in New Britain?”

Mr Brown is already promising “national debates”, “consultations” and all the rest of the ‘top-down-made-to-look-like-bottom-up’ rhetoric. I’ve worked in Government long enough to know that its only when those developing, and crucially delivering, policy have a real stake in the process that change will happen.

Sure we citizens need to be involved in the thinking but there are a lot of citizens in government and they’re not all “Sir Humphrys” many are bright, articulate, imaginative and passionate people. But often they do not have the systems in place to make a real contribution (create the Network/Wiki effect).

There is real potential in Government. If some of the people I have met in Government and in the satellite Third Sector, could be given the space to build (policy and delivery) solutions riding the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ et al, politicians would have some real material to work with.

Paul argues for a public space where officials would join in development of ideas and practices for innovation:

This cross Government Wikispace does not take the place of the broader Government-Public Wikispace the guys have set up. It runs alongside it. I would argue though that a parallel one is necessary:

It would stitch Government into the process. They would be inside not outside

It would have to have Government support in terms of resources. If they’re paying civil servants to  think, they’ll have to listen.

It would have real backing. Government would be able to create a space where its staff could speak freely and openly (even if it is only on the GSI intra/extranet)

It would be able to bring together technical as well as creative thinking

It would not fall victim (or look like it could fall victim) to vested interests

Creating a cross-Government wikispace, a safe and secure, embedded, resourced and supported space (on the GSI or not) would be to harness the very expensive, extensive and experienced power across the public sector.

Wow - that's even more ambitious than our Open Innovation Exchange. Certainly makes us feel we are on the right track.

Do come across to our site. If you have a comment we might just squeeze it into our document - but in any case we'll keep the site open and look out for more examples of collaboration to develop better public services, government and democracy.

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