Leveraging Innovation, Open Government, and Public-Private Partnerships to Create Public Value

Welcome to the first posting of the Jennovation blog series! As a featured blogger on Govloop, I will be posting every other Monday, beginning June 14, 2010, about my musings on innovation, Open Government (Open Gov) and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs).

But how to these three—seemingly loosely connected subject areas—relate enough to justify being lumped together? In my opinion, innovation, Open Gov and PPPs are some of the most effective means for the Government to maximize the public value it provides.


A great example of a government program that demonstrates embraces all three strategies is the
Department of Education’s Open Innovation Portal. The Open Innovation Portal is self-described as “a collaborative community designed to identify, improve, and implement innovative solutions to educational challenges.”
How does it further Open Gov principles? This web-based portal embodies the principles of participation and collaboration by providing a gathering place for education stakeholders to participate in the problem solving process and identify opportunities to partner to create public value. The portal uses many web 2.0 functions, including allowing users to:
  • Rate solutions and fellow members (think Amazon or eBay).
  • Connect with other members (think Facebook or LinkedIn).
  • Post classifieds to seek or offer services (think Craigslist).
  • Earn points for participating (think loyalty programs).

How does it encourage and leverage PPPs? The Open Innovation Portal allows PPPs to assemble based on common ideas and needs to provide value to the education community. Through the ideation functionality, the best ideas float to the top, where they attract the attention of other innovators, potential funders, or contributors of in-kind resources.

How does it encourage innovation? The Portal allows members to post challenges relating to education, ask questions relating to challenges, contribute helpful comments on challenges, and rate other user’s ideas. The discussion helps innovators improve the quality of their ideas, for submission to other Portal challenges or external grant programs. “The Portal is itself an innovation in education.”

However, all government programs need not utilize components of all three strategies to create value—it’s just extremely cool and forward thinking when they do. Throughout this series I will strive to create a variety of postings that:

  • Inform readers of academic and practitioner research in innovation, Open Gov and PPPs;
  • Share my opinion on to how to most effectively drive these practices in the Federal Sector and overcome obstacles to their acceptance; and
  • Stimulate conversation by identifying hard situations/questions and providing an opportunity for crowd sourced solutions.

Also, as an innovation and Open Gov advocate, I believe in the value of ideation for identifying problems, issue areas and topics that might not be on my radar—but are on yours! In the spirit of acknowledging what I don’t know, I’d also like to ask you, the reader, to feel free to reach out to me at jennovation1@gmail.com, at any time during this series, and request a blog posting on a specific topic in these subject areas. I’ll do my best to work with you to identify interesting spins on the topic, research the topic fully, and share our collective thoughts in this series—even co-author if you’d like. To make this series as rich as possible, I’m committed to adhering to the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration in its creation.

To kick-off the series, I’ll ask a simple question: How do YOU define Innovation, Open Government and Public Private Partnerships? For this series, I am starting with the following definitions/scope. What do you think?

  • Innovation: “Fundamentally, innovation is the development of new products, services, and processes.” [1] Following Schumpeter, contributors to the scholarly literature on innovation typically distinguish between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully in practice. [2]
  • Open Government: “The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government. Transparency promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the Government is doing. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise so that their government can make policies with the benefit of information that is widely dispersed in society. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of Government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the Federal Government, across levels of government, and between the Government and private institutions.” [3]
  • Public-Private Partnership: “A partnership is a collaboration among business, non-profit organizations and Government in which risks, resources and skills are shared in projects that benefit each partner as well as the community”. [4] Furthermore, Donahue and Zechauser define PPPs/Collaborative Governance as the “pursuit of authoritatively chosen public goals by means that include engaging the effort of, and sharing discretion with, producers outside the Government.” [5]

The goal of this blog series is to demonstrate how these methods can be used in combination to maximize the value that the Government provides to the citizen. Looking forward to discussing these exciting subjects with you!

[1] The White House’s “A Strategy for American Innovation: Driving Towards Sustainable Growth and Quality Jobs”, page 4.
[2] Schumpeter, Joseph (1934). The Theory of Economic Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
[3]
The Open Government Directive
[4] Osbourne, Stephen P., ed Public Private Partnership: Theory and Practice in International Perspective. London, UK: Routledge Advances in Management and Business Studies, 2000. P 11
[5] Donahue, John and Richard Zechauser, “Public Private collaboration” “Oxford Handbook of Public Policy. Ed. Robert Goodin, Michael Moran, and Martin Rein. UK: Oxford University Press, 2006. P 430