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15 Opportunities for Your Agency to Innovate in Government

The Department of the Interior has successfully matched their message to the right medium with their use of Instagram — and that’s one of the ways government can innovate better.

Wednesday, GovDelivery hosted an important event on the Power of Reach in government, on how your communications can engage stakeholders to take action – online or offline – to truly drive mission value for your organization. And as part of the event, GovLoops president and founder, Steve Ressler, gave a keynote on innovations that matter in 2014. And we were there to take notes for you.

For Ressler, there are currently 15 big innovations in technology and in digital that can truly make a difference in government if employed. Read on for details and how these 15 innovations can apply to you.

1. Matching Message to Medium: Ressler pointed out that there are so many new mediums online and on our phones that can affect what we do — and agencies must figure out which platform best fits their message. Think about the US Department of Interior and the success they’ve had on their Instagram account. They matched their message (beautiful, inspiring American scenery) to the right medium (a social photo sharing network). Ressler also talked about the Crisis Text Line — a support line for teens that operates almost solely via text messages, because that’s the main way teens communicate these days. Think about your agency – what medium can match your message? Who are you trying to reach?

2. Virtual and Blended Learning: How are you training your workers and your partners? In 2014, it’s difficult to fly all your staff and field officers across the country. Online learning is a great way to solve that problem. “Just the other day I had a flat tire,” Ressler said. “How did I learn how to fix it right away? A YouTube video.” Ressler said you have to think about how people are getting real time learning in their daily life and apply that to government training.

3. Mandatory E-gov: Should gov make it mandatory to do digital services? Denmark has made a compelling case that the answer is yes. A few years ago, their government launched its 2011-2015 eGovernment strategy. In this strategy, Denmark has moved a number of their core government services so that you have to do them online. By requiring mandatory e-government services, Denmark forced the government to invest in these digital services and make the services world-class. [RELATED: Mandatory e-Government – Is it Possible?]

4. Cybersecurity: Security is currently top of mind everywhere, from target data breaches to the Heartbleed debacle. Ressler pointed out that in cybersecurity, government is facing a talent issue. We need to be hiring for cybersecurity knowledge. [RELATED: Amid The Heartbleed, A Helpful App]

5. Procurement: Ressler asked the audience to think of how you shop in your life these days. You go to Amazon, you get user reviews, do comparison pricing, maybe post on Facebook asking friends for their recommendation — there’s tons of amazing data available at your fingertips. But think about how you buy in government now. It can take up to 18 months to get any purchasing done; you often don’t have great info on your vendors. But Ressler pointed out that’s starting to change. FBopen is a new pilot created by GSA around procurement that encourages small businesses to search for opportunities to work with the U.S. government. And Philadelphia recently created a program for government agencies to post RFPs that local small business can bid on freely. [RELATED: How Philly is Bridging the Gap Between Gov & Innovation]

6. New Startups. “It’s a fun time to work in government because there’s a lot of new companies coming into the space that can help you do your job better,” said Ressler. He cited Napster founder Sean Parker’s new company that aims to encourage civic engagement as well as SmartProcure.us.

7. Crowdsourcing. “This is a topic that’s been around for a while,” said Ressler, “but it’s bubbling up more and more.” A cool recent example? The crowdsourcing work the Smithsonian has done for transcribing their archived items. The Smithsonian asks volunteers for their time and transcription efforts to help turn handwritten and typed documents into searchable and machine-readable resources.

How can you leverage power of the crowd and give them a clear task like the Smithsonian has done?

8. Mission-Critical Social Media: “What excites me about social media in 2014 is it’s moved to mission critical,” said Ressler. “It’s not just an afterthought anymore.” He talked about the Boston bombing tragedy from last year and how the Boston PD used their Twitter account as the primary mechanism to get the word out. Twitter, in that case, was not just an afterthought. It was real time and it was the main communication tool they were using to engage the citizens.

9. Next Phase of Open Data: . Fun time for data. Opengov.com, my fave open data release was the medicare data. What a great data set of hospitals and doctors data. Front page stories about the 10 million dollar doctor. Interesting study found female doctors make 30% less than men – this data sheds light on unfairness or waste. That all came from open data. Data isn’t just released online, now it transforms the conversation.

10 . One Website for Everything: Many U.S agencies have multiple pages or portals for their services. But what if we brought all of our services into one site or portal? Gov.uk is a great example of this, and the governments of Mexico and Ontario are moving to that concept as well — the concept of consolidation and simplicity. “What I really like about it?” asked Ressler. “It’s putting user first and makes it really simple for user to get info they want. How do we simplify what we’re offering to our citizens?”

11. Analytics for Real Problems: Ressler said the future of data and analytics is all about predictive analytics, as the city of St. Louis is doing. “On New Year’s Eve, the department pulled all past crime analytics from previous New Year’s and redistributed police officers so they could be at the place before crimes happened,” explained Ressler. [RELATED: The Power of Predictive Policing]

12. Leveraging Modern Marketing Tactics: “We see this trend at the state and local level especially,” said Ressler. “Have you ever gone to Amazon or Zappos or Delta — and ALMOST purchased something? But you forgot. But suddenly you get an email a week later that the book is on sale, magically! It’s mildly creepy but incredibly effective.” Ressler pointed out that state and local departments can use this tactic to increase revenue from interrupted transactions. “If you’re trying to buy a fishing license online in Wyoming but then you get called away from your desk and never complete the purchase, government agencies are starting to think we could do remarketing and send a message reminder.”

13. Importance of Design. “Focus on design is way better in government now than it was even just 3-4 years ago,” said Ressler. “It’s the Apple influence. Now it’s about building beautiful products that work efficiently.” Many agencies are starting to employ a human-centered approach to design and message testing to create more effective websites. [RELATED: Good Design: A Shortcut to Improved Citizen Engagement and Service Delivery]

14. Mobile Service Delivery. Ressler talked about what we’re all aware of — that mobile delivery is critical for governments to take advantage of and offer their users. He cited Uber, the taxi-delivery app, and the PayByPhone parking app as examples that have made formerly onerous processes fun and simple, merely by going via mobile.

15. Internet of Things: Though it’s not used widely yet in government, the internet of things — physical objects syncing automatically with the web to perform actions seamlessly — will soon be making more of a splash. Connected devices will soon do real-time improvements and processes for you — and citizens. [RELATED: The Internet of Things: Connected Government]

Want more innovations in government? Download our 20 Innovations That Mattered guide — and leave your idea for government innovation in the comments below.

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Profile Photo Terrence Hill

Speaking of crowd-sourcing, it seems like every innovative company has found a way to tap into the inherent innovative spirit in every employee. Using ideation systems like IdeaScale, IdeaFactory, IdeaHub, etc. to solicit, refine, and procure innovative ideas is a common thread among best companies.

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Profile Photo Nathaniel Elliott

I think another great component is being “agile” and simply going for it. Often people wait to innovate till the “perfect process, execution, etc” is defined but when you just become agile and go for it, the results are always innovative.

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