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Jennovation 1.0: 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 [email protected], 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

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And one of my favorite topics public-private partnerships. Which has been around a long time.

But I think it’s really important…how do we solve these huge problems tasked to government – and I think it’s an eco-system of for-profit, non-profit, and government at all levels.

Arvind Nigam

There is much need of similar collaborative-innovative initiatives in other verticals as well. And not only that focused use of social potential of the internet makes a lot of sense for transparent Governance in the long run.

PPP is the only reason why startups like mine have mushroomed. Nimble startups can not only give specific web 2.0 service, but also bring the expenses to a much lower level.

A very nice insightful post Jenn.

– Arvind

Jenn Gustetic

Thanks for the great comments all! I too am extremely excited/ interested in PPPs–so much so it was the topic of my masters thesis at MIT titled, “A framework for understanding and designing partnerships in emergency preparedness and response” (http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/40299?show=full)

Gwynne–your point about each PPP being very different based on the partners/motivation is a great one–not all people come to that table for the same reasons and that is okay as long as they are ultimately committed to creating the same public value.

I also love the innovation portal concept–especially since it allows possible PPPs to find each other! I am actively thinking about how to enable other “verticals”, as Arvind calls them, to be supported in thus way as well.

An interesting question for me as whether for-profit and non-profit partnerships should leverage the same platforms for organic creation or if they should have distinct gathering places. Thoughts?

I look forward to a long a fruitful converstation with y’all on these topics and keep the ideas coming!

Sarah Giles

The definition we use in the field of collaborative governance is an umbrella definition for a spectrum of activities (from collaborative citizen engagement to collaborative systems and collaborative implementation) – collaborative governance is a process of solving public issues by engaging and sharing decision making responsibility with those affected by it. In a collaborative governance process, public leaders (may be elected, may be a highly respected civic leader, may be an agency head, may even be a highly respected private citizen), bring people together across all sectors (public-private-non-profit) and across governmental boundaries to combine their knowledge and resources and reach integrative solutions. In implementing these solutions, there is a public-private partnership that emerges, since all sectors are needed to integrate the appropriate resources.

In a collaborative governance project, the leader as convener really acts as the key to finding those parties who have the resources for the issue at hand. That’s a big part of the convening role for the leader – because of their stature, they’re the ones who often know who has those resources, in the public sector, in the for-profit sector and in the non-profit sector.

And, yes, those partners do come to the table for very different reasons, but I’d agree with Jenn that it’s ok, as long as they are also coming to the table committed to solving a public issue for the public good. Collaborative governance processes can work even if the motives are different – they work when there is a shared vision and a shared end goal. Part of the process is figuring out from the very beginning what those motives are and determining what that shared vision is.

Jenn, if you’re looking for examples in specific issue areas – we’ve got a huge resource of case studies (http://www.policyconsensus.org/casestudies/index.html) on public-private-non-profit collaboration for the public good across the country at the state / local level. One that is a great story of a really successful public-private partnership here in Oregon is a project to reconstruct part of the Lewis and Clark trail out to the Pacific Ocean (http://www.orsolutions.org/northwest/clatsop.htm).

Jenn Gustetic

Thanks for the great contribution and providing links to such an awesome resource!

I think one REALLY cool part about this point in history is that collaborative governance processes can be enhanced and expanded by the technology innovations that are now available. I think open government provides opportunities to (as you say) “figure out from the very beginning what motives are and determine what that shared vision is” in more transparent ways–allowing even more potential partners to come to the table.

I would argue that it’s not absolutely necessary that the leader of the partnership be from the public sector. PPPs can also emerge when they are initially catalyzed by the private sector–but the public sector partners that come on board are crucial in influencing its success. In my opinion, stature can come from many places.

I look forward to discussing this more with you Sarah. Keep the great comments coming!

Andrew Krzmarzick

Hey Jenn – Excellent start. Thanks for sharing your injennuity (yes, these word plays will keep coming 😉 It will be a new language soon: Jennish.

@Sarah’s comment got me thinking: it would be cool to highlight some of the greatest private-public partnerships in history – thinking back a real long time. It’s not a new concept…but we can definitely learn from successful projects over time and ask “What were their common elements?” Might find a recipe for replication.

One other thought: as Boomers retire and a smaller number of employees come behind to fill their slots, the public sector will need to get a lot more creative with its resource deployment, making multi-sector collaboration critical.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Oh…and my definitions:

Innovation: busting out of the box with fresh ideas and taking risks to make those ideas a reality

OpenGov: govies working in a fish bowl and asking citizens to feed us

PPP: leveraging the top resources, wherever we can find them, to get big things done