Using open innovation to develop new models of public services

First published here. Here in Kent, we developed a concept called “Transformed by You” to involve people to come up with ideas and work with students and entrepreneurs to help turn them into prototypes.

You can see here some of what was developed. If you missed the activities last time round, you’ll be pleased to know we’re doing it again, but we’re doing it slightly differently and this time with partners right across the county.

As Kent Connects, a partnership for local public services across Kent, we’re planning a competition running from September to invite people to come up with ideas on how to make their area a better place to live, work & play using technology! To inform what we focus on as partners in how we approach technology, but also to stimulate connections between the public and people who can turn ideas into reality.

When we launch, there will be the opportunity for people to come up with ideas online and develop them at a workshop. We will work with innovators to develop ways to turn their ideas into prototypes and get them together over an innovation camp (mix of hackday and visual camp). We’ll then invite people back to test the prototypes to make sure they work for them.

Innovation often depends on the right kinds of difference. That’s why we’re talking to different groups for our competition. People who are involved in formal groups or programmes and those who are more involved in informal groups and activities.

What we’re doing at the moment is to better understand people’s motivations to coming up with ideas and solving problems together, so we can look at how we incentivise and reward those innovative behaviours. But obviously different groups will have different motivations, from:

  • community groups to startups
  • innovators working in our partner organisations to social entrepreneurs
  • people who’re looking for the commercial viability of the ideas to students who want to enhance their portfolio
  • people who want to spin out the ideas into projects to people who just want to discuss ways of how technology can be used to help improve public services

If you look at all the assets within those different groups, making up more than the sum of their parts, you have a really strong ecosystem to take the prototypes developed forward. And what we learnt from Transformed by You v1, is that we need to focus as much on what happens after the competition as what happens before.

Learning from the mapping carried out on a challenge-based competition carried out on a much bigger scale showed how important it was to “uncover what support these communities need to transform their bright ideas into viable solutions…and work through strong relationships and existing networks”

What might this mean in practice though?

Uncover what support these communities need to transform their bright ideas into viable solutions

It can be tempting to pre-define what package of support should be offered to groups. However, without knowing in advance what ideas or even prototypes they will develop or who will be part of these groups, this approach can be counterproductive. It also means participants are less likely to feel collective ownership over the process of taking forward the prototypes.

On the other hand, not providing any options for further support would make it harder for the prototypes to be developed further and the relationship between ourselves and the groups would be confused.

So how can we tackle these tensions?

We’d love to explore how you can build the momentum for people’s ideas and help make them sustainable after the excitement of these types of events (unconferences/camps/etc).

If you’d like to work with us specifically on this competition, have a look here to see the different options, but we’re sure there are other ways you can partner we haven’t thought of.

So whether you’re sunning it on a beach or by your desk while it’s pouring down with rain, do get in touch (holiday postcards accepted!)

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