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Innovation Lessons Learned from 5 Government Case Studies

Public sector leaders gathered today to learn about innovation in government.

We're blogging from the Next Generation of Government Training Summit. Follow along @NextGenGov and read more blog posts here.

This afternoon I had the chance to sit in the Innovation in Government session of the Next Generation of Government Summit. The collaborative session connected leaders in government in innovation with summit attendees and helped us define what it means to be a public sector innovator, and how to bring these practices into government agencies.

“From my perspective there are a bunch of ways of what it means to innovate in government, and we going to highlight some of those today,” said Abby Wilson, director of the OPM Innovation Lab.

“We want to inspire you to see how they fit into your organizational context,” added Noha Gaber, Acting Director, Internal Communications, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency & Founder, EPA Emerging Leaders Network.

After Gaber and Wilson’s initial remarks, the panel spent some time speaking on their respective programs.

1. Case Study: Challenge.gov

Tim Lowden, Digital Communications Specialist, Center for Excellence in Digital Government at GSA, provided some context on the Challenge.gov initiative. Challenge.gov is changing the ways that government solves some of their most pressing challenges. By posting challenges and giving prizes to citizens for solving problems, they are able to crowd source solutions and help government run more efficient crowdsourcing initiatives to solves problems.

“We think about innovation in a way that is outside the traditional methods,” said Lowden.

2. Case Study: 18F

Hilary Hartley continued to describe some of her innovate work in the federal government. “I work for a division within the GSA, 18F. We are a brand new endeavor inside GSA, and we call ourself a startup,” said Hillary Hartley, Deputy Executive Director, Creative Services, 18F.

“We consider ourselves hackers, we are hacking our way through democracy and hacking our way out of challenges,” Hartley said. “We are trying to build a team that is agile and lean and able to think about the current processes we are currently working on.”

3. Case Study: Open Opportunities

The next presenter was Lisa Nelson, Open Opportunities Project Lead, Office of Citizen Services and innovative Technologies, General Services Administration. Open Opportunities, right now it is open to all agencies, and recently opened for agencies to put tasks up, and open for all agencies and personnel to participate. For example, one tasks was that someone needed help on was putting together a digital users group.

“Open opportunities is a way for you to build your skills, network with others that are like minded and want to make a difference,” said Nelson. “It’s a way to help change the way that government works. People are going to have to branch out and think about themselves as one government.”

4. Case Study: The Lab @ OPM

Arianne Miller joined The Lab @ OPM in 2013. As a member of The Lab team, she builds capacity for innovation among federal employees by teaching Human-Centered Design through both classes and coaching in addition to designing and managing a variety of projects addressing the high-priority needs of the Office of Personnel Management and other federal agencies. Miller is a 2012 Presidential Management Fellow who began her federal career as a Special Assistant to the Chief Human Capital Officer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Miller provided some insights on how to help people fight through culture change to drive through innovation. “Step one is to understand where your organization is now to help push culture change, are there any people staff who have those skills or is it a complete void?,” said Miller.

5. Case Study: Housing and Urban Development

The final panelist was Meaghan Messner. She began her federal career as a Presidential Management Fellow in September 2009 as a Program Analyst at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development Philadelphia Field Office of Public Housing. One of her first assignments was to review a new collaborative program between HUD and the VA to provide permanent supportive housing to homeless Veterans and to this day, she continues to focus her efforts on fostering collaboration and innovative approaches in the HUD-VASH program. “Change doesn’t happen overnight, you have to be patient,” said Messner.

Innovation Best Practices

The panelists also provided some best practices for culture change and ways to innovate. Their best practices included:

  • Finding grassroots support
  • Identifying success stories, and sharing them
  • Just do it
  • Find the innovators inside government
  • Engage stakeholders and users
  • Find MVPs to get started and move quickly
  • Learn to iterate
  • Stay aligned to the rules of the bureaurcy
  • Formalize the process for reuse

Innovation in government is no easy task, but these best practices and with such promising programs happening government, it’s clear that change is on the way as to how government delivers services.

More on NextGen:

Today GovLoop and Young Government Leaders are hosting their annual Next Generation of Government Leaders Summit. Throughout the summit, be sure to check GovLoop and our social media sites to keep up with all the latest from the summit. We’re really excited about this year – and hope to share the experience with all of you.

If you’re unfamiliar with NextGen, the annual training summit educates, inspires and promotes innovation for new and rising leaders in government. Since 2010, the two-day summit has enhanced the professional and personal lives of 2,000+ Generation X and Y government employees, who are excited to learn new skills to innovate.

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