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Open Innovation

Federal agencies can engage and collaborate with private citizens, nonprofits, academic institutions, and other levels of government to address complex and crosscutting challenges. Agencies can use open innovation strategies to create structured opportunities to partner with the public.

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Open innovation uses activities and technologies to harness the ideas, expertise, and resources of those outside an organization to address an issue or achieve specific goals. The federal government has developed resources to support and encourage agency use of various open innovation strategies.
 
Open Innovation Strategies
 
Federal agencies have frequently used five open innovation strategies to collaborate with the public and encourage participation in agency initiatives.

Figure: Descriptions of Open Innovation Strategies Federal Agencies Have Used
 Figure: Descriptions of Open Innovation Strategies Federal Agencies Have Used
 
Agencies generally use these open innovation strategies to:
  • collect information and perspectives;
  • develop and test new ideas, solutions, or products;
  • enhance agency capacity;
  • build or expand community; and
  • increase public awareness.
There are a number of practices and examples that can guide federal agencies in effectively implementing open innovation strategies. 
 
Open Innovation Resources
 
Several agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and General Services Administration (GSA), have developed resources to support the use of open innovation strategies in the federal government. These resources include strategy-specific policies and guidance documents, websites, and knowledge sharing communities of practice. For example:
  • Policies and Guidance: For crowdsourcing and citizen science, OSTP outlined principles agencies should follow when using this strategy, and developed a “toolkit” with practices, lessons learned, and case studies that also can inform agency efforts.
  • Websites: GSA launched Challenge.gov, which provides a centralized list of all federally-sponsored prize competitions and challenges and is designed to help agencies find participants for these challenges.
  • Federal Communities of Practice: OMB, OSTP, and GSA coordinate the Open Data Working Group, which meets every 2 weeks to share best practices and tools, and allows agencies to learn from one another.
Beyond these government-wide resources, some agencies also have developed their own resources. For instance, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration created the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation, which assists teams within that agency and from other agencies with the implementation of open innovation strategies.
 
GAO is reviewing selected government-wide and agency open innovation resources and plans to issue a product summarizing our findings in summer 2017.

Podcasts

Federal Open InnovationThursday, October 13, 2016
  • portrait of J. Christopher Mihm
    • J. Christopher Mihm
    • Managing Director, Strategic Issues
    • mihmj@gao.gov
    • 202-512-6806