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.
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
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
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and General Services Administration (GSA) have developed various resources to support the use of open innovation strategies across the federal government. These resources include:
- Policies and guidance to encourage use, clarify legal authorities, and suggest actions for designing and implementing open innovation initiatives. For example, OSTP outlined principles agencies should follow when using crowdsourcing and citizen science, and helped develop a “toolkit” with specific steps agencies can take to carry out an initiative.
- Staff to advise and assist agency staff implementing initiatives and open innovation-related communities of practice. For example, GSA’s Challenge.gov program management team created a mentorship program that matches staff needing specific support with experienced practitioners from other agencies.
- Websites to improve access to relevant information and potential participants. For example, OMB, OSTP, and GSA developed Project Open Data and Data.gov to help agencies manage their open data and publicize open data events.
Beyond these government-wide resources, some agencies also have developed their own internal resources for strategies their staff frequently use. These resources complement those at the government-wide level, providing staff with tailored guidance and support to ensure they carry out initiatives consistent with agency procedures. For instance, NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation assists teams in that agency with the implementation of prize competitions and challenges.
GAO-17-507: Published: Jun 8, 2017. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 2017.
Federal agencies are using open innovation strategies—leveraging the knowledge and skills of people outside the federal government—to achieve certain goals. To support these strategies, agencies have developed guidance, provided staff to help implement initiatives, and established websites to improve access to information. However, we found that guidance developed by the General Services Admi...
GAO-17-14: Published: Oct 13, 2016. Publicly Released: Oct 13, 2016.
How can the federal government better engage citizens? Federal agencies are using "open innovation" tools to leverage the knowledge and skills of people outside government. Using dedicated websites and in-person outreach, agencies have worked with the public to rebuild communities after Hurricane Sandy, improve methods to find asteroids that could threaten the Earth, and reduce the amount of time...