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. Federal 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.
Figure: Descriptions of Open Innovation Strategies Federal Agencies Have Used
The federal government has developed practices and examples, as well as resources, to support and encourage agency use of various open innovation strategies.
There are 7 practices and examples that can help with open innovation: selecting the strategy appropriate for the purpose; clearly defining specific goals and performance measures; identifying and engaging external stakeholders and potential partners; developing plans for implementing the initiative and recruiting participants; engaging participants and partners; collecting and assessing relevant data and report results; and sustaining communities of interested partners and participants.
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. There are also federal staff available 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. Finally, there are websites that can 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.
Some agencies have also developed their own internal resources for strategies their staff frequently use. These resources help provide staff with tailored guidance to ensure they carry out initiatives consistent with agency procedures. For instance, NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation assists staff with implementing prize competitions and challenges.