Key Issues > Open Innovation
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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

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 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 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.

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Federal Open InnovationThursday, October 13, 2016
  • portrait of Michelle Sager
    • Michelle Sager
    • Director, Strategic Issues
    • 202-512-6806