New Report: Engaging Citizens in Co-Creation in Public Services

Engaging Citizens in Co-Creation in Public Services

by Satish Nambisan and Priya Nambisan

Executive Summary:

Three broad issues have made it imperative for government agencies at all levels to redefine the nature of their relationships and engagement with citizens in problem-solving:

• Fiscal austerity motivates new, less resource-intensive modes of problem-solving in government.

• The complex nature of the problems calls out for more collaborative approaches that involve external partners, including citizens.

• New information technologies make connecting with citizens easier and reduce the cost of such collaboration in problem-solving.

The confluence of these three forces has set the context for redefining citizens’ role in public services—a shift from that of a passive service beneficiary to that of an active, informed partner or co-creator in public service innovation and problem-solving.

This report identifies four distinct roles for citizens in public service co-creation and problemsolving:

• As explorers, citizens can identify/discover and define emerging and existing problems.

• As ideators, citizens can conceptualize novel solutions to well-defined problems.

• As designers, citizens can design and/or develop implementable solutions to well-defined problems.

• As diffusers, citizens can directly support or facilitate the adoption and diffusion of public service innovations and solutions among well-defined target populations.

Significantly, these roles are not too different from the role of customers in private-sector innovation.

Drawing on examples from both the public and private sectors, the report elaborates on the nature of these four roles and the mechanisms that facilitate them. A wide range of mechanisms can be employed for citizen co-creation:

• Online contests and competitions

• Mobile apps

• E-petitions

• Innovation jams

• Virtual design and prototyping tools

• Open-source databases

• Participatory design workshops

• Online citizen communities

To better understand the appropriateness of these diverse mechanisms for various citizen roles, the report examines two foundational elements of the support infrastructure needed for hosting citizen co-creation activities: the innovation ecosystem and the innovation platform.

• Innovation ecosystem relates to the organizing structure for citizens and government agencies to collaborate on problem-solving and includes ways to:

–– Promote a shared worldview among all participants

–– Define the architecture of participation to coordinate collaboration activities

• Innovation platform relates to the venue for citizen co-creation and incorporates ways to:

–– Modularize or partition the problem-solving process

–– Facilitate knowledge sharing and interactions among all the participants

In addition to presenting different citizen roles and their associated mechanisms, the report offers strategies and best practices for government agencies to:

• Enhance the shared worldview

• Specify the architecture of participation

• Modularize the problem-solving process

• Support interactions and knowledge sharing

Four strategies will assist government agencies in creating the broader innovation environment to promote citizen engagement and co-creation:

• Fit the co-creation approach to the problem-solving context.

• Manage citizen expectations with regard to their involvement.

• Link or connect the internal organization with the external partners.

• Embed the citizen engagement initiative in the larger context of the agency’s core agenda.

There is considerable promise and potential to make a transformation in citizens’ role in public services. The citizen co-creation framework and the recommendations offered here to establish appropriate mechanisms, structures, processes, tools and technologies, and incentive systems will advance this objective.

Please click here to read the report.