Open Social Innovation: An Approach to Public Organizations

Open Social Innovation: An Approach to Public Organizations

Amaya Erro-Garcés, Maria Elena Aramendía-Muneta
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2097-0.ch015
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Three public European case studies are presented as an evaluation of a preliminary test of an adapted questionnaire to measure open social innovation. Findings include the differences and similarities between public and private performance. Public practitioners integrate these experiences later than private. The reasons for engaging in open innovation are different: whereas improving citizens´ relationships is the major public reason, creating partnerships is the private driver. Finally, technologies help open innovation in both public and private cases. Furthermore, it may be concluded that there is a lack of open social innovation professionals that leads to a barrier in the development of these policies in the public sector.
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Innovation has a deep impact on social aspects, such as individuals, organizations, and policies. However, the research of innovation becomes more complex in public establishments, where the innovativeness of the organizations and the adaptability of the innovation should follow a determined process (Downs & Mohr, 1976). Despite this complexity, as innovation is a driving factor in the growth of the public sector (North & Thomas, 1973), further investigation of this field is necessary.

Open innovation (OI) is a different approach to the traditional closed perspective. It is defined as “the breaking down of an organization’s boundaries to encourage the flow of knowledge and creativity —both internally and externally — to promote innovation” (Chesbrough, 2003, p. 124). Open innovation is a new paradigm based on principles of integrated collaboration, co-created shared value, cultivated innovation ecosystems, unleashed exponential technologies, and extraordinarily rapid adoption. It is a practice that looks for support, knowledge, experience, and ideas outside of a system as well as internally. It has, at its heart, an ethos of openness and honesty combined with practices of participation and collaboration. These issues together promote a different way of working that is creative, innovative, and founded on relationships of trust and mutual respect. Most publications analyze the role of Open Innovation in the private sector. Chesbrough’s research is probably the most popular work in this field. His survey published in “Managing Innovation in Large Firms” is the largest reported about Open Innovation in recent years (Chesbrough & Brunswicker, 2013). Meanwhile, Lee, Park, Yoon, and Park (2010) have observed Open Innovation performance in small companies, while Parida, Westerberg, and Frishammar (2012) have examined firms from the technological sector.

As traditional or closed innovation does not sufficiently address emerging policy challenges that governmental organizations need to deal with, there is a need for open innovation in the public sector (Bommert, 2010). For example, the United States government has made important commitments to the Open Government Initiative (Obama, 2009, 2012), allowing members of the public to access government data and contribute ideas and expertise to government policy-making and services innovation (Lee, Hwang, & Choi, 2012). Another example is De Publieke Zaak in the Netherlands, a combination of projects that allow government agencies to innovate using insights from citizens. One of these projects is the “21 days of debate” effort where citizens ask questions to (changing) panels of participating politicians during the last 21 days before an election. In other parts of the world, open innovation initiatives are gaining ground. For example, the Singaporean government has implemented an open data portal to make datasets from a large number of agencies available to the public (Yang & Kankanhalli, 2013).

Open Social Innovation (OSI) refers to the discussion of the application of either inbound or outbound open innovation strategies in the public sector to social changes as well as innovations in the organization.

In recent years, several studies about open innovation issues have been focused on the role of Open Innovation in the private sector. Nevertheless, citing Chesbrough, Vanhaverbeke, and West (2008, p. 76), “Open Innovation has been mainly studied at the firm level, while other levels of analysis have not been touched upon.” They referred to non-profit organizations and open social innovation practices. Later, Grimm, Fox, Baines, and Albertson (2013) argued that more theoretical and empirical work is needed in the field of open social innovation.

This practice of openness unlocks knowledge and assets that are invaluable to cash-strapped city authorities. It brings about engagement in communities because it promotes transparency and empowers users by involving them in the innovation. Open social innovation processes ensure that the final innovation itself is more relevant and scalable as it has been shaped by the users and stakeholders who know how it will work best and know how it will fit in their environment. Open Innovation practices are useful in the public and private sectors.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Public Sector: This chapter broadly considers the public sector, including organizations financed by public funds (e.g., foundations, public companies, associations, etc.).

Open Social Innovation: The application of the framework of Open Innovation to the public sector to face social changes. It is a new perspective to perform innovation through the participation of citizens and other organizations.

Innovative Process: The steps that an organization follows to ensure that new knowledge is implemented. It refers to the way new knowledge is applied to create new products, services, or internal changes in the organization.

Social Innovation: New social practices that aim to meet social needs in a better way than existing solutions and create social relationships and new forms of collaboration.

Open Government: The governing action that believes that citizens have the right to access public information and is against the view that public data are state secrets. Under this view, open access to information implies the improvement of efficiency in the public sector.

Stakeholders: An organization or group of citizens that have a concern in the business (e.g., suppliers, customers, employees, etc.)

Open Innovation: The use of external knowledge to accelerate the internal innovation process. Open Innovation expands the frontiers of innovation and may imply the introduction of the organization in new markets.

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