Socially Responsible Innovation Part Two: Government

Wooden bowl being held by three sets of hands.
Everyone is at the table in government, so everyone must be served.

Governments thrive on socially responsible innovation, putting it in a unique position to work for the public good. Yet, the challenges governments face can be just as specific. In part two of our three-part series on innovation strategy and social responsibility, we’ll delve into those challenges and how they can be overcome.

Stakeholder Commitment

Government is accountable to the people, not just a handful of shareholders or a board. The first step for governments is to assess how to engage as many different sectors of their citizenship as possible, and what concerns those groups have that innovation can help with. Working to engage stakeholders all along the innovation process will be fundamental to success. It can also open the door to expertise and resources that you may not have had access to.

Scale

Any organization has an upper limit due to its scale: A committee of three people can’t get as much done as an entire department. For governments, scale adds other layers as well. For example, a municipality’s laws are superseded by state laws, which are in turn overruled by federal. This is also an advantage, though. Even getting momentum in a large city government is easier than moving an entire state or nation. Getting a sense of your scale will help with these approaches.

Funding

Governments are accountable for the dollars they spend, and socially responsible innovation is an effective tool to better manage those resources. However, it must be made clear where the money is coming from, and where it’s going. In this area, in particular, transparency is going to be vital for public buy-in.

Three sets of cupped hands holding a plant.
It takes everyone to make social good work.

Public Obligations

While the stereotype of government as hopelessly bureaucratic is unfair, it is a basic truth that a government that represents the people is accountable to them, and this can take multiple forms. Document disclosures, public meetings, comment periods, and other obligations will need to be factored into and made part of the innovation process. They also will need to be disclosed to any partners you may take on so that they know their obligations as well.

Partnerships

Public/private partnerships, often called P3, are popular for infrastructure projects and are increasingly catching on as a method to bring more innovation to the public sector. Non-profits and governments have also worked together for the public good for a long time, and there may even be useful long-standing relationships to explore.

However, before entering into one, innovation teams should be aware that some public skepticism is inevitable, and will have to be discussed. The goals of your team and your partners will have to align, be clearly discussed, and transparent at launch and going forward, as well.

Results

Finally, governments are accountable for results and will need to discuss how a project unfolds, whether it led to a concrete policy that was implemented, or whether what was learned can be applied to the next round of innovation.

Governments and for-profit organizations have unique commitments. And those interlock and interact with non-profits. In the final part of our series, we’ll look at non-profits and socially responsible innovation. For more information on government innovation, contact us.

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