Tag: government innovation

Announcing the 2016 Innovation Management Award Winners


Having received some fantastic entries, we have officially chosen and are extremely pleased to share our winners for the 2016 Innovation Management Awards. And because we got so many great submissions, for the first time ever, we have also selected runner ups for each category!

City of Calgary—Best Engagement Strategy

The City of Calgary is the winner of the Best Engagement Strategy for their myCityInnovation campaign, an internal program which is part of the broader City innovation program Civic Innovation YYC. In order to increase engagement, the City launched a multi-channel campaign to inform employees and get them involved. This campaign spanned all methods of communication, including social media, newsletters, events, emails and more. Furthermore, this push for engagement and communication continued throughout the entirety of the campaign, rather than focusing exclusively on the start of the campaign. With regular messages sent to the internal community, the City was able to keep potential innovators interested and aware of the campaign, and greatly exceed their target numbers for ideas submitted and engagement reached. Click here to find out more about the city of Calgary and their myCityInnovation initiative.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory—Best Moderation Strategy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the winner of the Best Moderation Strategy for their JUMP campaign. JUMP stands for Join the discussion, Unveil innovation, Motivate transformation, Promote technology-to-market. Oak Ridge is the largest science and energy national lab in the Department of Energy system, and the goal of JUMP was to broaden the pool of people from whom the DOE seeks ideas, and to move the ideas to marketplace faster. Jump crafted an incredibly detailed plan for moderation of submitted ideas, starting with a five phase schedule, the development of five roles within the community, the screening of ideas for applicability and appropriateness, and criteria for the evaluation of ideas. Click here to find out more about the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and their JUMP campaign.

National Cancer Institute—Best Innovation

The National Cancer Institute is the winner of Best Innovation for their Cancer Research Ideas campaign, in support of the Cancer Moonshot proposed by President Obama in January 2016. The Cancer Moonshot was proposed with a goal of accelerating progress against cancer by a decade in just five years. The Cancer Research Ideas community brought together the research community and the general public to submit ideas on how best to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. The result of the campaign was a final report which presented 10 transformative research recommendations for achieving the Cancer Moonshot’s goal, including recommendations for improving patient quality of life as well as suggestions for most useful research areas. Click here to find out more about the National Cancer Institute and the Cancer Research Ideas campaign.

Congratulations to our winners! To read more about each of our winners, and to find out about our runners-up (Dick’s Sporting Goods, Department of Labor, and Standard Bank), visit our 2016 Innovation Management Awards page.

What We Learned

Two trends that are common among our three winners are clearly articulated goals from the outset, and active participation from moderators to reach the best conclusions. All three of our winners entered their innovation campaigns with specific outcomes in mind. As a result, they were able to frontload the planning of the engagement and moderation of their campaigns, leading them all to exceed the quantitative expectations they had set for themselves. Additionally, all three of our winners found that active participation from moderators meant the best possible ideas at the end. By engaging innovators at all levels of idea suggestion, by soliciting conversation amongst the community, by asking clarifying questions to further develop ideas, by developing plans for engagement of potential innovators not already part of the community, moderators were able to elevate the discourse and the value of presented ideas.

When possible, winners in each category receive an Apple Watch, a 5% discount on their 2017 subscription, a VIP pass to IdeaScale’s 2017 Open Nation Conference, a free IdeaBuzz challenge, and a promotional PR packet.

What might your organization do to be more engaging, have better moderation, and implement the best innovation?

Innovation for Social Change: Empowering Global Citizens & Building New Business

innovation for social change

In 2014, I attended a Global Innovation Competition gala in Nairobi, Kenya hosted by Making All Voices Count; a social activism and government accountability platform incubated by Ushahidi. I met a number of young innovators from all over Africa and Asia working to resolve social issues that were not being adequately addressed by their local governments. It was also an opportunity to learn about other innovations that were solving issues that were unique to the developing world. One great example is M-pesa, a mobile phone based money transfer service that has allowed millions of users to securely exchange money for goods and services without the need to have a bank account or credit card. There’s also the SMS/text based mobile product authentication (MPA) being used by drug manufacturers to combat counterfeit medications in several African countries. Another application allows farmers access to market price for their crops so they can avoid being ripped off by middlemen that usually offer prices significantly below the market price.

As access to mobile technology is growing even in areas with no electricity and running water, it’s opening the door to the democratization of innovations that promote social change. However the glaring absence of investment by the world’s largest companies on such innovations could be a missed opportunity for their longterm growth.

There are three reasons why businesses should consider investing on innovation for social change initiatives in the developing world and emerging markets:

  1. Millions of people are entering the middle class every day with the global middle class expected to grow from 2 billion today to almost 5 billion by 2030. Most businesses that focus heavily on North American and European markets will miss out on getting an early foothold in global regions where the spending power is expected to rise with the creation of this large middle class mainly in the developing world and emerging markets.
  2. Companies that do not innovate will eventually die but those that branch out could live for another day. 88% of the fortune 500 companies in the last half century no longer exist mainly because of stiff competition or the inability to innovate fast enough. Globalization and technology is helping more parts of the world emerge from poverty and the demand for products and services will only increase in those regions which gives businesses a better shot at surviving the competitive squeeze.
  3. Businesses that get into a new market early tend to build trust and brand loyalty than those that arrive late. Direct investment in various innovations promoting social change or indirect funding of other organizations dedicated to social change can be a great way for companies to make their mark in the developing world as a longterm strategy to build trust and loyalty.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Beniyam Kebede, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale.

Why Should the Public Vote on the Ideas of Government Employees?

texas hhsThese days, it’s easy to feel apathetic and frustrated by politics and government in general. It often feels as though your voice is not heard, that special interests and corporations are more important than the citizens at large. But luckily, there are factions of the government that are realizing the futility folks are feeling, and are working to make the government work for the people again.

One of the ways this is happening is with public engagement on the ideas of government employees. A few short years ago, the state of Texas enacted legislation that requires any state agency with 1,500 or more employees to provide a process by which an employee may submit suggestions and ideas for cost savings and allow the public to vote on those ideas. Who doesn’t love cost saving? And who doesn’t love their voice being heard on cost saving ideas? What a win-win scenario.

The Texas Health and Human Services System selected IdeaScale as its platform, and has been actively promoting and engaging with citizens to find areas to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Since the program was started, there have been over 1,400 ideas, with over 1,100 citizens logging over 16,000 votes. Now that’s a response!

Initiatives such as this serve a dual purpose of not only reducing costs, but also of engaging citizens in decisions that have a real impact on their lives, and allowing them a voice. After being involved in such a process, it wouldn’t be surprising if those citizens are more likely to participate in other civic situations where they might have previously been discouraged.

To read more about the Texas Health and Human Services initiative for saving money for their citizens, click here to download the recent case study.

A Distributed Workforce Collaborates

wapol 4.19.16Social media platforms. Email. Video messaging. These days, long distance communication is easier than ever before. This ease of crossing the void has allowed folks with a common aim and a like mind—even if they are separated by distance—to come together. This is true of fandoms, like Whovians or Hamilton superfans; it is true of news events, like the Supreme Court upholding marriage equality; it is true of political and social movements, like those in relation to the 2016 Election. It is also true of governmental agencies who span a wide area but are working to maintain cohesiveness and efficiency.

The Western Australia Police are an exemplary case for using an online platform in order to improve legislation and the quality of life, not only for the citizens they protect but also for the police jurisdictions themselves. In fact, the Western Australia Police were awarded a 2015 Innovation Management Award for Best Engagement Strategy.

The Western Australia Police jurisdiction is responsible for policing the world’s largest single geographic jurisdiction; not just Australia’s largest geographic jurisdiction, the world’s largest. Their territory covers over 2.5 million square miles. That’s quite a spread! As a result of this widespread coverage area, as well as rate of growth, it was becoming more important to the WA Police to examine and reevaluate all aspects of policing services.

In response, they implemented Frontline 2020 using the IdeaScale platform. By providing an online community for WA Police in which they could recommend improvements and collaborate on new ideas, Frontline 2020 helped bridge the physical gap between these public servants. WA Police also discovered that internal engagement increased when every participant received personalized responses, even if the suggested idea was not implementable for practical reasons.

When examining such a massive machine, efficiency (both monetary efficiency and manpower efficiency) is everything. Consider these wins which have already been produced as a result of the Frontline 2020 initiative: a legislative change saved 46,000 frontline hours each year; streamlined reporting procedures, which saved 8,000 hours annually; and changing the rules regarding warrant service that saved thousands of hours in travel time. Perhaps an even greater landmark, the initiative included over 60% of the workforce participating in the process, across distances, in pursuit of a common goal.

To find out more about how the Western Australia Police are using IdeaScale to improve their own lives and the lives of their citizens, click here to download the recent case study.

Innovation is About More than Ideas




“We are what we repeatedly do. Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”

– Aristotle

Aristotle was a wise man for many reasons, not least because of that quote. In order to become really good at something, the formation of habits and processes are essential. We at IdeaScale noticed that, regardless of type of business or organization, there were certain similarities among all those who were engaging in innovation programs; we noticed that there were a few key processes in every program in order to help transform the idea into a reality. Which is why we created Stages, which is mirrored after those universal activities.

There are seven main stages in moving an idea into a fully-formed, implemented innovation. The first, of course, is actually getting the idea. We have found that two things are especially important at this stage: one, that all voices be heard. You’re going to be able to winnow down to implemented ideas best if you cast the widest net to begin with. And two, that incentivizing your idea pool participants works in soliciting innovative ideas. Idea quality has been shown to go up by 40% when incentives were introduced.

The second stage is team building. After all of the ideas have been gathered, and the community has had a chance to weigh in on the ideas which seem the most viable, teams should be built around the most likely ideas. This stage helps to realize whether a particular idea is realistic in the long run. For example, if an idea sounds good, but then cannot find at least one champion to help it along, perhaps it’s not the idea that makes the most sense for implementation. Likewise, an idea may seem good on paper, but after doing more research, perhaps its not feasible financially or perhaps there’s already somebody in the market doing the same thing better than your organization would be able to do it.

This question of feasibility is directly related to the third and fourth stages of refining and estimating respectively. Once teams have been built, they will do more research in the refinement stage into the competitive landscape, the feasibility, the necessary resources in order to adequately evaluate whether or not the idea could or should actually be implemented. And while research can get you pretty far, the estimation stage can act as a double check on information that has been gathered. In the estimation stage, experts and the crowd in general are consulted to help validate the knowledge that the teams have learned in the refinement stage. Research has shown that crowd knowledge is actually more effective than that of experts, using the example of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: during the game, experts were shown to be right 65% of the time, while the crowd was right fully 91% of the time. Crowd knowledge is a powerful thing.

The fifth stage considers all of the information that has been gathered by the team, and affirmed by experts and the crowd, and assesses whether the idea is in line with set business objectives and business plans. One of the most important things to think about at this stage is financial cost; although there will certainly be other costs involved in implementing an idea, financial cost is often the most revelatory. The sixth stage deals specifically with funding. 46% of startups fail because of a lack of funding, and 80% of businesses overall fail because of inadequate capital. Making sure that your organization is financially solvent enough for the entire realization of an idea is incredibly important.

Last but not least, as with many things, it is important to celebrate victories! Not only do you get to revel in the joy of having seen something through from beginning to end, celebrating ideas that have been seen through from beginning to end is by far the best way to encourage continued and future engagement. After all, who doesn’t want to be part of a winning team?

To find out more about Stages, click here.

How Solving for Social Change is Different than Process Improvements

MAVCOne idea can change the world.

This concept is at once hard to wrap your head around and also patently obvious. While crowdsourcing and innovation challenges can be useful in a corporate or business setting, recently some of the biggest, most impactful innovation initiatives have been focused around social change. Even stepping beyond that, they have been focused on citizen engagement in enacting social change, hoping to find that one idea to change the world.

One example of this endeavor for social change is Making All Voices Count. Making All Voices Count was one of IdeaScale’s 2015 Innovation Management Award winners, working towards open government.

As may be evident by their name, Making All Voices Count is invested in ensuring that all citizens are heard when it comes to the changes and transparency that they want to see from their government. After all, our governments are meant to work for us, so we should have an opportunity to have an active role in the decisions.

The first step to accomplishing this goal was reaching out to all global citizens – with their Global Innovation Competition, anyone in the world was eligible to present an idea and apply to win the grand prize of £65,000. Unlike with process improvements where a small population is more likely to have opinions on what will work best, widespread participation is key in social change.

The moderation of ideas is the second step. For the Global Innovation Competition, Ideas are vetted by what are called Innovation Engagement Officers, who consider them for transparency and collaboration, as well as promoting inclusivity. One of the final stages before grand prize winner selection is an opportunity for finalists from all 12 Making All Voices Count countries to come together and receive mentorship and attend workshops in order to hone their ideas and to network.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that solving for social change makes lives better – even if it’s just one person, even if it’s just a small community, even if it’s just one city. Social change makes better the lives of the members of that community. While process improvements are also important, they are unlikely to have the same kind of emotional and psychological impact that social change can have.

In the first three years of the Global Innovation Competition, winning ideas have already had a humongous impact on the lives of ordinary citizens in Ghana, South Africa, Indonesia, and more, exacting changes on maternal mortality rates, delivery of government services, and government corruption.

To read more about Making All Voices Count and the Global Innovation Competition, click here to download the recent case study.

Innovation Management Awards Focus on Inclusivity, Quality of Life

IM Awards 2015Although it may be difficult to remember, try to think back to last year—a whole month ago—when we announced our 2015 Innovation Management Award winners. Back then, we pointed out two commonalities between our three winners, two things that they focused on when engaging in their crowdsourcing campaigns: inclusivity and transparency, and an improvement in the quality of life.

Inclusivity and Transparency

Inclusivity and transparency were important to our winners this year. Whether it was working to ensure that everyone is able to participate in a system that directly impacts them, or endeavoring to make systems transparent and accountable to their participants, all three of our winners found them imperative.

This facet was nowhere more true than with Making All Voices Count. Their Global Innovation Competition challenged a global audience to design a solution that would improve governments’ responsiveness and accountability. Anyone in the world was welcome to apply, both companies and average citizens. By casting a wide net, and aiming to include everyone regardless of circumstance, the competition is already having a huge impact, including helping to reduce maternal mortality and flag corruption through citizen feedback.

Innovate Your State has a similar goal, focusing instead on the citizens of a smaller, localized government. Through the initiative, two big ideas were implemented, but perhaps the greatest impact was that the effort identified numerous issues that were important to the public—issues that may not have been on the radar of governing bodies without the focus on inclusivity and hearing all voices.

For the Western Australia Police (WAPOL), they found that transparency throughout the innovation process increased participation, and thus increased the pool of great ideas for implementation. After trying other processes for managing ideas, WAPOL made it a point to respond to every single idea, even if those ideas were not quite ready to move forward. As a result, the team noticed new users, more ideas, and more comments and votes.

Improved Quality of Life

Another important focus for our winners this year was on improving the quality of life, both for those organizations who were managing the initiatives and for those who the initiatives impacted. Not surprisingly, people are going to be more interested and invested in participating if they know that it’s going to help someone, perhaps even themselves, live a happier, better life.

The Western Australia Police took this to heart, hoping to improve the quality of life for their officers, as well as the citizens in their community. Thus far, the innovations which were generated and implemented are saving over 46,000 frontline hours each year, saving 8,000 hours annually in reporting, and saving thousands of hours in travel time. As we all know, time is money, and time can also be happiness.

Through citizen engagement and open government, both Making All Voices Count and Innovate Your State also had goals of improving the quality of life for average community members.


How might your organization work to make your crowdsourcing and innovation more inclusive and transparent? How might you improve quality of life all around through open innovation?

Asking for Problems, Asking for Solutions

IdeaScale_Sunshot_cover“What should our first campaign be?”

Funnily enough, that question itself is a fantastic starting campaign. When an organization first begins crowdsourcing solutions to their problems, opening with a call for questions is an incredibly effective strategy.

The Department of Energy learned this firsthand when they initially launched their Sunshot Catalyst campaign. Their first step was to put out a call for problem statements, with the plan to later solicit solutions to the problems the community considered most important.

When you think about it, this method has a lot of common sense to it. After all, the same principles which govern the crowdsourcing of solutions apply to garnering problems as well: the community involved is most likely to have observed problems or issues that could benefit from crowdsourced solutions (in comparison to those outside the company, or even a smaller group of team members). Those community members are also most likely to have an idea of which problems and solutions will have the biggest impact. Further, that community is going to feel more invested in helping to arrive at solutions if they care about the issue—which they are more likely to do if they recommended it in the first place.

And thus it all comes full circle.

By asking their best and brightest for the most pressing problems in solar energy, the Department of Energy surfaced ideas on which the community voted regarding the most important, pressing problems. From there, the Department put out a call looking for innovators to present solutions to those problems, and through a process of evaluation, twenty teams were financially supported to prototype those solutions.

More and more, employees are feeling dissatisfied with their jobs, and a huge reason behind that is that they don’t feel heard. So, getting started with introducing crowdsourcing to your community? Consider using your first campaign as an opportunity for your members to get involved with their own thoughts on what is most important to them.

Click here to read more about how the Department of Energy utilized this strategy with their Sunshot Catalyst campaign, in this Sunshot Catalyst Case Study Comic!

Engaging All Voices in the City of Minneapolis

minneapolisWhen speaking at a town hall meeting in Iowa recently, President Obama spoke against politically biased colleges which put restrictions on the guests and speakers that they invite to their campuses. He said, “Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ That’s not the way to learn.”

Listening and responding to the loudest voice in the room is sometimes tempting and easy to do. But what kind of growth will any of us have if we continue along that same track? Perhaps one of the most important functions of government especially is to listen to the unheard.

The City of Minneapolis doesn’t want to take the easy path. The City wants to listen to the unheard. They are actively working to stimulate and acknowledge the voices of their typically underrepresented communities. They’re so committed to the idea that they’ve explicated it as one of five of their “Goals and Strategic Directions,” aiming for “One Minneapolis” where “disparities are eliminated so all Minneapolis residents can participate and prosper.”

The City developed the Community Indicators Project specifically as a means of identifying benchmarks to measure the City’s progress in achieving those goals. One of the methods of doing so this year was the opening of an IdeaScale community to gather ideas and receive public commentary. The site was open for one month in 2015, and received over 199 unique ideas.

While the City welcomed input from all community members, they placed a priority on outreach to previously underrepresented communities; some of these communities that the City identified included Asian-Americans, Somalis, LGBTQA, seniors, and youth. In an attempt to provide every opportunity for these groups to participate, the City also solicited ideas offline in conjunction with their online presence, including talking circles and interactive arts engagements.

This outreach to underrepresented groups is a lesson we could all learn from when making decisions. In this digital age especially, it can get so easy to cherry pick the opinions that make it through to us, just as it is easy for government to listen only to the loudest voices. But the points in history when we have truly made progress have always been those when we finally start listening to the silenced.

Click here to download and read the case study on the City of Minneapolis.

The Importance of Metrics in Innovation Awards

metricsWith the opening of submissions for the 2015 Innovation Awards, now is as good a time as any to think about metrics and how we measure success and progress in organizational innovation. And what better way to do so than to take a look at the 2014 Innovation Award winners for examples?

Last year, our three winners included the Department of Energy, Scentsy, and the Department of Labor. While there are some measurement methods that are shared among two or three of the winners, they understandably also had metrics that were unique to their organizations and IdeaScale communities.

For example, The Department of Labor, which won for Best Engagement Strategy, enacted a campaign that was interested in the inclusion of people with disabilities in STEM fields, and specifically considered the availability and opportunities of social media tools and applications for those people. They measured their campaign by looking at response to their targeted outreach and engagement; in some cases, this meant more focus and celebration on the quality of engagement and new relationships formed.

One of the metrics that was a common thread for all three of our winners was numbers. Quantitative data is used to make points and emphasize growth in general daily life, but is especially poignant when measuring innovation. All three of the 2014 winners related the incredible number of new ideas, votes, comments, and community members. Scentsy, an Idaho-based candle warmer company which won for Best Innovation, shared, “We have had over 9,000 ideas shared to date, with more than 600,000 votes, and 17,000 comments from among 153,000 users.” For the Department of Energy—which won the Innovation Award for Best Moderation Strategy—a facet of innovation was the cost reduction as a result of their IdeaScale community. Michael Contreras, Managing Director of the DOE’s SunShot Catalyst program said, “The program was conceived, approved, and launched in less than six months. By using the IdeaScale platform, we have been able to achieve this velocity without increasing management cost. Costs for manging the community and campaigns have been reduced by ~90%.” Everybody can appreciate such a strong impact on the financial bottom line.

Ultimately, though, metrics are important because how can you determine growth and innovation if there is no yardstick for comparison?

To find out more about the Innovation Awards, see rules and eligibility, and to submit your organization to the competition, visit