Top Themes from Open Nation DC

IdeaScale Gov hosted its first-ever Open Nation DC April 12 at the WeWork White House location. For us at IdeaScale, Open Nation is always our favorite week of the year. We’ve been hosting a company-wide Open Nation event in Berkeley for three years now. Open Nation DC was the first spinoff, a gov-focused version situated in the heart of IdeaScale gov work: Washington, D.C.

Much like its inspiration, Open Nation DC brought together an energetic, eclectic group of IdeaScale customers and prospects to knowledge-share, network and collaborate. The day was split into customer presentations in the morning, and IdeaScale-led workshops in the afternoon.

Customer presentations in particular are one of the coolest parts of any Open Nation. For those of us in the weeds every day, they represent a refreshing opportunity to take a step back and reflect on how the work of our customers is making people’s lives better, every day.

First up was Michael Contreras, president and CEO of Ensemble Consultancy. Contreras was formerly an IdeaScale customer in his role as an AAAS Fellow at the Department of Energy. More specifically, Contreras was an integral part of the success of DOE’s SunShot Catalyst program. Contreras dived into the importance of goal-setting and quantifiable metrics to any innovation program. However, he cautioned against avoiding “vanity metrics,” a term coined by “The Lean Startup” author Eric Ries. Instead, focus on “actionable metrics,” which are “leading indicators of achieving the aligned objectives of your innovation program.”

A key takeaway was aligning the objectives of not only the direct stakeholders but also those with “indirect influence” over the program: “Make program decisions based on metrics that are correlated with the aligned objectives of those having both direct authority and indirect influence over the continuation of the program.”

Next up were Kim Taylor and Mark Ascione of the Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Taylor and Ascione have long been champions of crowdsourcing, as they’ve built their program from the ground up, despite that not being part of their job description. They’re two shining examples of the intrapreneurial nature of open innovation champions.

Their presentation focused on the ecosystem they’ve built from scratch internally to host sponsored challenges. Despite not having a full-time FTE on crowdsourcing, they’ve developed a system to scale into hosting nearly 100 challenges over the past four-plus years.

Their system, which includes a robust communications plan and a challenge checklist, also results in some of the best participation rates we’ve ever seen. One challenge in particular resulted in 95 percent of their target audience participating.

Batting third were the Dream Team of Concepts Communications and the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. Hope Adler and Katia Albanese of Concepts Communications have long been hosting dialogues within IdeaScale that engage citizens and stakeholders to help inform disability employment policy. They’ve recently been joined by rising star Lindsey Teel from the Department of Labor. Together, they encompass the ePolicyWorks crowdsourcing team.

While their presentation focused on the nuts and bolts of running online dialogues — the importance of moderation, a robust outreach program, and idea evaluation — they also discussed the cool potential outcomes of engaging the public around this conversation. While idea “implementation” in their context can often take a while because it’s typically a policy change, Teel, who’s visually impaired herself, stressed the personal impact these changes can have: “We’re changing lives. We’re making it so people can work.”

Up fourth was a slight detour from government in Edwin Goutier, senior director of Innovation at United Way Worldwide. United Way Worldwide employs IdeaScale to source ideas both externally from the public and internally from their employees worldwide. They then rapidly prototype promising ideas, iterate upon them, and either formalize or sunset them.

Two of the key takeaways from Goutier’s presentation and UWW’s program were 1) pay close attention to participation data and pivot engagement efforts accordingly, but also 2) don’t forget to put a human face on what you’re doing. Data are informative and absolutely necessary, but you also need to “become a storyteller” when reporting up to leadership and out to the target audience.

Closing out the morning sessions was Commander Andy Howell from the U.S. Coast Guard. Commander Howell’s leadership has been integral in growing the innovation program at the U.S. Coast Guard. A turning point for the program, known as [email protected], came when they launched a Hurricanes Lessons Learned campaign to try and institutionalize knowledge gathered in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria in 2017.

A few key lessons identified by the Coast Guard in these campaigns include the efficacy of leveraging social media and cloud-based solutions in asset tracking and rescue efforts. These findings were game changers for the Coast Guard, and they’re currently being evaluated as potential fast-tracked policy changes internally.

To watch the full presentations, you can view them in our Open Nation DC resources library

The afternoon sessions were comprised of two hands-on workshops conducted by Innovation Strategist Sonja Sulcer and myself. Sulcer’s workshop focused on developing and tracking innovation metrics, and mine focused on developing and reporting outcomes. Both workshops were heavily participant-driven and were geared toward proving the value of an open innovation program in a quantifiable and lasting way. For more information on how to run a similar workshop with your innovation team, talk with your IdeaScale contact. Planning for Open Nation DC 2019 is already in the works! To learn more, get in touch with your friendly local Innovation Strategist or Sales Representative.

If you can’t wait until then, please consider joining us in Berkeley for our industry-wide Open Nation on October 25, 2018.

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