People Power and Policy – The Importance of Crowdsourcing in Public Sector Innovation


To respond efficiently to the needs of citizens, public sector organizations must constantly innovate on multiple fronts. However, factors such as limited resources, restrictive governmental regulations, and a rapidly changing technological landscape, can impede this process. What’s more, depending purely on traditional think tanks and census-taking methods is no longer a viable way to acquire the insights required to hone innovation. A more receptive, adaptive, and broad-ranging method is required to gather impactful insights and establish effective policy. This is why crowdsourcing is increasingly being deployed by public sector organizations throughout the world.

Channelling the Wisdom of the Masses: The Power of Crowdsourcing in Action

Leveraging crowdsourcing for public projects is not a new practice. As far back as 1849, Joseph Henry – the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institute – recruited 150 volunteers to observe storm activities across the USA. The research he acquired helped lay the foundations of the national weather service. Over the decades, with the rise of digital technology, the opportunities for public sector organizations to leverage the enormous potential of crowdsourcing has grown dramatically. 

A great case in point is provided by the city of Santa Cruz, California. Dealing with the hurdles of the recent recession, a budget deficit, and increasing public works deficiencies, the city adopted a bold crowdsourcing strategy. Members of the public would be able to analyze the city’s expenses, contribute opinions for where savings could be made, as well as lodge ideas for new public initiatives. The volunteers could also rate and comment on the suggestions put forward by other participants. As a result of this initiative, Santa Cruz was able to utilize the input of 10% of its citizenry to resolve a budget shortfall of almost ten million dollars. 

Capturing Creativity: How Idea Management Software Can Take Crowdsourcing to a New Paradigm

The enormous success of the Santa Cruz initiative would not have been possible without one key ingredient – the use of an online platform where new ideas could be assessed and developed. Idea management software can support a crowdsourcing campaign in a variety of ways. It enables ideas to be submitted, collaborated on, and upvoted in a secure, monitored environment. The ideas with the most potential can then be assessed according to key criteria (budget, resources, etc) so they can be implemented with greater certainty. 

Aside from having the potential to channel ingenuity to the government sector, innovation management software can also be used to improve government-citizen relations – that is, let the people know that their opinions matter. Major innovation management software providers offer brainstorming and gamification features, allowing project managers to incentivize citizen participation in government innovation initiatives. 

Crowdsourcing and the Future of Public Sector Innovation

According to a global study by Accenture, 60% of citizens believe that the private sector is more innovative than the public, and 70% want government leaders to innovate more. With new crowdsourcing technologies, public sector organizations can respond to this demand in a way that both reflects the will of the people and makes use of their talents. To quote Kathleen Sebelius, former United States Secretary of Human Services, “a healthy state encourages many voices – and lots of listening.”

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