Help for Ireland's Economy

Published May-03-10

An open innovation citizen initiative to help Ireland’s economic recovery during the global downturn.


The Story:

Help for Ireland's Economy With the world staring down the barrel of financial ruin as the financial crisis lays waste to economies, one enterprising country had a bright idea to help get it out of a fix – ask the public for their solutions via an open innovation competition.

Ideas Campaign

So in March 2009 the Ideas Campaign was launched in Ireland, an open innovation citizen’s initiative that was created to harness people’s ideas, plans and strategies for Irish economic recovery and renewal. Independent and apolitical, it was designed as platform for citizens to focus on solutions to the economic crisis rather than dwell on the problems.

Such public initiatives represent a new way of doing business; getting better ideas from a bigger pool of sources by making use of the Internet and collaborative tools.

It was the brainchild of Aileen O’Toole, the Managing Director of AMAS, a Dublin-based online consultancy. She fervently believes that innovative businesses ideas are born when people from different backgrounds spark off each other, “creativity and resourcefulness are in our DNA as a nation,” she told the Irish Times newspaper.

Phenomenal Response

The campaign website was open from 5-31 March 2009, and in that time a phenomenal 5,300 ideas were logged from 48,000 visits. They covered the full spectrum of sectors from culture, education and green business, to tourism, retail, technology and manufacturing.

Submissions were reviewed by personnel from four accountancy firms and then the best ideas were evaluated by an advisory group that consisted of prominent business people, including Microsoft Ireland chief executive Paul Rellis.

They put together an action plan of the best ideas which was sent to the government who promised to implement some of them.

“The Government is keen to action as many of these ideas as quickly as possible and has identified 17 which it can support at this stage,” said Minister for Science, Technology & Innovation, Conor Lenihan TD. “Many of the other ideas warrant further analysis and attention and I propose to bring forward further proposals in relation to those over the coming months.”

Putting Ideas into Practice

Some of the ideas that will be implemented include teaching business skills as part of all PhD education as a way to promote the knowledge economy, positioning Ireland as a green food island producing premium, natural foods, and encouraging voluntary early retirement in the public sector.

The Ideas Campaign was the real deal, a genuine and open collaborative scheme to solve some of the country’s most pressing problems. And even after the website closed for submissions dialogue has been continuing with many of the thousands of citizens who were interested in the campaign.

In the same way that forward-thinking businesses look outside of their four walls for solutions to their problems, so some governments realize they don’t have all the answers and are beginning to look elsewhere for ideas.

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