San Francisco: Where the Powers are Investing in Open Innovation

Published Nov-07-10

An open innovation initiative that will save the city more than $90,000 per year.

City of San Francisco, United States

The Story:

San Francisco: Where the Powers are Investing in Open Innovation Many people complain about the policies their governments pursue, and declare that they could do a better job if given half the chance. Well, open innovation is giving them that chance as it offers the general public opportunities to have a bigger say in how their town, region, city and country are run.

These public facing initiatives are often referred to as Gov 2.0 and they bring to the fore fresh, new and innovative ways of tackling challenges and improving government services.

ImproveSF was an open innovation campaign in the City of San Francisco that reached out to more than 26,000 of the city’s employees to see if they could come up with cost-saving and revenue-generating ideas. The initiative is the first of a range of campaigns that are going to ask employees and citizens for their ideas on how to tackle the most pressing problems.

Phenomenal Response

Ideas were submitted through an open innovation portal powered by Brightidea, an on-demand innovation management company, and the response was phenomenal.

Within a few weeks there were 700 active participants on the website and online discussions were vibrant with nearly 700 comments posted and 4,000 votes made. In total 569 ideas were submitted, and four were chosen to be implemented immediately whilst a number of others are still being reviewed for their potential to save money or generate it.

Those four winning ideas contributed to more than $90,000 in cost savings as well as introducing new ways of raising finance.

The four winning ideas were:

  • Eliminating hold music on municipal phones lines, which will save approximately $900 per month

  • Cutting down on the frequency of washing municipal vehicles, for which the city pays $75,000 per year

  • Auctioning surplus and unwanted vehicles and property

  • Allowing the city’s 311 Customer Service Center to take credit card payments for selling City and MUNI merchandise

" tapped into the knowledge and experience of our city employees to help solve some of our most critical financial issues,” said Mayor Newsom. “The initiative and the winning ideas are part of a larger story on how government in partnership with its employees can encourage innovation.”

Open Innovation and Open Government

Wherever you look you’ll see more open government at all levels emerging. Once upon a time municipal, city and federal agencies were closed shops, made worse by the fact that traditionally they are not early adopters of new technologies. But they are playing catch up as many are investing in open innovation resources and embracing cloud computing.

By using web tools and the latest information government organizations are realizing they can ultimately serve their constituents better by working more intelligently to save money and generate funds.

Government employees, indeed the employees of any company or organization do not have the monopoly on great ideas that will benefit their stake holders.

The acceleration of technology and new social media tools is allowing governments to tap into the brainpower of others to get things done more quickly and more efficiently on a range of issues such as safety, transportation and budgeting.

Having been a beneficiary of the power of open innovation to save and generate finances, the City of San Francisco does not want ImproveSF to be a one-off event, and is now looking to expand on its open source initiatives.

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