Creating (public) service innovations through data blending
Organising outdoor events is a business with many uncertainties and risks that affect its success. Although many of them cannot literally be solved or prevented, it is possible to develop one’s abilities to cope with them. The event organiser cannot guarantee sunny skies nor smooth traffic flow. Also, the organiser is unable to prevent negative word-of-mouth communication spreading in social media. However, the organiser can deploy a data-driven approach to its business, and hence restrict the consequences of foreseen risks. In some cases, this can even enable the transformation of threats into opportunities. Easy to say, difficult to do? Not necessarily.
Broadly defined, the data-driven approach refers to the process of collecting and storing data from various sources, and manipulating and analyzing data in order to extract value from it. The outdoor event organiser would gain an advantage from using the weather and traffic data in real time for the purposes of planning, designing and marketing events. The more accurate the data it has, the more tailored an event it can provide. Through social media analysis, in turn, the event organiser is able to map experiential knowledge and identify emerging issues before they become widespread. In addition, innovation can be boosted through social media. Social media provide the event organiser with exposure to new ideas and superior expectations, as well as unmet needs and great disappointments. Both good and bad experiences provide insights for innovating better events.
How does this relate to the CoSIE project? Don’t the challenges faced by the public sector fundamentally differ from those faced by outdoor event organisers?
Obviously, the obligations of public managers differ from CEOs´ tasks. While public managers, such as city mayors, are responsible for the people of their community, a CEO’s main duty is to serve the shareholder. However, the CoSIE project leans on the notion that the public sector’s innovation capabilities can benefit from the data-driven approach. Using the data-driven approach is not an easy task because it is as much a technological endeavour as a managerial challenge. We believe that the more convincingly the value of data will be articulated, the easier it is to tackle technological difficulties.
It is all but clear, how open data and social media can be incorporated in developing public services. In the CoSIE project, one key aim is to illustrate how data manifests itself as an asset that grows in value when it is stored, shared and processed. In order to achieve this aim, we will conduct several pilots around Europe. In a spirit of co-creation, we will put effort into experimentation and rapid appraisal. Instead of developing new solutions from scratch, we acknowledge previous studies and make use of existing solutions when possible.
As the project has just started, we think it is reasonable not to limit our attention to any specific substance area. Based on the idea that many insights emerge from connections, coincidences, and contradictions, we strive for data blending. We use the construct of data blending in a broad sense. We do not deem it only as a technological issue but also as a managerial challenge.
In the CoSIE project, we will particularly explore how open data helps 1) innovating new services and discovering new solutions to address societal challenges, 2) achieving more efficiency gains by sharing data between different actors, and 3) fostering the participation of citizens in political and social life and increasing the transparency of government. We also aim to find out how social media can be used for 1) identifying unmet needs, 2) engaging citizens, 3) communicating changes in service delivery, and 4) promoting services. In addition to open data and social media, we will use the knowledge and experience gained from the individual stories of the Community Reporters. Analogically to the outdoor event organiser, the use of open data, social media and experiential knowledge provide public managers with a more accurate picture of the needs and desires of their community. Blending data from multiple sources may reveal, for example, suboptimal use of resources, or poorly served citizen groups.
We acknowledge that data blending is necessary but not sufficient for innovation. In order to boost innovation, we have set up the Innovation Board, which is responsible for facilitating and coordinating activities in pilots. The aim is to ensure that seeds of innovation are identified, and lessons learned. In addition, the board aims to enable serendipity – the accidental discovery of something valuable – to occur. The Innovation Board also has an important role in articulating value propositions and ensuring buy-in and support from key stakeholders.
The CoSIE project will be successful if it improves social inclusion by engaging citizens in the collaborative design of public services, increases cost-effectiveness of the public services, and creates opportunities for service innovations and new businesses.
Director of Co-creating Service Innovations in Europe (CoSIE)
Turku University of Applied Sciences