Category Archives: Diffusion of innovation

New article published: Agile Innovation Management in Government: A Research Agenda

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-8-00-37-amI wrote a paper based on my interviews with CTOs and digital service innovators in the U.S. federal government. The goal of the paper is to bring together the elements that lead to innovations in digital service delivery. I contrast traditional software development processes with elements of an agile innovation management approach. The result is a research framework and research questions for future explorations:

Abstract
Governments are facing an information technology upgrade and legacy problem: outdated systems and acquisition processes are resulting in high-risk technology projects that are either over budget or behind schedule. Recent catastrophic technology failures, such as the failed launch of the politically contested online marketplace Healthcare.gov in the U.S. were attributed to an over-reliance on external technology contractors and failures to manage large-scale technology contracts in government. As a response, agile software development and modular acquisition approaches, new independent organizational units equipped with fast reacting teams, in combination with a series of policy changes are developed to address the need to innovate digital service delivery in government. This article uses a process tracing approach, as well as initial qualitative interviews with a subset of executives and agency-level digital services members to provide an overview of the existing policies and implementation approaches toward an agile innovation management approach. The article then provides a research framework including research questions that provide guidance for future research on the managerial implementation considerations necessary to scale up the initial efforts and move toward a collaborative and agile innovation management approach in government.
Reference: Mergel, I. (2016): Agile Innovation Management in Government: A Research Agenda, in: Government Information Quarterly, 33(3), pp. 516-523.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2016.07.004.
Advertisements

Public Administration Review article: A Three-Stage Adoption Process for Social Media Use in Government

Together with my co-author Professor Stuart Bretschneider I wrote an article that was just published for early view in the Public Administration Review (PAR). In this article, we develop a model of social adoption in the public sector. Here is the abstract:

Social media applications are slowly diffusing across all levels of government. The organizational dynamics underlying adoption and use decisions follow a process similar to that for previous waves of new information and communication technologies. The authors suggest that the organizational diffusion of these types of new information and communication technologies, initially aimed at individual use and available through markets, including social media applications, follows a three-stage process. First, agencies experiment informally with social media outside of accepted technology use policies. Next, order evolves from the first chaotic stage as government organizations recognize the need to draft norms and regulations. Finally, organizational institutions evolve that clearly outline appropriate behavior, types of interactions, and new modes of communication that subsequently are formalized in social media strategies and policies. For each of the stages, the authors provide examples and a set of propositions to guide future research.

Full reference:

Mergel, I. and Bretschneider, S. I. (2013), A Three-Stage Adoption Process for Social Media Use in Government. Public Administration Review. doi: 10.1111/puar.12021

Our paper won the Emerald Group’s Citations of Excellence winner 2016 award!

New book published: “Social Media in the Public Sector”

I am excited to announce the release of my first sole-authored book: “Social media in the public sector“. It will be officially introduced to the public at the annual NASPAA conference in Austin, TX, on October 18, 2012.

The book is based on my research that started about three years ago. My initial interest started with the success of  Obama’s Internet strategy to reach audiences via social media who are unlikely to interact with politicians or government in general. As the open government initiative developed in the U.S. federal government, I started to interview public managers to understand how they are (re)organizing their standard operating procedures to use social media for regular governing operations in support of the mission of their organizations. The book provides insights into the strategic, managerial, and administrative aspects of social media adoption in the public sector.

The publisher’s book page includes resources for professors who would like to use the book in their e-government classes, including week-by-week Powerpoint slides and an article published in the Journal of Public Affairs Education that outlines my teaching approach and learning experiences.

The book went through a thorough double-blind peer-review process and I would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback.

Next month an accompanying field guide will be released.

Here is a link to the instructor resources on Jossey-Bass/Wiley’s website.

Blurb:

In today’s networked world, the public sector is tapping into new media applications to increase government organizations’ participation, transparency and collaboration. The book contains a review of the current state of the public administration literature and shows how Government 2.0 activities can potentially challenge or change the existing paradigms. It includes an overview of each of the tools used to increase participation, transparency and collaboration. The book also highlights case examples at the local, state, federal and international levels. The author offers recommendations for the implementation processes at the end of each chapter and includes suggested readings and references.

Endorsements

Comprehensive and compelling, Social Media in the Public Sector makes the case that to achieve Government 2.0, agencies must first adopt Web 2.0 social technologies. Ines Mergel explains both how and why in this contemporary study of traditional institutions adopting and adapting to new technologies.
Beth Simone Noveck, United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer (2009-2011)

Ines Mergel moves beyond the hype with detailed, comprehensive research on social media technologies, use, management and policies in government. This book should be required reading for researchers and public managers alike.
Jane Fountain, Professor and Director, National Center for Digital Government, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Professor Mergel has produced a foundational work that combines the best kind of scholarship with shoe-leather reporting and anthropology that highlights the debates that government agencies are struggling to resolve and the fruits of their efforts as they embrace the social media revolution. Social Media in the Public Sector is a first and sets a high standard against which subsequent analysis will be measured.
Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

Dr. Mergel is an award-winning author who again wields her story skills in this book. She excels in explaining in concrete, practical terms how government managers can use social media to serve the public. Her book puts years of research into one handy guide. It’s practical. It’s readable. And it’s an essential read.
John M. Kamensky, Senior Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of Government

HowTo.gov: Crowd-sourced Wikis in Government (webinar 11/07/2011)

Reposting the announcement for a free webinar on Crowd-sourced Wikis in Government organized by GSA’s Web Manager University team on Monday, November 7, 2011 at 1:00pm. I will give an overview of what wikis are, how they can be used in government and briefly talk about the 10 case studies I wrote up for an IBM – The Center for the Business of Government report: “Using Wikis in Government“. The recording, slides and additional resources will be available after the webinar for download:

 

Class Format: Webinar
Date: Monday, November 7, 2011
Time: 1:00 PM–2:00 PM ET
Fee: Free
Presenters: Ines Mergel, Syracuse University
Anne Bermonte, Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation
Allyson Hewitt, SiG@MaRS

Course Description

Social collaboration tools can welcome interested people to contribute ideas that help your agency develop policy. Hear how Ontario, Canada, used a social innovation wiki to gather public input for a policy paper on Social Innovation that helped them implement Ontario’s social innovation strategy.

In this free webinar, Allyson Hewitt from SiG@MaRS, and Anne Bermonte from Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, will share lessons learned, and discuss the opportunities and ongoing challenges of using social media to develop policy. Syracuse University’s Ines Mergel will discuss her research of federal, state and local agencies’ use of wikis, and how she created a checklist for creating and maintaining a wiki.

Take Aways

  • To share experience using social media to develop policy
  • To communicate lessons learned and outcomes
  • To generate discussion on how Ontario’s experience using social media for policy development compares to other jurisdictions

Who Should Attend

This course is for government web managers, IT specialists, senior managers, and other government staff involved with citizen engagement initiatives and agency social media website operations at any level.

About the Presenters

Ines Mergel is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She teaches graduate-level classes on the use of social media in the public sector, such as Government 2.0 and New Media Management. Her research focuses on the adoption of Web 2.0 in the federal agencies.

Ines is especially interested in innovative forms of collaboration supported by social technologies. She blogs about her research findings on her blog “Social Media in the Public Sector.”

Anne Bermonte is the manager of innovation policy and planning at the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation. She is a policy and communications expert with municipal, provincial, and private-sector experience. Her responsibilities in the OPS included managing the I&IT organization’s Strategy, Policy and Planning Branch with secretariat responsibilities for supporting senior I&IT governance committees and leading on the province’s electronic identity, authentication and authorization policy. She has also lead strategic research activities related to Ontario’s digital infrastructure and economy.

Anne recently completed a Masters Thesis examining Senior Leaders’ Use of Web 2.0 and Social Media in the OPS.

Allyson Hewitt leads the social innovation programs at MaRS including the Ontario node of the national initiative, Social Innovation Generation (SiG@MaRS). This program supports social entrepreneurs and promotes social innovation under the headings Advise! Convene! Accelerate!

A lifelong social innovator, Allyson most recently worked at SickKids where she led Safe Kids Canada and was a passionate advocate for children. She was also the Executive Director of Community Information Toronto where she initiated 211, providing streamlined access to human service information. For this work she received the Head of the Public Service Award and several other prestigious awards for meritorious public service.

Allyson has been leading and volunteering in not-for-profit organizations for over 25 years. Her academic background is in Criminology, Law, Public Affairs, Voluntary Sector Management and Organizational development including Leading Change.

Content LeadWeb Manager University Team
Page Reviewed/Updated: November 3, 2011

Crowdsourced Ideas Make Participating in Government Cool Again (PA Times October 2011)

The PA Times, published by the American Society of Public Administration, has just issued a special edition called “From Bureaucratic to Cool: A Call for Public Service”. My article on “Crowdsourced Ideas Make Participating in Government Cool Again” describes how government agencies on all levels are turning to Open Innovation platforms to collect the wisdom of the crowds either from their employees or from the public in general. They are closing an important gap that social media platforms so far were not able to address: open innovation platforms are proving a mechanism for targeted knowledge sourcing and knowledge incubation. Innovative ideas and knowledge are not hidden among thousands of comments on Facebook or retweets on Twitter. One of the most prominent examples is Challenge.gov run by GSA – that has just celebrated its first anniversary.

Here is the full reference:

Mergel, I. (2011): Crowdsourced Ideas Make Participating in Government Cool Again, in: PA Times, American Society for Public Administration, Vol. 34, No. 4, October 2011, p. 4 & 6, Special Issue: From Bureaucratic to Cool: A Call for Public Service.

Here is the original text that was cross-posted as an editorial on Crowdsourcing.org:

Challenges as game changers for collaborative knowledge incubation in the public sector

Harnessing the knowledge citizens and government employees are willing to share on social media applications in the public sector is one of the most difficult things to do in the era of Government 2.0. Every day thousands of citizens are commenting on government Facebook posts and blog entries or reshare information published on Twitter. Rarely has government the opportunity to harvest innovative ideas and knowledge that is published through these channels. The main reason for many agencies to set up an organizational account is still “to be where the people are”. Recently Open Innovation platforms have started to address this disconnect and are providing an easy access to participate in making government cool again.

Opening government to crowdsourced ideas

Social media tools, such as blogs, Twitter or Facebook, are great channels to collect and encourage citizens to provide their insights on the issues and plans of government. Unfortunately, today’s standard social networking services do not have the capability to automatically extract and collate new knowledge or ideas from content that citizens are submitting through the existing commenting channels. In some cases the sheer volume of comments makes proper analysis very difficult. The challenge is to extract new ideas or valuable insights from the influx of comments in a productive and efficient way.

One challenge that agencies are facing when they are using social media is that it is really difficult to access the knowledge that is potentially created in retweets or Facebook comments. For one, the sheer volume of comments an agency receives has become unmanageable. Dashboard solutions, such as Radian6 might help to give a general overview how the “temperature” is among audiences retweeting and commenting on issues government is concerned about. It becomes far more challenging to actually curate content and extract new ideas and innovative knowledge out of the steady flow of information that comes into government with every tweet or comment.

Open innovation platforms are designed to fill this gap. Using a crowdsourcing approach, government can use the platform for an open call to a large, usually undefined group of people (all citizens, potential contractors or industry representatives, citizen programmers, etc.), so that many different people can contribute to the solution of a complex government task. The platform then helps to direct and coordinate the input of citizens (or application developers, knowledge matter experts, companies, etc.) – which is oftentimes messy and overwhelming on social media channels. These Open Innovation mechanisms to crowdsource solutions are useful for issues where expert knowledge might not be available or is too expensive to access. They also help to improve participation and engagement of citizens. Crowdsourcing provides a platform for governments to engage citizens directly into the decision making process.

Virtually any topic can be crowd-sourced within government, meaning that agencies can post an issue in the form of a “challenge” and ask for the submission of solutions. The focus is on innovation, creativity and the generation of new ideas from stakeholders and/or subject matter experts. In some cases the Open Innovation platform allows participation not only to submit their ideas, but also to provide additional information on how their idea can be executed, and every participant can comment on all other submitted ideas. The agency will select the best solution or set of solutions and the winners are often compensated in some way. This approach is more cost effective than the traditional requests for proposals, which are often time-consuming and have a very specific design criteria and solution in mind. A challenge opens the conversation and allows the “crowd” to come up with the solution, often without rigid requirements.

Open innovation platforms are design to coordinate and streamline the submission and influx of innovative ideas. Local governments are also using open innovation platforms in a similar fashion. New York City’s “NYC SimpliCity” is used to generate cost-saving ideas from employees. The City of Mesa, Arizona’s iMesa program is a response to the economic downturn, designed to collect citizens’ ideas to save money. Harford County, Maryland’s Idea Factory also solicits ideas from constituents designed to stimulate new ideas and innovation. Some of these platforms allow citizens to vote on each other’s ideas and earn “points” for every online activity they perform on the platform. In some localities these virtual points can be traded in for real-life products, such as a ride with the police chief for a day in the City of Manor, TX (see http://www.cityofmanor.org/labs).

Platforms and their use differ depending on the goals and needs of each agency. Some platforms, such as the New York City Simplicity platform are used for internal purposes only. City employees are asked to help the city be more innovative and help to save costs during major budget crunches (http://www.nyc.gov/html/simplicity). Other platforms are mostly used to crowdsource citizen ideas on how to innovate government operations, such as Harford County’s Innovation portal (http://harfordcountymd.spigit.com/Page/Home).
 

Designing challenges

While we truly observe only the first lighthouse projects and experiments with Open Innovation platforms, designing challenges is relatively easy. GSA’s Challenge.gov for example provides the platform for free to all federal agencies and challenge administrators can follow a relatively straightforward process.

The devil lies in the detail. Here are a few lessons learned from Open Innovation administrators who started to experiment with their local platforms:

  • Start by carefully crafting the problem statement you want your employees or citizens to solve. The challenge has to be posed in plain language so that non-experts immediately understand the problem.
  • Experiment with challenges in-house first before opening the floodgates to the public. Your internal sandbox can provide valuable insights to streamline the process for public challenges.
  • Design participation incentives: Think about monetary and non-monetary give-aways that no one else offers and make it worth participating in the challenge. Showcasing submitted solutions on your website can be an incentive for citizens to participate – others might want a monetary return on their time and ideas invested in helping government.
  • Set a time limit: Close your challenge after a predefined time and make sure that you communicate the duration and elapsed time to your participants. Having that one time opportunity to submit an idea can also serve as an incentive for participants.
  • Create a transparent evaluation process: Post the evaluation steps and experts involved in judging the submitted solutions prominently on your website.
  • Communicate how you plan to implement the final solution. Throughout the implementation process make sure to show the value of the crowdsourced solution: How much money was saved? Why are government operations now running smoother than before?

The following table provides an overview of current open innovation platforms on all levels of government:

  Agency name Platform name

Platform open to

Employee idea generation

Citizen idea generation

Local
government

New York City NYC Simplicity  x
Mesa, AZ iMesa  x  x
Maricopa County, AZ Idea Factor for “Rewarding Ideas”  x
City of Manor, TX Manor Labs  x
Harford County, MD Harford County Innovation portal  x

State government

State of Washington Transforming Washington’s Budget  x
State of Vermont BroadbandVT.org  x

Federal
government

Department of Veterans Affairs VAi2 – Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative  x  x
NASA NASA Idea Central  x
GSA Challenge.gov  x

Figure 2: Local, State and Federal Open Innovation Platforms

Challenges and prizes in government have the potential to reinvigorate government operations, inject new ideas into government that otherwise need to be purchased from vendors and consultants. An important effect of the platforms is a new-found transparency and accountability: Citizens and employees feel that their voices are heard and are willing to participate and engage with government again in the future. A win-win all around!

Author bio:

Ines Mergel is Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs, Center for Technology and Information Policy (CTIP), Syracuse University. eMail: iamergel@maxwell.syr.edu

New working paper: Tying the network together

David Lazer (Northeastern & Harvard University) and I have just posted a new working paper titled “Tying the network together – Evaluating the Impact of an Intervention into the Advice Network of Public Managers“. It’s up on the Social Science Research Network for comments. We are in the process of making some substantial changes to it, but would love to hear your feedback!

Here is the abstract:

Networks are often see as emergent and self managed; and yet much of the research on networks examines how networks affect the effectiveness of systems and individuals. Is it possible to intervene in the configuration of a network to improve how it functions? Here we evaluate the impact of an intervention to change the array of relationships connecting a set of distributed public managers—State Health Officials (SHOs). SHOs were brought together for a one week executive educational program near the beginning of their tenures. This paper evaluates the question as to whether this program had long run effects on the ties among SHOs. Using a combination of survey and interview data, we find that there is a substantial effect on the probability of ties between individuals that attend the program together, relative to individuals who attend the program in different cohorts. Given recent findings that highlight the importance of interpersonal networks in the effectiveness of individual managers, this suggests a potential role for interventions to improve the efficiency of dispersed, public sector manager to manager networks.

Lazer, David and Mergel, Ines A., Tying the Network Together: Evaluating the Impact of an Intervention into the Advice Network of Public Managers (July 8, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1881674

The Future of Public Administration around the World: The Minnowbrook Perspective

Professors O’Leary, Kim and Van Slyke have just published “The Future of Public Administration around the World: The Minnowbrook Perspective” book.

My chapter in the book is titled: “The use of social media to dissolve knowledge silos in government”. I argue that public managers are facing the dilemma of ever increasing, changing and complex mandates to innovate with shrinking budgets. At the same time, they need to tap into existing knowledge so that they don’t reinvent the wheel on a daily basis in their search for innovation. Government itself is a large system of disconnected units, where it is impossible to know in which corner of the system similar problems have occurred and what the remedies are that were used to address the problem. Social media – and especially social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, but also niche networks, such as GovLoop or MuniGov2.0 – can help to build cross-sectional networking ties for public managers to access knowledge already available in (and outside of ) government. Moreover, there are a lot of interesting initiatives underway that help public managers to dissolve the existing bureaucratic knowledge silos that exist as a result of departmental structures (see for example Intellipedia or Diplopedia – and many more).

Email me if you would like to read a copy of the chapter.

Georgetown Press - Minnowbrook perspective

Analysis of social media policies & strategies in the public sector

I reviewed social media policies and strategies of public sector organizations that are freely available on the web or were distributed during the last two years on Twitter (see hashtag #gov20). Especially after GSA has published the Terms of Service Agreements with most major SNS, I have observed a major uptake in formal written statements outlining why, how and for what purposes agencies and departments are using new media. I included local, state and federal level public sector organizations in my analysis.

Even though it seems as if a legal framework was created by GSA’s Office of Citizen Services, I observe a wide range of different documents and statements as a result.

A handful of documents is labeled “Handbooks” (such as the Navy Command Social Media Handbook), Toolkit, Social Media Computing Guidelines, or Business Uses of Social Networking Services. These types of documents usually describe best practices and recommendation on how to use different tools such as Twitter or Facebook. They are usually very lengthy, true handbook-style documents.

In addition, 1-page policy-style memos come in the form of directives, “rules of engagement”, use policies or even “Social Media Law”.

Only one organization actually wrote a social media strategy document that looked at how the new channels fit into the existing communication strategy and how they can support the mission or public service delivery.

I have extracted the major themes that the public sector organization I analyzed covered and will post my preferred content of a social media policy/strategy document in the next post.

Govt 2.0: From Tools to Policy to Convergence (crossposting)

Crossposted from Bill Greeves’ blog:

As I think back over the past two years, specifically with my involvement in the world of Government 2.0, I can’t help but think its adoption has coalesced into three phases. Nearly all of us have experienced some aspect of Phase I: Tools. What is Government 2.0? How does Twitter work? What good is Facebook? Phase I is very hands-on and experiential. It consists of learning the technologies that provide a foundation for Govt2.0 adoption. Many of the 2.0 movers and shakers might consider Phase I old news. But the truth is that when you look at government organizations as whole, particularly those of us at the local level, most are still in this phase – conducting experiments, discussing with peers, working on buy-in from our organizations, etc.

A small percentage of us have taken the next big step to Phase II: Policy. Phase II, which I highlighted in an entry a few months back, is focused on the larger, more extensive issue of the “how” of government 2.0. The effective policies cover such delicate topics as ownership, legal responsibilities, message consistency, etc. It answers sometimes difficult questions. Who will manage these tools? What can we tolerate in terms of two-way communication and feedback? Which tools will we deploy? The numbers of social media “policies” that address these issues continue to expand at a slow but steady rate.

This brings us to the relatively uncharted waters of Phase III: Convergence – a merger of these tools and concepts with our larger organizational strategy. How do we keep the momentum going? What’s next for us if we want to truly institutionalize the use of not just the tools but more importantly the concepts and the potential they represent, such as collaboration, open government and knowledge management? How do we take that next step to integrate these tools into our organizations’ larger communications or development strategy? These are all excellent questions. And no, I don’t know the answers…yet.

That’s where you come in! Together with Ines Mergel, Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University (and fellow MuniGover!), I’d like to request your participation in a very brief online survey to help us develop some empirical data on this very subject. Once we can get a snapshot of where we are today, we intend to develop some analysis on where the gaps are and how we can overcome them.

When completed, we plan to do a seminar to review and discuss the results with anyone interested. I expect that we’ll also be able to share some best practices and lessons learned from the experience that will likely also help you take your own organization to the next level of engagement and implementation.

So please, take a moment to answer these few simple questions – share your pain, share your success!

https://survey.maxwell.syr.edu/Survey.aspx?s=4b8afaec1ec74d5dac1d6ebde704bd35

Congressman Mike Honda: Crowdsourcing approach

I am in the process of interviewing the most innovative congressional offices on their new media strategies and came across a truly groundbreaking approach for a political representative. Congressman Mike Honda, 15th district, CA (which includes Silicon Valley), and his new media director AJ Bhadelia, have initiated a crowdsourcing approach to redesign Honda’s congressional website. While there are a lot of details that I will report later, the first result of this process is up online: