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The Government and Open Innovation: City of Austin

BY LIZ TREADWELL | 1 min read

It may surprise you to hear that government agencies have been utilizing open innovation for longer than the term ‘crowdsourcing’ has been around. For one example, over 150 years ago the Smithsonian Institution distributed equipment to weather observers across the United States to report on local conditions by telegraph. This initiative was the predecessor to the current National Weather Service! (1)

Now that it’s easier and faster to communicate compared to the telegraph, innovation challenges are being used not only on a federal level, but local as well. For instance, the City of Austin has run annual “Reverse Pitch” competitions on HeroX. They invited Austin residents to take valuable raw materials that were leaving companies or organizations as waste, and had them turn those materials into potential social enterprises. In addition, the DC Office of the Chief Technology Officer has run tech challenges to improve health, safety, transportation and the local environment for residents of the District of Columbia. These local agencies know that their own residents have the talent to develop creative solutions to important problems they want to tackle. This is further proof that you don’t necessarily need to run a crowdsourcing project on a global scale to get unique insights that result in breakthrough outcomes.

Likely the largest government organization that consistently runs these types of competitions is NASA. Through their Tournament Lab, they have run several on the HeroX crowdsourcing platform alone! Most of them being fairly technical or complicated such as figuring out how to route human waste in a space suit, or designing an airspace system for the future to accommodate current aircraft as well as emerging flying technologies.

Either way, the overarching goal is the same: get more eyes and minds on a problem to generate innovative ideas. Crowdsourcing allows people with all types of knowledge to bring their diverse perspectives to problems in new ways. This is something you just don’t get when you have the same people who are too close to the problem trying to work on a solution for it.

Now it’s time for you to discover what government agencies have been doing all along. Schedule your free crowdsourcing workshop here to see how the HeroX platform can help you reach innovators across the globe and get the solutions you are seeking.



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  • fulygan fulyganoff July 11, 2019, 10:49 a.m. PDT
    I am against your system of competing ideas - NASA Hakaton - the competition is much more transparent and honest - there you can know what the competitors are doing - and this is very good at solving the task of the competition.
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