How local authorities can improve their innovation potential

NL6_4As a key deliverable to the CCIC project, ARC Fund produced a Policy Recommendations Report, based on the discussions which took place during the four Thematic Group Meetings organised as part of the project. A key objective of the report will be to provide insights into how local/regional authorities can improve their innovation potential.

The report places a major emphasis on two issues. The first one is the importance of creating communication channels with, and actively engaging, external stakeholders. Only through collaboration between the public sector, local businesses, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and academia can locally developed solutions be mutually beneficial. As demonstrated by some partners, “triple helix” (university-industry-government) cooperation serves as an effective instrument for generating ideas on innovations and improvements. CSOs are another actor that need not be forgotten, especially in the local context. Considering that local governments are those that are closest to citizens and provide most public services, CSOs can be knowledgeable partners and indispensable in the development of innovative service.

Building trust between local governments and external stakeholders is crucial in the process of developing and implementing innovations on a local level. Trust has been repeatedly mentioned in the discussions of partners’ best practices as a success factor for public sector innovation. Thus, long-term thinking and planning with a view to establishing partnerships that work and help build trust between local governments and external stakeholders need to be prioritised.

Involving the users of local/regional authority services (citizens and local businesses) in the design, development and adaptation of innovation is another issue which has been emphasised in the report. This serves a few important purposes. First, it allows innovators to take into account the users’ feedback as an input in the service design at the early stages of the innovation process as well as later on during the implementation of the respective innovation. Furthermore, receiving regular feedback from the service’s users allows the innovators to improve the design, addressing new societal demands so that services can better correspond to the needs and expectations of the citizens. In addition, involving the users of innovation throughout the innovation stages improves the acceptability of the specific innovation among its potential users, as citizens are informed on the proposed changes and have a say in its design so that it better serves their needs. Last but not least, it strengthens the democratic aspect of governance in the public sector. This, taken to a level where citizens participate in all phases of the innovation process as equal partners, has been called a Quadruple Helix model of innovation system. Whether it will ever be the mainstream of public sector innovation remains to be seen.