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Editor's Note: The following guest post comes to us from Wazoku, a UK-based company that provides tools for idea and innovation management. Lately, the team there has been doing some work with the public sector, most notably for The Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing.
No sector needs the power of open innovation more than the public sector. With an emphasis on a Big Society and the feedback from citizens about critical decisions or issues needed, a council or commission that doesn't effectively seek the opinions and knowledge of its constituents finds itself losing ground quickly.
In capturing, managing, and developing ideas, public sector officials have a few major choices in what type of approach they can use.
Online Surveys - Easily one of the first choices public sector entities may decide to try as we all have taken a survey and are aware of the basics of how to set them up. They're easy to set up, access, and don't usually cost much. The obvious downside of utilizing an online survey is its lack of security. If you're dealing with sensitive issues, such as the current Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing survey, you may want your data stored in a protected place. Not to mention, once you have all of that data, analysis is going to be a pain.
Pros: Free, easy to set up.
Cons: Lack of data security, no analysis tools.
Forums - Forums establish a platform that allows individuals to communicate and it might be the ideal technology for garnering public opinion, so long as your users remain active. Most website control panels come with the option to set up a phpBB forum and many people can find free forum hosting online if they don't have their own web hosting. But the process of setting up forums can be tedious and the more active users may drown out other voices.
Pros: Free, Creates a full community platform.
Cons: Difficult to set up without tech knowledge, reflection of public opinion unknown.
Polls - Most news sites actively utilize polls for interesting data as side items of the stories they report. This is likely to catch the eye of public sector employees who want to gather feedback. While polls may be fairly easy to implement, depending on how complex you want the poll, they aren't always reliable. If anyone can vote on the poll, then you can't always be sure if your constituents are the ones voting. Not to mention, they're often limited and aren't very good for complex answers.
Pros: Easy to implement, simple to use.
Cons: Unsure if they represent your area, too simplistic for basic responses.
Consultation Software - Some in the public sector may want to invest in a consultation software solution that's specifically designed for gathering public opinions. While these solutions generally do well at performing consultations, they can be expensive and not particularly apt for developing or analysing responses outside of the software. Not to mention, they may not provide enough options for constituents to enter data and therefore collect the highest volume of responses.
Pros: Designed specifically for consultations, out of the box solution.
Cons: Expensive, not an ideas platform, not enough entry points for data.
Idea Management Software - Idea management software is specifically designed for that: Idea management. Software that focuses on open innovation as its strong point will be able to adapt to the needs of specific sectors and not only collect but help provide a platform for analyzing that data. Idea management companies that haven't already worked with the public sector may not have consultation extensions available and many other idea management companies have their data stored outside their home countries. Finding a domestic idea management solution (like Wazoku's in the UK) with a consultation extension is possible however.
Pros: Promotes open innovation, designed to gather and develop ideas.
Cons: Data storage may not be domestically based, some may have to develop consultation pieces.