June 1

Centre for Policy Innovation and Public Engagement Website Launch

Centre for Policy Innovation and Public Engagement Website Launch

“Social innovation”, “open government”, “big data”, “smart cities”, “behavioral insights” and even “policy innovation” are phrases seen around the Internet urging us to believe there are better ways to design public policy and deliver public programs.

The message is that governments need to connect more with citizens and stakeholders through “policy innovation labs” – places where people can connect and collaborate in finding solutions to the problems facing their communities. Using design techniques and new technologies to build solutions, innovation labs transform the “think tank” into a “do tank.” People who participate not only offer their perspectives on what must be done, but also become invested in the outcomes and act towards making the desired changes a reality.

Labs are part of a broader trend in government policy where, in theory, public servants no longer get to decide policy behind closed doors, but instead focus on greater transparency to citizens. “In Canada and elsewhere, there has been a general movement from traditional ‘public servant as expert’ to a more citizen-focused public service and most recently to put the citizen more in the drivers seat for selected policies.” says Bryan Evans, the director for the Centre of Citizen Engagement and Policy Innovation (CPIPE). “At this stage, we do not have enough information to tell how good or bad an idea this is. We see plenty of critics and true-believers of course. What we really need is more research on what innovations do or do not improve public policies and how to deploy the best techniques effectively.”

On June 1st, the Centre launched its new website with a directory of labs, resources, white papers, online presentations and tools to help policy makers get more familiar with policy innovation processes. They would also like to hear more about research and projects about policy innovation approaches both inside and outside government walls.

“It’s an exciting time for public policy. With new media and increasing demands for inquiries and consultations in general, we can expect more groups turning to policy innovation labs as a way to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.”

Over the next year, CPIPE will roll out a research agenda and other activities to build real understanding in how innovation in public policy making can be achieved and promoted.