How could open innovation (OI) collaborative practices provide a way to tackle the world’s most pressing societal challenges – eradication of disease? Reduction of carbon emissions? Creation of more sustainable products and services?
A special issue of R&D Management investigates this proposition from a number of perspectives and provides insights into how current open innovation approaches may contribute to improving society. It will be presented at the R&D Management conference on 20th June between 8.30am and 10am.
Letizia Mortara, one of the Special Issue Editors, comments: “It has become clear that OI practices benefit the economic performance and resilience of organisations and so many researchers, practitioners, and policy makers are now considering how these approaches can be used to bring together diverse sets of collaborative partners to address the grand challenges that we are facing as a society.
“This special issue captures some of that thinking. The editorial (see picture) summarises the key dependencies between societal impact and open innovationand highlights the key differences between practicing open innovation to support economic (innovativeness and financial) value creation and versus societal impact. The editorial and its contributions provide a clear framework to commence tackling this complex research gap.”
Open Innovation to Improve society: a framework
Whilst the impact of open innovation in economic terms is somewhat easy to determine, the definition of societal impact depends on the values, beliefs and motivations of the ideators, contributors and beneficiaries of the innovation. These values and motivations change over time and across cultures, making it hard to determine a unique reference point to establish a universal and comparable scale of societal impact.
Furthermore, whilst within an organisation diverse innovation activities may be smoothly tuned because of a clear and consistent goal of innovation for profit creation, innovation activities aimed at social innovation include a broad group of stakeholders with different objectives, agendas and motivations. This creates a certain level of tension between altruism, commercial viability and ethical concerns.
The Special Issue “Leveraging Open Innovation for societal impact” includes 1 editorial and 7 papers:
The special issue includes 7 papers from international scholars in OI who concentrate on specific aspects of this complicated picture:
Knowledge production in an age of post-truth populism
Authors: Smart, Palie; Holmes, Sara; Lettice, Fiona; Pitts, Frederick; Zwiegelaar, Jeremy; Schwartz, Gregory and Evans, Stephen look at the influence of different societal impacts on open innovation and open data policies in universities across time. (Open Science and Open Innovation in a Socio-Political Context: Knowledge Production for Societal Impact in an Age of Post-Truth Populism)
The authors reflect on their nature, intrinsic tensions and consequences of the “open” models in existence. For instance, they highlight how the increased participation of the public in science and policy evaluation driven by social media led to a decreasing trust and a delegitimisation of the role of professional scientists. They observe how academic institutions are squeezed between competing ways to generate societal impact. On one side academics are encouraged to exploit their knowledge in a commercial way, whilst on the other they are pushed to make them freely available. The authors suggest ways to reconcile these ambiguous and conflicting drivers.
Crowdsourcing without profit
Analysing 18 local government crowdsourcing projects (Citizen-sourcing), the authors consider the influence of the governments’ intent in the set-up of the crowdsourcing activities and the differences in project team motivation and capabilities on the projects’ outcomes. They find that a successful crowdsourcing effort begins with its intent, is reflected in the top management team’s commitment, leading to clearly defined goals that achieve transformational outcomes. They also compare and contrast governmental and corporate crowdsourcing efforts.
The role of entrepreneurial co-creation
The paper explores how OI activities might concern different partners and their motivations and how these configurations may be entangled to the breadth of impact in the outcomes.
Building a crowdsourcing platform for social innovation
Authors examine the development of the travel2change crowdsourcing platform which encourages travellers to become involved in activities with social impact in their destinations.
The paper maps the evolution for travel2change from a collaborative community to a competitive market. It offers insights to organisations interested in implementing crowdsourcing initiatives to generate social impact.
Encouraging citizen involvement in open government
The notion of citizens as innovators has gained much attention in the last years. By collaborating with their communities, government and municipal institutions initiate social innovation and stimulate a positive change for society. The research studied the involvement of citizens in an ideation platform initiated by the local government of Linz, the second largest city of Austria. The objective was to generate ideas on the design of open spaces in the city.
Frank Piller comments: “We were especially interested to find out what motivates citizens to contribute to social innovation and found an interesting trade-off: Intrinsic motivation, i.e. fun, enjoyment, altruism or pro-social behaviour, all motivated citizens to submit more useful ideas. However, when extrinsic (monetary or material) rewards were introduced, the number of submitted ideas dropped. But at the same time, the presence of extrinsic incentives motivated more people to contribute with comments on ideas and to vote on their preferred idea.
Thus, if public innovation managers aim to increase idea sharing, they have to create conditions for participation that allow users to motivate themselves. For example, users’ feelings of fun and enjoyment could be enhanced by including gamification or developing an attention management strategy. To include a larger public of commentators and voters, other incentives are required. Monetary incentives may signal to the public that the city takes the social innovation initiative seriously.
Affordable medical records – an OI challenge
The authors examine Open MRS, an open source software community which offers affordable medical record-keeping software for developing nations. The analysis illustrates how OI processes influence the development of the software writer community together with the founders’ vision, motivation and community governance choices.
Study of a fab lab
The authors explore a network of 170 fab labs and maker spaces, launched in Russia in 2013. The analysis illustrates how social entrepreneurs adapt to global and local constraints to deliver social impact. The paper provides suggestions of strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability of fab labs/maker spaces.