Innova.TO is a competition for all municipal employees of Turin (IT), except the directors, inspired by the principles of lean organisation. It aims to stimulate and develop innovative projects to improve the administration's performance, reducing waste and/or valuing resources.
The city of Torino employs a 10,000-strong community of well-educated, skilled people. At the heart of Innova.TO is the ambition to encourage all these employees to see themselves as potential innovators. To reinforce participation: project proposals were anonymous; the jury was composed of internal and external experts; private sponsors agreed to offer awards.
So far, 71 projects have been submitted, 111 employees involved, and 10 proposals rewarded. No public budget has been allocated. Winning proposals include an idea for improving transparency and community participation in local projects, sensors to regulate lighting in public buildings, and a new model for smart procurements.
Of 71 proposals submitted, 63 were from individual employees, five were presented by two employees and the remaining were proposed by three people. Proposals were related to service quality improvement (19), new services (7), environmental friendly projects (7), organisational development (16), employee welfare (5), informatics (3), and operative efficiency (14). The web-platform hosting Innova.TO has obtained more than 4,000 contacts.
Ten projects have been awarded, for example:
• 5*1,000. The idea was using the 5x1,000 donation for the development of specific projects selected by the local community. In this manner, the citizens of Turin can concretely see what they finance through the donation of the 5x1000 of their individual income tax return, promoting the transparency of public action and better participation by the local community.
• Smart solutions for smart procurements. The project would like to organise a team inside the municipality dedicated to the procurement of innovative goods and services, and able to operate in integration with the existing organisational structures. It encompasses the definition of a new organisational model and dedicated administrative instruments to systematise the use of innovation’s procurement and realise Smart City policies. The project proposes the installation of sensors to regulate the intensity of the light in the public buildings and, consequently, save energy consumptions.
Innova.TO has been designed by a team drawn from different departments of the City of Torino to assemble appropriated competencies and assure a good level of knowledge for the definition of each phase of the implementation process. Public employees as proponents of innovative solutions face directly or indirectly urban challenges in every field of intervention - it doesn’t matter the workstation placed by the public servant in the phase of ideas generation - shows evidence of how important for a big organisation to adopt lean and sustainable instruments to better deal with complex urban problems. The public administration is asked even more to find innovative solutions with smaller public budgets. Therefore it becomes crucial to create a collaborative environment enabling the generation of ideas of everyone “without having to ask permission to propose to make better”.
Changing mindsets is an important aspect of Innova.TO. In fact it has been designed to encourage public employees to become active participants in the city’s growing “intelligent community”. The challenge reflects the growing importance placed on staff and customers in public service redesign. The public employees know how things function, are well aware of user expectations and, for this reason, have a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Innova.TO has ambitions to create a “ vibrant context”; it can be a very useful tool for the improvement of structures and lead to services of higher quality, maybe even generating managerial savings. Small or large, the ideas of workers may turn out to be valuable resources, especially in the current context, where all public entities are called to do more with less.
Innova.TO is a successful example that shows how the adoption of the principles of an open innovation model can make social innovation. It’s a flag initiative of Torino’s strategy to trigger urban innovation which leverages on collaborative knowledge and action to create a multi-actor local ecosystem as well as a new open culture nurtured within the public administration and the territory.
Innova.TO shows that public employees can come forward with innovative ideas if they are engaged in a collaborative way. Employees are citizens too, and they know well how public money is spent as well as the environmental impact of our work. It also debunks the myth that the private sector is the sole reservoir of innovative thinking. It's important for employees to have a green light to experiment and to potentially make mistakes. Employees should also take a step back from their daily roles to consider the wider aspects of the organisation’s functions.
These important messages about structures and work culture come from these "reflective spaces", and from the encouragement to think beyond the daily job. Leadership takes many forms: Innova.TO shows that. When It is bottom-up, It can flourish where there is high-level support, and even where that high-level support is initially lukewarm, it can be secured in other ways, provided senior staff are open-minded and listening.
Here we see the streetwise and savvy civil servants coming to the fore, being prepared to persevere after initial disappointments. There is much talk nowadays about the multifaceted nature of civic leadership, and this is one example of it in action. Changing attitudes and mindsets is the start of a change process – a profound and potentially lengthy one – aimed at stimulating innovative and enterprising attitudes within public administrations.
Innova.TO is a model that is easily replicable, not expensive, and very flexible and agile. For these reasons it has received an award from Place Marketing Forum 2016, an international conference organised each year by the New Place Marketing and Attractiveness Chair of the Public Management Institute (Aix-Marseille University) as one the best worldwide practices in the category "Innovation marketing / Offer qualification / Relations personalisation".
Innova.TO has been successfully promoted in public events such as the first URBACT City Festival (Riga, 6-8 May 2015) and during the Third World Forum of Local Economic Development, organised by the United Nations (Torino, 13-16 October 2015).