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Advancing innovation, mexico's innovation agents (eng)

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Guillermo M. Cejudo
Mauricio Dussauge
Cynthia Michel
Advancing Innovation:
Mexico’s Innovation Agents
Guillermo M. Cejudo, Mauricio Dussauge
and Cynthia Michel
2015
This proje...
ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 1
Preface
In 2014, the Office of the President of
Mexico launched an init...
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Advancing innovation, mexico's innovation agents (eng)

  1. 1. Guillermo M. Cejudo Mauricio Dussauge Cynthia Michel
  2. 2. Advancing Innovation: Mexico’s Innovation Agents Guillermo M. Cejudo, Mauricio Dussauge and Cynthia Michel 2015 This project was funded by Omidyar Network. The opinions and information inside this document are entirely the responsibility of its authors and do not represent the opinion of CIDE as an institution.
  3. 3. ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 1 Preface In 2014, the Office of the President of Mexico launched an initiative called National Innovation Agents (Agentes de Innovación Nacional, or AIN, in Spanish). The initiative has been sponsored by the Coordination for the National Digital Strategy (Coordinación de la Estrategia Digital Nacional, or CEDN, in Spanish) in an attempt to solve certain public problems by pursuing open innovation processes, seeking to redefine the collaboration between citizens and the public sector through co-creation between civil servants and external agents. This report is the result of an evaluation of the AIN undertaken by a research team from the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, or CIDE, in Spanish), financed by Omidyar Network. This report offers an analysis of the overall strategy (a detailed analysis of the five projects developed under the AIN initiative is available in Spanish at http://administracionpublica.cide.edu/ ?p=645). The authors thank the public officials at the CEDN, the internal and external agents, the technological team, other participants from the federal government, and Reboot and Public Works (Stanford University) for agreeing to several interviews and for sharing their information: Lorena Rivero, Aura Martinez, Leticia Jáuregui, Santiago Ocejo, Tania Castillo, Alejandro González, Alberto Saracho, José María Aspiroz, Patrick Kane, Eduardo Garza, Mois Cherem, Natalia Briseño, Hugo Osorio, Panthea Lee, Kerry Brennan, Jenny Stefanotti, and Alejandra Lagunes. We express our gratitude for the original drive of Ania Calderón, Guillermo Ruíz de Teresa, Jorge Soto, Alejandra Ruíz del Río, Laura Bacon, and Libby Haight. We also thank Anahí Gutierrez for her contributions during the first stage of this evaluation and Xóchitl Toledo and Roberto Zedillo for translating this report into English. Some of the findings from this evaluation have already been presented at the Fifth International Conference on Government, Administration and Public Policy GIGAPP IUIOG 2014, at the Open Government Partnership’s Americas Regional Meeting in 2014, at the 1st National Colloquium on Public Administration of the National Institute of Public Administration (Instituto Nacional de Administración Pública, or INAP, in Spanish) in 2015, at the MX Abierto Seminar on Public Innovation in 2015, at the 65th Political Studies Association Annual International Conference, which took place in England in 2015, and at the Open Government Partnership’s Global Summit in Mexico City in 2015.
  4. 4. 2 ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS Introduction Over the last two decades, the promotion of innovation to improve the efficiency and efficacy of public management has become one of governments’ main objectives (Brown and Osborne, 2013). International organizations, universities and civil society organizations have sought to contribute to this purpose by creating observatories, laboratories, and think tanks that offer advice on the best practices to accomplish it. This has influenced countries to increasingly adopt various innovation strategies that range from the creation of structures that support organizations in their processes of innovation to the implementation of policies centered specifically on the encouragement of innovation in government agencies (OECD, 2015). In Mexico, the Federal Government has followed this trend by implementing various initiatives, one of which is National Innovation Agents (Agentes de Innovación, or AIN, in Spanish.) AIN is a recent and novel proposal from the Coordination of the National Digital Strategy (Coordinación de Estrategia Digital Nacional, or CEDN, in Spanish), which is the agency, within the Office of the President of Mexico, in charge of this topic. This strategy is meant to solve public problems by pursuing open innovation processes (i.e. those based on a design methodology centered on the citizen), and seeks to redefine the collaboration between citizens and the public sector. To this effect, it links people from outside the government with those public officials responsible for the design and implementation of public policy in order to make them work together in the development of technology-based projects meant to solve problems from a citizen perspective (Estrategia Digital Nacional, 2014). This report is the result of an evaluation of the AIN undertaken by a research team from the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, or CIDE, in Spanish) and financed by Omidyar Network. The work of the evaluation team was focused on analyzing each stage of the innovation process in order to identify the factors that either enable or prevent innovation in the public sector. In this sense, the team studied the way each innovation was born, the sequence of interactions among all parties involved, the products that resulted from each innovation project, as well as all their potential effects on the public institutions for which they were created. On the following pages, we present a brief explanation of the initiative as a whole. We later explore the project’s precedents and the way the idea for it came about. Subsequently, we outline the design of AIN and compare it to the way the initiative was implemented. Finally, we offer some conclusions and recommendations.
  5. 5. ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 3 Background Created in 2012, the CEDN seeks to promote “innovation, openness, transparency, collaboration, and civil participation in the country in order to bring Mexico into the society of knowledge” (Reglamento de la Oficina de la Presidencia de la República, art. 10, par. I). The CEDN is also tasked with designing and implementing the Action Plan 2013-2015 to which Mexico committed as a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The CEDN combines the government’s innovation agenda with the use of information technology in government and the actions of open government. This combination explains several decisions related to the design of AIN, since the purpose was to create a program that would incorporate the use of ICTs and involve citizens in the development of projects meant to improve public management and advance government openness. The challenge was to let the Office of the President manage the strategy while also allowing the various federal ministries involved to design their own projects. In other words, it was about finding a way to let government offices become the protagonists in the implementation of innovation processes that would allow them to be more efficient and effective, without those processes being entirely exogenous to them. The main issue the CEDN wanted to address through AIN was the limited efficiency and efficacy associated with the implementation of processes in government agencies and the way this affects their relations with citizens. This definition of the problem coincided with one of the main objectives of the new administration: to achieve a government that is both efficient and able to offer a better quality of service than it currently does through the incorporation of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) (see PGCM, Programa para un Gobierno Cercano y Moderno). The team responsible for implementing AIN was in charge of the CEDN’s General Director of Innovation and Citizen Participation, and the Deputy General Director of Civic Innovation. While all team members have a solid academic background including postgraduate studies abroad, and also have experience in developing innovation projects, their involvement in the CEDN was their first job experience as public sector officials.
  6. 6. 4 ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS How did AIN come about? The project was designed to cut across different ministries and sectors of government, while being coordinated by the CEDN. With this in mind, several ministries were convened to identify the actors that could potentially lead innovation projects. There was a need for people who had experience in each particular institution, but who at the same time were capable of thinking “outside the box”. This is how five public servants (afterwards called “internal agents”) were ultimately chosen. Each one of them came from a different ministry, linked to a policy area considered strategic for the federal government: health, education, security, economic promotion, and modern government. The CEDN team acknowledged that public servants generally lack the time needed to develop tasks that go beyond their routines, which prevents them from thinking of and implementing innovations in their institutions. Consequently, it was decided that the design of AIN should promote co-creation, meaning the collaboration between public servants and experts in different sectors1. In addition, to team up with the “internal agents”, they found “external agents” who had experience in each corresponding sector and a track record in offering innovative solutions to traditional problems. 1 Several international experiences that had innovation in the public sector as their main purpose were studied for the design of AIN. In particular, two experiences in the US public administration were taken as a reference: CODE for America and Presidential Innovation Fellows. Innovations would be ICT-based. According to the CEDN, a clear lack of connection between the technical and substantive areas in government ministries made technological innovations look like something exogenous; hence the decision to incorporate a technological component into innovation processes. In fact, the CEDN acknowledged that continuous innovation aimed at improving both government efficiency and the public sector’s relationship with citizens is not properly a task of government itself, since public offices generally do not provide any spaces for civil servants to take risks, suggest ideas, or even fail. This had two implications. The first one was that AIN was designed to create a space where public servants of various ministries could actually take risks and think “outside the box”, without having to worry about any possible failures that could potentially have negative effects. In addition, the purpose was to encourage federal agencies to actually adopt and incorporate the innovations, since solutions, instead of being externally imposed, would be created from within. The second implication for the design of AIN was that a new member would have to be added to the innovation team aside from the internal and external agents: someone that had enough experience in the development of software and other technological resources, so that everyone’s specific needs could be met. Finally, the international experiences reviewed by the CEDN team showed that innovation strategies
  7. 7. ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 5 in the public sector tended to be poorly structured, and that the people in charge tended to understand these initiatives as tasks for which the ultimate purpose was to develop a technological tool and then come back to their government office to deliver a finished product. The CEDN decided to rely on an institution that was able to give structure to each team’s innovation process and lead them to co-create. To this effect, it invited Public Works, an agency from Stanford University with substantial experience in using the Design Thinking methodology to generate innovative projects in the public sector.
  8. 8. 6 ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS The Design of AIN Once the problem that AIN would deal with was defined as the limited efficiency and efficacy of government processes across ministries and the effects this has on the government’s relationship with citizens, the CEDN team conceived the strategy to be based on four fundamental tools: a) a team of agents for each participating ministry; b) periodical meetings between them; c) resources for the team-building efforts, and d) follow up on all processes, whether institutionally from the CEDN or in a more specialized manner through other partners. The objective was to create conditions for the teams to innovate and find solutions to concrete public problems. The ultimate goal was to produce five innovations, even though team members at the CEDN were aware from the start that they would all probably achieve different degrees of success. The strategy required agents to get together periodically, and to accede to ongoing support, for them to be able to design technology-based innovative proposals meant to solve issues related to the efficiency and efficacy of their own government institutions. The first step was thus to identify and recruit potential internal and external agents. An internal agent needed: a) To be a public servant in the federal government; b) To have a decision-making position in her department; c) To have institutional backing to participate in the project; d) To be willing to form part of an open, citizen-oriented innovation process, and e) To be in charge of tasks that were compatible with the purpose of the project in order to be able to invest time in it. FIGURE 1. AIN’s CAUSAL THEORY Limited efficiency and efficacy in government processes across departments and its effects on the government's relationship with its citizens 1. AIN teams 2. Periodical meetings 3.Economic resources 4. Follow-up Conditions that allow internal agents to innovate and solve concrete problems within the government. Five innovations with different degrees of success. Problem Tools Products Results
  9. 9. ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 7 External agents, for their part, were required: a) To have outstanding careers in the subject of the project. b) Not to be government employees. c) To manage or have experience managing a project or organization related to the problem they would solve or the city it was related to, and d) To commit at least 25 percent of their time to the development of the project. Agents in each team were expected to hold periodical meetings so as to collaboratively define both the problem they would address and their technology-based innovative solution for it. Thus solutions would result from a co-creation process between both parties. The CEDN planned to put a series of resources at the disposal of the teams to aid their innovation efforts. The first resource was support from a facilitator from Public Works, a program at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design in Stanford (better known as d.-school) which, based on the Design Thinking methodology (which aims to solve problems in a creative manner, focusing designs on the users), supports members of the civil society and government reformers in the development of innovations. Public Works would run a short workshop at the beginning of the AIN initiative in order to teach the Design Thinking methodology to all teams. Afterwards, a couple of working sessions would be held separately with each team so as to offer them more specific advice. Throughout the following weeks, the facilitator from Public Works would be available for virtual sessions during office hours to answer any questions the teams might have about the design process. Therefore, the expectation was that, in accordance with the Design Thinking methodology, all teams would develop a technology-based innovation according to the following stages: 1. Definition of the problem and ideation. Agents and the technology developer, with the support from a Public Works facilitator, would narrow down the problem to be solved. To this effect, they would engage in fieldwork meant to “generate empathy” among potential service users and to identify their needs. In addition, agents would come up with multiple possible solutions and assess the risks of each one. 2. Prototype creation and testing. Teams would explore the possible solutions they thought of during step one and develop simple prototypes to test them with citizens and other potential service users. At the end of this stage, all teams would have enough elements to pick their best solution for further development. 3. Innovation development. During this stage, teams would rely on the technological developer to create the ICT basis for the innovation, meeting weekly for follow-up. 4. Transition. In order for the government institution for which the innovation was developed to be able to keep up with its administration and maintenance, as well as for it to be able to “scale it up” (apply it in other agencies), the technology involved would be
  10. 10. 8 ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS documented and personnel intended to be in charge of it would be trained. Teams were expected to follow the timetable described in Table 1, although CEDN members were aware that each stage could require more or less time. An additional tool was that of mentoring sessions. These were intended to provide each team with an expert’s point of view about the policy area in which they focused, so that they could improve the design of their proposed solutions. An additional tool to support the teams and their operation consisted in providing them with economic resources ($1,000,000.00 MX, or approximately USD $75,000 per team) so that they could hire up to four new team members with additional skills. To this effect, the plan was that the CEDN team would issue an open call to invite new people with different technical profiles to become part of the teams. The involvement of Reboot (www.reboot.org), a social organization based in New York and dedicated to inclusive development and to the promotion of governance, was considered to be another tool which would support the teams. Reebot’s role consisted in documenting and evaluating the entire innovation process, as well as interacting with the team members to create a communication strategy to transmit the lessons learned from the initiative across the international open government community. TABLE 1. STAGES OF THE AIN PROJECT
  11. 11. ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 9 Finally, the CEDN team itself would be an additional tool at the agents’ disposal. Even though the Deputy General Director of Civic Innovation was to be the person in charge of following every team, there was some debate inside the CEDN as to how closely the teams should be monitored. On the one hand, nobody wanted to distort each team’s innovation process. On the other, they planned to create a structure that could mediate their relationship with the agents so as to give certainty to the process. In the end, the decision was to undertake a regular yet flexible follow- up scheme in relation to the agents’ work. In practical terms, this would require weekly calls between the teams and the CEDN. The point of these calls was not only to keep track of the progress made by each team, but also to help agents solve any possible obstacles they might face while developing their innovations. The plan was that the CEDN would have a full- time team dedicated to coordinating the AIN project so as to provide teams with a working place and infrastructure (computer equipment, server space, connectivity) if needed, as well as to offer political support to overcome possible resistance in their agencies. It was expected that, with these tools at hand, the five teams would satisfy a set of minimum necessary conditions that would enable them to innovate and solve concrete problems. With these resources, the CEDN would be creating spaces inside each of the five public institutions involved, so that agents could get away from their bureaucratic routines and from all the other factors that usually inhibit innovation processes. This did not only mean that those responsible for the various projects involved would find time to innovate, but also that they would work in collaboration with certain actors external to the government. In addition, any possible failures would not be considered signs of poor performance on the part of internal agents. Ultimately, AIN was expected to deliver five innovations based on technology, one per team. The possibility of “failure” was also considered—meaning the possibility that none of the participating institutions might incorporate the team’s proposed solution into their operations. Analyzing the diversity across the teams’ experiences would allow to identify the factors that make innovation in the public sector more or less feasible. AIN also sought to generate abilities to innovate among all internal agents. Once the project was finished, agents themselves were expected to acknowledge that innovation is not costly, that certain methodologies to innovate help reduce the risk of failure, and thus that innovation is possible. Finally, the AIN strategy was expected to have a demonstration effect, making the interest in innovation rise in other federal areas and institutions. This would manifest itself in the form of other agencies from the federal government expressing their intention to belong to a second round of the AIN strategy.
  12. 12. 10 ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS The Implementation of AIN The implementation of AIN started off with the selection of participant government institutions and the internal agents to be involved. Five ministries were chosen, each one related to an objective set forth in the EDN: Government Transformation, Digital Economy, Quality Education, Universal and Effective Healthcare, and Public Security. Thus, the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, the National Institute for the Entrepreneur (which is part of the Ministry of Economy), the Ministry of Public Education, the Mexican Institute of Social Security, and the Ministry of the Interior were all selected. During the writing of the PGCM (Programa para un Gobierno Cercano y Moderno), the CEDN team was in touch with public officials from the five institutions mentioned above. This helped identify people who would later participate as internal agents by invitation through a closed call. The internal agents, together with the CEDN team, defined the problem that would be addressed by each team in general terms. The selection of the external agents and of the team that would be in charge of developing the necessary technology subsequently took place also through a closed call. The selection took more time than expected, which pushed the start date for the project back for one month. At the same time, the CEDN also remained in touch with Public Works, Reboot, and CIDE to define the role that each one of these partners would have in the project. Nevertheless, Reboot’s role was not clearly distinguished since the beginning from the CIDE’s (in charge of evaluating the initiative), nor from the role of Public Works (responsible for advising teams throughout the innovation process). The role of Reboot was modified along the project as a result of a lack of communication and of well-defined expectations. In fact, aside from documenting the agents’ work processes, Reboot ended up advising the CEDN during the implementation. During this stage, the CEDN also established communications with Omidyar Network and with The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which provided funding for the work of CIDE and Reboot, respectively. The official launching of the project took place in June 2014, in a ceremony led by the CEDN Coordinator, with the participation of Undersecretaries, senior officials, and the agents from all institutions involved. During the following two days, agents participated in a training course about Design Thinking, taught by the facilitator from Public Works. The purpose of this was for agents to be able to apply the methodology in the design and implementation of their own projects. Ideas and starting points for the five innovation projects were also presented during the launching session. In the case of public security, the team would attempt to create an innovation that would allow citizens to get involved in violence prevention. As to digital economy, the purpose would be to create a system that would make the fund for entrepreneurs more transparent and accessible. In terms of universal healthcare, the goal would be
  13. 13. ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 11 to make health services more accessible. In relation to education quality, the goal was to rethink the long-distance education system, keeping the newest available technologies in mind. Finally, as to government transformation, the goal was to find a way to integrate feedback from beneficiaries into the evaluations of social programs’ performance (see Table 2). TABLE 2. PROJECTS OF THE NATIONAL INNOVATION AGENTS EDN OBJECTIVE Government office of the internal agent Question that guides the innovation Innovation Product Prototype Change expected, according to each team Security Ministry of the Interior How could we involve citizens in violence prevention? Replica of the model of the Citizen Integration Center (CIC) that exists in a northern state of Mexico, which consists in a technological platform that receives and spreads reports from citizens via tweets, e-mails, a mobile app, SMS, and a web page about traffic regulations, security, public services, and emergencies. Greater participation from the citizens in actions meant to prevent social violence. Digital Economy National Institute for the Entrepreneur How could we create a system that provides funding to Mexican entrepreneurs and makes the existing process more transparent and accessible for them? Redesigning the processes used for project placing, evaluation, and disbursement of the resources provided by the entrepreneur system, as well as the technological platform related to it. More transparency in the processes for project placing and evaluation, and for resource disbursement, as well as better communication with the applicants Universal and Effective Healthcare Mexican Institute of Social Security How could we make health services more accessible for citizens through social innovation? App with three sections aimed at pregnant women: 1) Information about the development of their pregnancy; 2) Information to know whether their doctor appointments are in line with the IMSS guide, and 3) access to paperwork related to maternity leave. Better quality in the service for pregnant women: empowered women and less crowded medical centers. Education Quality Ministry of Public Education How could we rethink the long- distance education system based on the newest available technologies? Technological platform with seven areas of socioemotional skills, 21 videos and interactive contents, plus one tool for self-assessment for each one of the different subject- areas related to school desertion. Lower drop-out rates. Since they get motivated to continue their education, students develop socioemotional competences and have important information to build their professional future.
  14. 14. 12 ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS Aside from the course about Design Thinking, the facilitator from Public Works held a series of individual sessions, where teams received more detailed advice about the initial development of their projects. Additional meetings took place around two months later (August 2014), where teams could present their progress to different experts from their policy areas, so that feedback could contribute to a more effective solution. A couple of weeks after these meetings, each team made an official presentation of their progress before the CEDN and the Undersecretaries in charge of the areas where the internal agents worked. The point of this presentation was to secure (or in some cases generate) support from the corresponding institution so that the innovative solution under way could be adopted when the time arrived. Even though the teams were supposed to have a nearly finished version of their prototypes by the end of 2014, a series of factors delayed this. Mainly, the CEDN did not provide the teams with the economic resources they had initially offered. Nor was there anyone in charge of monitoring or meeting regularly with each team in case they needed it. Therefore, by the first months of 2015 each team had achieved a different level of progress. In many cases, a certain indifference towards the general project of the AIN could be felt, as well as certain distance from the CEDN team. By that time (March 2015), the CEDN had not yet secured economic resources for the teams, while it established communications with them only sporadically. This led the formal closure of the AIN project— originally planned for December 2014—to take place in different moments, according to the evolution, interests, and personal schedules of each team. The CEDN showed interest in holding an official closing ceremony for the project on September 2015. The purpose was to place the AIN initiative as a precedent for a laboratory of public innovation that would be promoted from the CEDN. However, by the time this report was written (December 2015), the ceremony had not yet taken place. CONTINUATION OF TABLE 1. PROJECTS OF THE AGENTS OF INNOVATION EDN OBJECTIVE Government office of the internal agent Question that guides the innovation Innovation Product Prototype Change expected, according to each team Government Transforma- tion Ministry of Finance and Public Credit How can we integrate user satisfaction feedback regarding budgetary programs and incorporate it into program performance evaluations? An electronic platform that consists on a (suggested) methodology to gather and concentrate every citizen’s perception about the public programs from which they receive benefits. Incorporation of the beneficiaries’ satisfaction in the evaluation of programs. Source: own elaboration.
  15. 15. ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 13 Analysis of the Implementation of AIN As it was previously described, the implementation of the AIN initiative deviated significantly from the original design. In this section, we present a detailed analysis of the gaps we noted, as well as their implications for the development of the project 2 . The analysis is divided into two sections, each one corresponding to a specific stage in the project. The tools 1. Selection of internal and external agents. From the beginning, the CEDN defined clear and reasonable guidelines to choose the agents. In most cases, criteria were closely followed, especially by the external agents. However, some of the internal agents did not meet the guidelines, either because they lacked decision-making faculties inside their areas or because they were not fully backed by their institution to participate in the project. This affected the co-creation process that was expected to take place between agents, since, in those cases where internal agents lacked decision- making capabilities, external agents ended up deciding on most issues related to the project. The absence of institutional backing had a further negative impact on the probability that the corresponding government agency would adopt the innovation. In those cases, the solution was not perceived to satisfy any institutional needs. 2 A detailed analysis of the five projects developed under the AIN initiative is available in Spanish at the following URL: http://administracionpublica.cide.edu/?p=645 2. Advice provided to the teams by Public Works. The Public Works facilitator showed ample experience with the Design Thinking methodology and was able to both ensure team members became familiar with it from the start and get actively involved in the development of their methodologies. Design Thinking was useful for each team to a different degree because of two factors: the development status of each project (in terms of fulfilling their purposes), and the previous knowledge some agents had regarding this methodology. While the plan was for all teams to begin at a similar starting point (identifying a problem to solve or a need to be addressed), in some cases the “solution” had been already decided by the time AIN started. Even before the initiative began, there were some projects whose design and purpose had already been agreed upon by the government agency and an external consultant/agent. Therefore, in some cases, the methodology that was meant to support the design of the “innovation” was not really relevant. Furthermore, the methodological principles did not change existing working relationships in those cases where the agents had been collaborating since before the AIN initiative started. In the case of those teams in which the agents were already familiar with the Design Thinking methodology, innovations had a clear and simple causality underlying their design. However, most of the teams did not stick to this methodology throughout the development of their project. This
  16. 16. 14 ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS was basically due to the fact that the training course for agents was only two days long, and so it did not provide them with enough time to recognize the value it could add to the innovation process. Only some teams defined the problem adequately, and only one of them engaged in fieldwork in order to identify the needs of those service users the innovation was aimed at. Moreover, the development of the teams’ innovations was the result of a process of co-creation between both agents only in some cases. In fact, only one of the teams can be said to have created a prototype following the Design Thinking methodology (even though by the time this report was written the innovation had yet to be adopted.) The plan was for the facilitator from Public Works to assist agents during the process to provide solutions for these challenges. While the facilitator was always willing to help teams, she did not speak Spanish and was not familiar with the intricacies of the Mexican bureaucracy. Therefore, mistakes in terms of problem definition or proposed solutions went under her radar in spite of their various interactions. 3. Session with experts. The external experts invited to participate as ‘mentors’ are widely renowned publicly. The purpose of these meetings was for agents to get feedback from them that could contribute to improve the design of their innovations. However, these ‘mentors’ were not really subject- matter experts but rather politicians, and thus their contributions were limited. 4. Economic resources. This was yet another tool meant to support the daily operation of each team and facilitate the recruitment of additional team members. However, no resources were provided to the agents, which complicated the development of the projects at different stages in each case. For those in which the agents committed more time, the lack of material resources brought difficulties towards the end of the process, during the development of the prototypes. For those in which external agents had less time for the project (or where there were changes in internal agents along the process), it was impossible to recruit additional members who could concentrate full time on the project and its development. 5. Advice from Reboot. Reboot had a constant presence throughout the project. However, the terms of its involvement were not clearly defined in the design of the AIN initiative. Thus agents did not regard Reboot as a source of support or advice. As the project progressed, Reboot became an advisor to the CEDN. Members from the CEDN team found Reboot’s analysis to be very relevant, but they reckoned that receiving feedback on a regular basis (instead of only at the end of the project) would have been better. 6. Support from the CEDN. The original plan was that a CEDN team would be fully devoted to follow up with agents and provide them with infrastructure and political support in order to surmount any obstacles they might encounter, while still giving them enough flexibility to act and evolve in whatever way they saw fit. The CEDN did always keep communication
  17. 17. ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 15 channels open for agents to pose their questions or share their problems. This allowed agents to contact the CEDN on a regular basis. However, clear communications flowing in the opposite direction did not always take place. This became obvious when the Deputy General Director of Civic Innovation (who was in principle the manager of the initiative) left the CEDN. Agents were never officially notified of his departure, something they eventually discovered on their own. This, along with the inability of the CEDN to secure economic resources, fueled animosity amongst the agents. The lack of a clear definition on the form the CEDN’s relationship with the teams should take—in practical terms—generated uncertainty and created expectations among the agents that could not be fulfilled in the end. This same lack of definition allowed the team at CEDN to reduce its own role in the project. It became merely reactive as its own workload increased due to other projects. Thus CEDN’s time and commitment to all matters related to the AIN initiative gradually decreased, as did its communication with the agents. In fact, for over four months (April to July 2015), the agents had no idea whether they would eventually receive economic resources, nor whether the project would be officially wrapped up. The product According to the original plan, if agents had had access to the tools previously mentioned (the Design Thinking methodology, the support from Reboot, the economic resources, and the support from the CEDN) they would have been in a good position to innovate and solve public problems related to specific citizen needs. Their solutions would have been (i) relevant for their own government agencies, (ii) based on technology, and (iii) the result of a co-creation process. Because the tools did not work the way they were planned to, only one team performed according to what was expected. In that case—the team working on the health sector—, agents built a productive relationship that allowed them to identify a problem that was relevant for their institution and that could be solved with an ICT basis. Relying on the Design Thinking methodology, they were able to understand how their solution was linked to the specific needs of the service users and providers. This also helped the internal agent find a specific area within the institution which could be interested in promoting the solution. Even though they found obstacles (for instance, they had disagreements with the technological developer, and never received the economic resources they were promised), they managed to deal with them successfully. For the other cases, at least one of the elements of the causal theory underlying AIN was missing. Sometimes the co-creation process between the agents did not come to reality because of two reasons. The first is related to situations where the solution was predetermined (that is, it had already been agreed upon before the initiative was launched), and preexisting working relationships between the internal and external agents were not modified by AIN. The second reason was related to the lack of decision-making power of internal
  18. 18. 16 ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS agents, which prevented them from influencing substantial matters during the innovation process, since it was clear that their opinions were not backed by their institution. In these cases, the external agent ended up leading the project. In one of the projects, the issue was that the problem to be addressed was not properly defined: it was not linked to any real needs from service users. Therefore, the result was an innovation that did not deal with any real problems and which the institution was not interested in making its own. Only in cases where all the necessary conditions were created, and therefore the team came up with an innovation that could be adopted by the institution, could internal agents be expected to have developed new skills for innovation and their work to have a demonstration effect.
  19. 19. ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 17 Conclusions and recommendations The AIN initiative addressed a real problem faced by the Mexican public sector, which is also present in many other governments: the difficulty in generating conditions for innovation which will, in turn, improve the administration’s overall level of efficiency and efficacy. The selected tools had potential to generate such conditions. The Design Thinking methodology seemed appropriate for promoting two elements that are crucial in innovation processes: the identification of real citizen needs, and a co-creation dynamic. The assistance provided was expected to make innovation easier: mentors were supposed to provide feedback on innovation design; resources provided by the CEDN were supposed to help build a team, and the CEDN was supposed to provide orientation, solve possible obstacles, and secure political backing so as to make adoption easier. It was thus reasonable to expect five co-created, technology-based, need- oriented innovations with high chances of being adopted by participating institutions. However, as it has been shown above, only one innovation fulfilled all the criteria. Here we identify some decisions which should be taken into account for future similar initiatives, in order to ensure that innovations are both relevant and bought in by participating agencies. 1. Agent selection. Internal agents should have decision-making power and institutional backing so as to be able to both get fully involved in a co-creation process and facilitate adoption of the innovation. 2. Problem definition. Problems should be based on actual citizen needs. The definition of the problem should be part of the co- creation process, and therefore should not be an imposition by any party. In addition, it should be relevant to the institution. 3. Clear expectations. It is essential that all actors involved (agents, superiors, proponents) are aware of the reasons why they are taking part, the support they will be provided, the expectations they should have regarding the participation of others, and the timetable they must adhere to. 4. Guidance to agents. Although agents should be given a certain degree of flexibility and space for maneuver, there should also be enough resources so as to systematically monitor and, when necessary, even guide agents through any obstacles they might encounter. 5. Visibility. Finally, it is also essential that the initiative is perceived as something valuable to the government. This would lead agents to see themselves as part of a broader, ambitious initiative, which would in turn motivate them
  20. 20. 18 ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS for their work. Granting the issue greater visibility would also lead institutions to recognize the value in having their members participate in the innovation processes, and to better understand the benefits of adopting and institutionalizing the innovation products.
  21. 21. ADVANCING INNOVATION: MEXICO’S INNOVATION AGENTS 19 References Browne, L. and Stephen P. Osborne (2013) Risk and Innovation, Public Management Review 15 (2): 186-208. Estrategia Digital Nacional [EDN] (2014) Agentes de Innovación Nacional. Retrieved from: http://edn.dosdev.com/agentes-de-innovacion-nacional OCDE (2015) Public-sector innovation. Retrieved from: http://www.oecd.org/sti/outlook/e- outlook/stipolicyprofiles/competencestoinnovate/public- sectorinnovation.htm Reglamento de la Oficina de la Presidencia de la República (2013, April 2). Diario Oficial de la Federación. The information in this document is based on three rounds of interviews with both internal and external agents, as well as with members from the CEDN.

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