The Architecture of Innovation: Institutionalizing Innovation in Federal Policymaking

Produced by Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation and the Massive Data Institute at the McCourt School of Public Policy, this report offers a framework for how to structure innovation in policymaking.

The 2016 presidential transition teams have the opportunity to build upon the innovation agenda of previous administrations and to advance a culture of innovation throughout government to solve problems. This report is not a checklist for how to “innovate” in government; rather, it offers a structure to drive a change in culture.

As part of our ongoing “Data for Social Good” efforts, the Beeck Center and McCourt held a convening in Spring 2016 to discuss institutionalizing innovation in the federal government. Upon completing more than fifty follow-on interviews with executives across sectors (government, nonprofit, academia, industry, and civil society), a consistent message emerged. To build a better public sector for the twenty-first century, government must embrace innovation and build the necessary architecture to promote and institutionalize its use as a means to achieve outcomes.

This report defines “innovation” as a means for creating a more effective government and improving services. A core assumption is that innovation requires a governance structure that can influence a change in culture. This report focuses on a few broad areas where government can design structural supports to enable a culture change: the potential of technology, the importance of data and partnerships to provide more effective and efficient services for society, and the creation of structural supports that enable adaptability to change.

The federal government does not need to do it alone. There is much to be learned from cities across the country that are incubating and scaling programs
and redesigning public systems to be more effective. US cities are leveraging technology to engage with citizens and demonstrating the potential of civic innovations such as participatory budgeting to improve government. This report highlights best practices in cities and recommends approaches that the federal government can use to work with cities to learn from their efforts and to create more incentives for scalable policy solutions.

“The Architecture of Innovation” provides a general overview of innovation efforts at the White House, and then offers recommendations with subsequent analyses in four key areas to help organize innovation in the next administration: (1) White House and Agencies; (2) Policy Innovation Offices and Public-Private Partnerships; (3) Cities as Incubators of Innovation; (4) Recruitment, Hiring, and Training. The report concludes with a summary of recommendations organized into three categories—structure, policy, and people. This report represents a synthesis of conversations with a broad, diverse group of bipartisan stakeholders and does not endorse a particular political point of view or ideology.