Innovation policy and the COVID-19 pandemic: What role for co-creation and crowdsourcing instruments?

Our workshop with panellists Professor Muthu De Silva, Professor Ana Colovic and Dr Annalisa Caloffi explored how the pandemic has shaped the future of co-creation and crowdsourcing.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for change in the way that government, industry and the third sector work together. In order to prevent the collapse of the health system, the government implemented multi-stakeholder approaches, notably:

  • Co-creation – the joint production of innovation between industry, research and other stakeholders
  • Crowdsourcing – the use of internet-based platforms to elicit and promote collaboration

Our CIMR Workshop in public policy on Wednesday 19 October provided an opportunity to discuss the government’s use of multi-stakeholder participatory approaches and to identify lessons for the future. The workshop was chaired by Dr Federica Rossi, Deputy-Director of the Centre for Innovation Management Research.

Co-creation during COVID-19: Insights and policy lessons from international initiatives

Professor Muthu De Silva presented the findings from a research project conducted in collaboration with the OECD. The research team conducted 30 case studies from 21 countries to learn more about co-creation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The unique nature of co-creation during the pandemic provided a test-bed for new ways of working, for example bottom-up initiatives from start-ups; the use of large global networks to speed-up innovation processes; and the use of big data and social media during co-creation.

Muthu highlighted two key factors that enabled the rapid set-up of co-creation initiatives: having the right incentives and adopting innovative ways to leverage existing networks and structures.

Co-creation practice adapted by necessity to the context of the crisis through more agile management, more streamlined processes and the development of multi-disciplinary teams. Muthu commented that these processes have acted as a test-bed for ways to better conduct co-creation outside of a pandemic context.

Reflecting on the government’s involvement in co-creation, Muthu highlighted its role in legitimising initiatives, leveraging connections and acting as a steer for projects.

While co-creation during COVID-19 primarily aimed at resolving the immediate challenges of the pandemic, some of the outcomes have generated innovation for the future. Some initiatives have broader applications beyond the pandemic, while other infrastructure can be repurposed beyond its initial intended role.

Further details on the findings of the project can be found in the OECD reports ‘How did COVID-19 shape co-creation?’ and ‘Co-creation during COVID-19‘.

Governments’ use of crowdsourcing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Professor Ana Colovic and Dr Annalisa Caloffi presented research undertaken with Dr Federica Rossi into the role of crowdsourcing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crowdsourcing enabled governments to respond quickly and creatively to the evolving situation. The researchers developed a framework to identify four types of crowdsourcing challenges based on levels of co-creation and openness:

  • E-procurement – When co-creation and openness are low
  • Release of public data – When co-creation is low and openness is high
  • Elicitation of ideas -When co-creation is high and openness is low
  • Open co-creation – When co-creation and openness are high

Data was collected from twenty different internet platforms on 158 crowdsourcing challenges, 83 of which were either fully public or led by a public-private partnership.

Considering the typical characteristics of the four different types of crowdsourcing, the researchers made the following observations:

  • Challenges in the E-procurement group were launched by governments with less experience of digital and crowdsourcing platforms. The challenges were about the creation of all types of innovations.
  • Open co-creation challenges were mainly launched by public-private partnerships in more experienced countries, namely the US, for the creation of all goods and services.
  • Elicitation of ideas challenges were funded by mixed partnerships, focused on business innovations.
  • Release of public data challenges were launched mainly by international organisations, involving public challenges.

The next steps for the project are to interview public administrations to identify why they undertook these challenges and to expand observations and frameworks to non-covid challenges.

We would like to thank our presenters for sharing their findings and to all attendees who participated in the debate.

A recording of this workshop is available to watch on YouTube.