The piece was contributed by Apolitical member Mariel Reed. It forms part of our feed on government innovation.
Collaboration is an essential tool in the civic innovator’s toolkit. When I was with the City of San Francisco, we identified compelling benefits for investing in public-private partnership programs like Startup in Residence (STIR) and Civic Bridge. We saw that there is tremendous interest from the industry, civil society, and academia to engage in public sector work. Our partnership programs allowed us to channel this interest towards high-priority civic challenges. And we’re not alone; government innovators across the United States and beyond have created public-private partnership programs to improve service delivery, leverage new technologies, engage new types of partners, promote local economic development, and shake-up traditional procurement practices.
While the right partnerships can dramatically accelerate public sector innovation work, ill-planned partnerships can be a huge drain on limited staff time, resources, and political will. How can you make sure your investment in a partnership, or a partnership program, will fall into the former category and not the latter? Start with a framework.
You may have heard of the Business Model Canvas, a tool for understanding, designing, and implementing a new business model (or updating an old one). It was first proposed by Alexander Osterwalder based on his book Business Model Ontology. The Canvas outlines nine key business components: customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, resources, activities, partnerships, and costs. The tool aims to help businesses — from startups to more established firms — not only map out each component, but also see how they fit together. I first encountered The Business Model Canvas as a startup employee, and I’ve continued to use it since then.
With heavy inspiration from the Business Model Canvas, I’ve created a Collaboration Canvas for public partnerships. This is intended to help fellow government innovators think through eight critical elements of partnerships and how these elements interact.
I’ve gone ahead and completed the Canvas for the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation Civic Bridge program. Civic Bridge pairs city agencies with pro bono talent teams from companies in San Francisco like Adobe, Bloomberg, and Google for sixteen weeks of collaboration on a civic challenge. (You can read more about the program here.)
Here’s a blank copy of the Collaboration Canvas for you to use as you create a new partnership program or revise current initiatives:
Taking a few moments to reflect on your goals and assumptions for potential partnerships can make those partnerships more effective over the long-term. I hope this Collaboration Canvas enables your partnerships to reinforce, rather than distract from, your bigger-picture innovation objectives.
(Picture credit: Pixabay/Skitterphoto)