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Innovation Program

Solving business challenges with employee creativity, open thinking and technology


Innovation Program Overview

What is the MN.IT Services Innovation Program?

The MN.IT Innovation Program tackles government business challenges through the use of creative ideas from a broad and diverse range of communities and state employees. By identifying opportunities among those ideas, the program generates innovative, effective Information Technology (IT) solutions in the form of new technology tools, mobile and web applications and new services that bring value to Minnesota citizens, businesses and government.

The aim of the program is to build a new culture of innovation within MN.IT Services that encourages and rewards collaborative work to solve real problems. Areas of focus include:

  • Improving existing government services through the use of technology
  • Sharing individual agency successes and extending adoption of innovative solutions on a broad scale
  • Discovering new, creative technology opportunities for delivering a government service

Why is Innovation important to the State of Minnesota?

The 2012 State IT Master Plan recognizes the value of IT innovation in meeting the business goals of state government and highlights the need to build a culture of innovation in order to solve business issues, attract the best and brightest employees and develop collaborative business solutions through innovative technology investment.

Innovation doesn't happen because it is directed or discussed; it happens because organizations commit to the disciplines, practices, behaviors and processes that support and sustain it. These must be overlaid onto an organizational culture that is ready to innovate.

Providing staff with a dynamic forum where ideas can be expressed and shared is also critical to capture and utilize the broad base of employee knowledge. The Innovation Program has addressed this challenge by implementing an online ideation tool accessible to MN.IT Services staff located across the state.


Ideation Challenges

What are Ideation Challenges?

Imagine a dynamic online community where ideas on a specific topic can be shared and discussed on a limited timeframe. Using a crowdsourcing model, users submit their ideas, as well as vote and comment on ideas submitted by others. After a specified timeframe, the most active and popular ideas rise to the top. When the online Ideation Challenge event ends, the idea review process begins. Each idea is carefully analyzed for viability, cost and impact. After passing through several preliminary review stages, senior MN.IT Services management selects several projects for implementation.

Challenge #1

The MN.IT Services Innovation program is midway through its first idea crowdsourcing event, Challenge #1. The focus of the first event has been to generate ideas for:

  • A new way of delivering a government service
  • Improving an existing government service
  • Extending adoption of an government agency-based solution

Some of the questions presented to MN.IT employees to help them get started with this online ideation challenge included:

  • How do citizens want to access government services?
  • What type of services do citizens want that MN.IT can help deliver?
  • Are there public data sources that can be leveraged to create new value?

During the idea-gathering phase of Challenge #1, more than half of MN.IT Services staff contributed over 200 ideas, 692 comments and 3,442 votes. This enthusiastic response was a clear indication of MN.IT employees’ appetite for innovation.

After passing through a multi-step review process, 30 ideas culminated in the formation of 16 project proposals that are currently being pursued for implementation.


Community Engagement

How can you get involved? In addition to hosting idea crowdsourcing events within MN.IT Services, the Innovation Program is an active participant or partner in many civic events organized around the purpose of using information technology to generate solutions for our communities. Hackathons and Civic Coding events create opportunities for people to get involved by creating new, innovative ways for using technology to provide increased value to Minnesota citizens.

The National Day of Civic Hacking website describes civic hackers as being:

engineers, technologists, civil servants, scientists, designers, artists, educators, students, entrepreneurs — anybody — who is willing to collaborate with others to create, build, and invent open source solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology to solve challenges relevant to our neighborhoods, our cities, our states and our country.

Some of the events for which the MN.IT Innovation Program has collaborated include:

  • HackforMN – Hack for Minnesota was our state’s version of the first-ever National Day of Civic Hacking held on June 1-2, 2013. 70 participants from around the metro area participated in the event that was sponsored by local businesses DevJam ,Open Twin Cities and many other public and private local sponsors. Transit applications, a telephone-based poll-finding tool, street parking analysis, tutoring website for kids and an application to help people find technology centers were some of the 13 different projects that were worked on. One of the teams created a mobile-ready website over the two-day event that provides up-to-date information on bus arrivals.
  • Governor Dayton's Unsession Ideation Challenge - Thousands of Minnesotans shared their ideas on how to make Minnesota state government better, faster, and smarter. State of Minnesota employees and the public submitted their ideas online in August 2013.
  • CityCampMN was the 2nd installment of the wildly popular global unconference series. The event was focused on connecting civic doers, makers and hackers with local and state government officials and civic leaders for a day of learning, discussion, imagining and building. CityCampMN 2013 was Saturday, November 9th at Schulze Hall on the University of St. Thomas' Minneapolis campus. The event ran from 9 to 4, with an exciting reception with E-Democracy's project afterward from 4 to 6.
  • Capitol Code – Capitol Code, held on February 22, 2014, was an Open Data Jam sponsored by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office. This event focused on exploring and driving solutions using public data from the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. Participants were able to apply existing technologies or build new applications using public data to drive innovation and entrepreneurship, solve community problems, and make information more accessible to Minnesota citizens. “Public data is a tremendous resource for Minnesotans, and I’m excited to see the innovation, new business and employment opportunities that can be generated by using this information.” – Secretary of State Mark Ritchie