GovTech: Co-Designing Solutions With The Government

Posted under bayan on May 11, 2020
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Have you ever been to a government website? Were you disappointed? Given the outdated information plus old news stories, lack of data and the rather abhorrent graphic user interface, the answer is usually in the affirmative. The Philippines ranks low in technology innovation but truly, there are innovators who have endless ideas in public sector innovation. Ms. Joie Cruz is proof of that. She then presents her thoughts.

For her, it is true that the Private sector invests a lot in innovation and indeed, they also work with the government. How then can we compel the latter to move and innovate? 

Disruption is apparently needed. She mentions that COVID is the great disruptor and equalizer. This crisis has exacerbated and exposed the simmering problems in government service. Take government aid, the country still uses manual methods to keep records. It seems that this is the only country in the world with an ultra reliance in archaic paper records instead of digital methods.

Ms. Cruz's company Limitless Lab designed LGU vs COVID PH. In partnership with the Asia Foundation and the Department of The Interior and Local Government (DILG) this platform curates state proclamations and updates in the regional and provincial level, making them easily accessible and digestible. 

In addition, Ms Cruz, who has worked in government, notes that in a country where the norm is competition between different government offices, it is great that kopyahan, learning best practices from other private sector organizations and government units is now more accepted and these efforts are praised by the general public, the electorate, the bosses of this country.

Innovation in the Philippine public sector now matters most especially in this unprecedented time. Ms. Cruz shares her insights about the government and advice for all of those eager to make things better:

1) The government has a lot of public servants. Despite stereotypes, there are dedicated public servants who are just stuck in bureaucracy, a very rigid one at that. In order to help, the general public needs to support these people and change mindsets.

2) We in the private sector need to import design thinking to public servants. Design thinking is a mindset and methodology in making new solutions. Limitless Lab provides design thinking workshops for DOST, DepEd, DILG, DAP and other government offices.

3) Know your personas. Know your market. Know the people you want to help and work with. A persona is composed of goals, aspirations, values & beliefs, behaviors and frustrations. Know the political climate. Take note, you cannot please and design for everyone.

4) Speak your persona’s language. In order to do this, empathize. Appreciate the power of storytelling and use it in order to pique others’ interests. Make sure you are highlighting the potential of your idea to address their frustrations or pain points.

5) Highlight the importance of Public-Private Partnerships. We all know the process is slow and that there are challenges but that is the beauty of partnerships, more solutions for everyone’s benefit.

6) Work on Executive Support and Sponsorship.

7) Focus on the USE, BENEFIT AND OUTCOME not just the technical component of your idea or product.

8) Launch as fast as possible. We are racing against time.

9) Connect with the Government when you already have a proof of concept. It does not need to be instantly shiny and splendid but as long as it addresses potential problems, share it. Communities are endlessly looking for solutions to various inconveniences and frustrations. Network. Look for other sources of funding.There are organizations like the UN and USAID as well as corporate foundations who are constantly looking for project proposals to support. 

10) Build Relationships. This is probably the most important of all.

Ms. Cruz cites Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto and Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian as examples in innovative public service. Of course, aside from successes, failures and lessons learned were shared. At the end of the day, it all comes back to political will. There are stories of kickbacks and corruption but this is not the alpha and omega of politics and governance. 

The way forward is technology but innovation is not just about this.  Technology, like wealth, is an amplifier but innovation is about mindset and people. For policymakers and leaders, talking to constituents is very important.

Ms. Cruz concludes that innovation is all about community, about people. No wonder, culture plays a significant role in progress and innovation.We all need to help each other in order to innovate our government. The future is government by the people and WITH the people. She ends with an assurance. “Despite noise, Communities can recognize heart for public service in certain people. It is something timeless indeed.”

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