Rich Harwood on Deliberative Democracy Consortium

What Does Public Innovation Mean?
By Richard C. Harwood

Recently, I was on the public radio program "Innovation Trail" in Rochester, N.Y. to talk about "public innovation." The station posted the following statement on its website about my appearance: "Two recent interviews by Innovation Trail served as reminders of how often the 'innovation conversation' is framed in terms of technology and economics..." But as we discussed on-air, there's another way to define it.

Rochester is home to Eastman Kodak, the venerable though now long-suffering company best known for making camera film and now feverishly trying to transform itself into a digital technology company. To Kodak, innovation is about developing new product lines that generate high profits. But Rochester also is trying to transform itself from a town once dependent upon Kodak to a community with a more diverse economic base, a revitalized downtown and stronger public schools, among other goals.

Even when talk turns to innovation regarding community goals, the tendency among community leaders, funders, activists and others is to focus on specific education reforms, local tax policy, or maybe infrastructure plans and the like. Other conversations about innovation often center on the use of mobile devices, development of new online platforms, or the launch of new citizen participation processes.

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