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Restructuring Minds for Public Social Innovation

Disruptive Innovations


It is well known that the development of a culture of innovation inside public institutions has a restrictive scope. Nevertheless, LABcapital -- the Public Innovation LAB from Veeduría Distrital -- aims to build an innovative public culture within Bogotá´s Mayor´s Office. To tackle this problem, and with the objective of promoting innovation within public servants, LABcapital has designed the first Virtual Online Course of Innovation designed for Public Servants. This initiative focuses directly on topics related to innovation concepts:  culture of innovation, public innovation, tools for innovation in the public sector, and a practical exercise to design an innovative solution within their institutions.

LABcapital firmly believes that innovation is a day-to-day tool that has become more relevant than ever in the life of Bogotá’s citizens and public management. That might be because it generates multiple solutions to different existing city challenges. So, why don´t we solve public challenges not yet resolved through innovation? Why not dare to defy the status quo and innovate in the public sector? The Virtual Online Course of Innovation designed for Public Servants from LABCapital is a first step to answer these questions

Educating for Innovation

The Public Innovation LAB from Veeduría Distrital (LABCapital) is a strategic project of the Veeduría Distrital, Bogota`s preventive control entity that promotes social control, strengthens transparency and the fight against corruption, and improving the management of public administration in Bogotá.

LABCapital has the mission to complete the preventive control process of public policy, not only by generating alarms when needed and following up on the implementation of public policies, but also by proposing new innovative ideas co-created between citizens and/or public servants to be implemented by public agencies of Bogotá´s Mayor´s Office. Its final purpose is to generate public good, to improve the life quality of the citizens, and to prevent corruption and administrative inefficiencies.

The Laboratory promotes public management innovation by:

  • Exchanging knowledge between local and international innovation networks. 
  • Easy-to-access tools for the co-creation and collaboration between governmental agencies, public servants, and citizens. 
  • Allowing new ideas to flourish and incubate within these agencies, therefore positively generating value for the citizens of Bogotá

And it is precisely the articulation of these three objectives that led LABCapital to develop an innovation virtual course through which public servants from Bogotá could begin to understand innovation as a vehicle to identify opportunities and explore solutions to unresolved city challenges. This added to the growing need to strengthen the required competences of public servants to improve the quality levels of citizen services, as indicated on the Institutional Training Plan from Veeduría Distrital1.

It is not possible to discard the actual educational programs that are being reoriented towards more flexible models based on innovation, free access, and mass audiovisual content; all of them led by collaborative and participative methodologies2. Because of these important trends, The Virtual Online Course of Innovation designed for Public Servants was created on the second semester of 2016, carrying out LABCapital’s service promise to “learn by action,” from John Dewey, an American psychologist and educator, who expressed that education is not a narration/listening process, but rather an active one where construction via practice is mandatory.

The Course was originally a pilot and evaluated on the last trimester of 2016 by a group of public servants from the Veeduría Distrital. This improvement exercise allowed LABCapital to understand a) the need to amplify the course’s duration, b) simplify terminology, c) perform individual follow up through specialized mentors on innovation, and d) design specific tools for easier identification of public sector challenges. All of this in addition to configuring a logical platform that minimizes the number of test runs, augmented possible success rates for the solving of a problem. These important findings led to the first significant change in the innovation process of the course, defining the actual online course.

The Course has two phases, the first one is called Let’s discuss Innovation and the second is Innovation in Action. There is also a practical exercise that is performed in nine weeks, which is the course’s duration. Each phase is divided into two modules through which the following topics are addressed:

Module 1 --What is innovation:  In the first module the student identifies and understands many different concepts of innovation and creativity as well as some information about idea generation strategies. The main focus relies on the use of innovation on a daily basis, understanding the impact and value it generates.

Module 2 -- Culture of Innovation:  The student begins to understand the importance of an innovation-oriented culture at work, learning to identify the main elements that are implied in it, and being able to plot some actions that aim to promote culture of innovation at their own public agency.

Module 3 -- Public Innovation:  By this part of the course, the student recognizes innovation possibilities in public administrations processes, reflecting on their implications and possible challenges to sort out on different scenarios inside governmental institutions.

Module 4 -- Innovation Tools:  The fourth and last module of the course encourages the use of methodologies and tools for the students to facilitate innovation processes. Guides and audiovisual exercises are given to allow a better understanding and applicability of the tools.

The learning process is achieved not only because of the instruments shown in the course, but also from the student’s own (produced) resources like videos, photographs, case analysis, and other materials. This is demonstrated by Bakia, Murphy and Anderson on their 2011 investigation, highlighting how students’ competences highly improved when participating in the development of their own content and thus reinforcing their learning process3.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Education of Colombia states that digital educational contents as academic support platforms are only successful when: feedback is given to the students, they promote critical thinking, have real connection to the world and problem solving is empathized4

Findings like the above mentioned clearly demonstrate the need to have a virtual tutor as well as expert mentor on innovation; that may guide the dialogue, analysis, discussions, and the implementation of ideas generated throughout the course.

Additionally, it is imperative to understand the actual context of local and international governments; where it is clear that new innovative ways to manage public issues are fundamental to these agencies, on their mandate to deliver better services to the community and improve the life quality, whilst they regain public trust and legitimacy5

Therefore, the practical exercise for this course is designed to guide a group of students through seven stages of methodology created by LABCapital’s (observe, interact, listen, determine, create, implement, and deliver), which in turn was developed from a design thinking approach focused on the final user. The expected outcome of the practical exercise is for the students to identify a challenge within the entity they belong to, and that in seven weeks’ time they get to propose a solution that can be actionable and feasible before the eyes of the leadership of their own public entity.

Precisely, 50 public servants from Personería de Bogotá, Contraloría de Bogotá, and the Public Services Special Administration Unity (UAESP), during the second trimester of 2017, dared to explore and understand innovation not only as a way to solve different city challenges but also as a concept that could highly impact and transform internal processes inside their institutions, promoting an innovation culture environment, becoming, then, the first generation of the Virtual Course of Innovation of the LABcapital.

Last month, on July, they presented to the directors of their correspondent entities, ideas and solutions to challenges oriented to:  Optimize procedures of the Right to Request in the Contraloría de Bogotá, promote the collaborative work between UAESP departments, optimize the process of labor data of the Personería of Bogotá, and encourage the participation of youth in the social and financial control realized by the Contraloría de Bogotá. 

Works Cited

  1. Veeduría Distrital, Plan de Capacitación Institucional 2016, revisado el 8 de junio, 017,
  2. McAuley, Stewart, Siemens y Cormier, 2010, Experiencia de innovación educativa con curso MOOC, revisado el 9 de junio, 2017,
  3. Ministerio de Educación Nacional, La innovación educativa en Colombia, buenas prácticas para la innovación y las TIC en educación, pag 6, revisado el 8 de junio, 2017,
  4. BID, page 18.
  5. Veeduría Distrital, Documento de Formulación Proyecto de inversión 1060, Laboratorio de Innovación para la Gestión Pública Distrital, revisado el 8 de junio, 2017,

Author Bio

Natalia Hernández Pinilla 

Industrial Designer, Specialist in Strategic Management in Design and Project Management from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Leader of Promotion of the Innovation of the Public Management – LABCapital Team from the Veeduría Distrital of Bogotá.