A reflection based on the article entitled:
Pre-commercial procurement:

R&D before procurements stimulates innovation

I came across this interesting report by the Eurpean Commission that reflects on the importance of R&D previous to public procurement as a way to stimulate innovation. This is one of the main issues, that in Citymart.com we are dealing with. The authorities’ lack of knowledge on the state of the art in technology, is making them to re-invent the wheel every time they need to solve a problem. In this article, the Commision proposes a process with four consecutive stages as a way to develop or find available solutions in the market that suit best public needs. And I thought that maybe a Human-Centered Design (HCD) approach could contribute in the matter.

Why innovation in the public sector.

The term “innovation” is usually associated to the private sector, as a tool for a company to remain competitive in the market. However, considering that we are facing important societal challenges, innovation is highly needed in the public sector as well. High quality affordable healthcare to cope with the impacts of an ageing population, the fight against climate change, improving energy efficiency, ensuring higher quality and better access to education, and more effective dealing with security threats, are just some of these challenges or “wicked problems” our governments have to deal with. According to this article, procuring R&D could be more widely used in the public sector to stimulate innovation, meaning, finding or developing new solutions to solve these complex challenges.

Pre-commercial R&D…Where are the citizens?

The following figure shows the process proposed in this article to carry on R&D before purchasing a solution. It’s seems to be a quiet technology driven innovation model. They encourage authorities to evaluate certain solutions in the market, test them and see which one is best.

Taking into account that the solutions implemented will affect directly to the citizens’ well being, why not to involve them in the process? It has been noted that the lack of an adequate understanding of people’s needs and preferences is a key factor in the failure of innovations . Therefore, businesses and other organisations embrace user involvement approaches in their innovation process.  In the public sector, acting in a coordinated framework with companies and citizens, can enable governments to better understand the complexities of certain issues, identify concrete problems, and to develop new creative tools (Bohórquez,  E .& Devrim D.) Furthermore, citizen engagement can have a profoundly positive benefit to transparency, legitimacy, and fairness of policy development (Lukensmeyer, C.J & Hasselblad Torres, L.) Considering these high benefits of citizen engagement of citizen on Pre-commercial public procurement process, I would like to explore how a HCD approach could be taken into account.

HCD brief overview

It’s not my intention in this blogpost to propose a new process based on HCD. I’d rather start the discussion by providing a definition of this approach,some methods that could be used and process carried out by practitioners.

Human-centred design processes for interactive systems are based on the ISO 13407 (1999) standard. This standard has been developed to include the user needs in the design process. It is defined as a linear and logical process, as well as an iterative process, which consists of distinct phases of work: a phase for understanding the context of use, a phase for specifying
user requirements, a phase for producing design solutions, and a phase for evaluating designs against their requirements (ISO 13407)

Hanington (2003) has suggested an interesting division of research methods for human-centred design, as follows:

-Traditional methods serve their purpose well. The data is easily compiled, analysed and visualised. These methods include: Market research, Focus groups, Surveys, Questionnaires,
Interviews, Unobtrusive methods, Experiments.

-Adapted methods are borrowed from disciplines engaged in human research. These methods are adapted to better suit the needs of designers and include the following:
Observational research: Participant observation, Still and Video documentation.
Ethnographic methods: Video ethnography, Beeper studies,
Experimental sampling, Cultural Inventory, Artefact analysis.
HCI (human computer interaction): Thinkaloud protocol, Heuristic evaluation, Cognitive walkthrough.

-Innovative methods are credible ways of collecting user information through creative means. They have a visual as well as participatory nature.
Creative and Participatory methods: Design workshops, Collage, Card sorting, Cognitive mapping, Velcro modelling, Visual diaries, Camera studies, Document annotations.

IDEO, one of the leading design consultancies are specialist in HCD approach for innovation. You can take a look at their process and methods here: http://www.hcdconnect.org/?reason=Logged+out&came_from=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hcdconnect.org%2Flogout.html

Participatory Design, today is an emerging design practice and new methods are continuously emerging now and then. It is clear that there is a vast inventory of research methods from which to choose. The key challenge lies in making an appropriate, purposive connection to goals in the selection of methods used at any given time in the design and research process (Hanington ,2003). That’s why at this point, I’m not able to foresee which ones are the most suitable for public procurement of new technologies and which process to follow. I hope to provide insights during my research.