Case Study

Developmental Evaluation for Public Sector Innovation

How can one ambitious program teach practical lessons to a global community of government innovators?

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For government reformers with big ideas, the challenges of implementation are daunting. The global field of “government innovation” offers countless inspiring case studies of programs striving for greater transparency, accountability, and citizen participation. But the field has not yet built the necessary evidence base showing how well these models succeed. Innovators have too few resources to understand why some programs achieve their goals, why others fall short, and how new efforts might iterate for greater impact.

Reboot recently had the unique opportunity to help address this knowledge gap during a year-long developmental evaluation, working with the Government of Mexico and with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Developmental evaluators use their findings to provide strategic guidance to their subjects while the programs are still ongoing; the goal of our developmental evaluation was to support implementation, and to engage with the open government community to better understand why public sector innovations succeed or fail. We are now sharing (and deepening) the results of this evaluation through workshops and resources, including a hands-on, practical “User’s Manual” geared specifically for government officials and staff working at the front lines of innovation.

Background

When the Digital Strategy Unit in the Office of the President of Mexico set out to implement an ambitious new program in government innovation, the team also took the innovative step of engaging a developmental evaluator, seeking a partner to provide advisory support and evaluate its work in real time. This evaluation would both inform ongoing implementation, and contribute broader lessons to the field. The team invited Reboot to fill this challenging role by closely accompanying the implementation of one of its most significant programs, Innovation Agents, an open government and civic technology fellowship. 

The Digital Strategy Unit’s desire for such a transparent and responsive approach to learning matched the program’s ambitious vision: To make the Mexican government a platform for innovation. Innovation Agents worked toward this goal by attracting experts from outside of government to partner with “insiders” from five government agencies. Together with support teams, these pairs of “Innovation Agents” set out to develop technology-based solutions to pressing problems. As the Digital Strategy Unit’s leadership guided the five teams and managed this complex program, Reboot provided guidance on strategic planning and program management, helping them to navigate the many unexpected challenges that attend the trailblazing work of government reform.

 

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