Open-Source Ideation for Economic Development: Rhode Island
By Scott A. Gibbs and Marcel A. Valois
The Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island Inc. (EDFRI) is planning the launch of an online crowd-sourcing platform to spark a more inclusive idea-innovation process to advance sustainable economic health in the Ocean State. This crowd-sourcing initiative reflects EDFRI’s position that the economic development profession and system are failing to adopt new organizational models and strategies in response to radical changes in the global competitive environment.
This new initiative, branded as RIdeation, is directed at transforming the organizational silos, inefficiencies, and ineffectiveness of Rhode Island’s existing economic development culture into an open culture that supports continuous innovation.
EDFRI’s RIdeation effort is one key part of a new system for transforming economic development based on the work of the Center for Communities of the Future to seed systemic change through comprehensive community transformation. The idea of crowd-sourcing as one element of an emerging Creative Molecular Economy was introduced at the Northeast Economic Development Association’s Conference in Providence in October 2010. RIdeation is the first practical application of crowd-sourcing economic development in the United States.
Three economic development challenges will be presented every quarter. The crowd-sourcing platform will enable the posting of original ideas in response to each challenge. Interested individuals will form self-organizing networks to work on further development of these ideas, which will be ranked by the crowd; the winning ideas will then move to an online idea planning stage for eventual execution.
EDFRI will offer small financial rewards for proponents of the winning idea. EDFRI can also serve as an idea investment broker to accelerate the innovation process by matching winning ideas with suitable organizations for implementation.
Building an open-source economic development culture in Rhode Island is arguably a prerequisite to building trust, collaboration, and information sharing among the state’s economic-development stakeholders. Success in an economy and society of constant change will be defined by how quickly new ideas can be identified, connected, and implemented.
EDFRI envisions a future economic development organizational model that can adapt to constant change. Such a model will be based on a network of economic development service providers who are focused in specific core competencies and able to collaborate at a deeper level to provide market-leading innovations for customers. A shared computer and information technology platform, along with various software applications for customer relationship management, business resource matching, and other information matching services, will support the envisioned Rhode Island Economic Development Network. RIdeation will be integrated into the technology platform to support continuous collaboration and innovation.
EDFRI views its proposed initiative and organizational vision as a test case for possible replication throughout the various regions and states in the United States. Reinventing the economic-development process is necessary, as local and regional economic challenges grow in an environment of declining public resources.
Scott A. Gibbs is president and Marcel A. Valois is vice president of the Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island Inc., www.edf-ri.com.
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