Launched by President Emmanuel Macron at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit in 2021, the Citizen Initiative Accelerator supports citizen-led projects that serve the public good. After being screened by the public administration and a panel of citizens, the selected projects benefit from a 6-month tailor-made support to accelerate their development. This unique program promotes new modes of cooperation between the state and civil society in order to achieve what we call "augmented public service delivery".
The covid crisis has highlighted how citizen-led initiatives can significantly enhance public action. The field of public health has been particularly affected by this phenomenon, with citizen-led projects often proving to be more effective than public services (digital contact tracking services, local self-help networks, help with making vaccination appointments, etc.).
However, at the time, there was no public support system for these innovative initiatives. The implementation of a citizen initiative accelerator appeared as a way to strengthen cooperation between the administration and citizen-led projects and to embody new ways of conceiving and delivering public services.
Thus, President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of the "Citizen Initiative Accelerator" during his speech at the Open Government Partnership World Summit on December 15, 2021. The program was officially inaugurated on December 17, 2021 by the Minister of Transformation and Public Service, setting out the following objectives:
- Foster new collaborations and synergies between administrations and civil society.
- Encourage the emergence of citizen-led initiatives for the public good.
- Gather and facilitate access to resources and expertise of public services.
- Put in place the necessary conditions to help scale citizen-led initiatives.
The program is open to all civil society project leaders, regardless of their status: citizens or NGOs, provided that the initiatives are consistent with public service values and that they contribute to the common good. The selection process was also innovative, as the decision was made equally by the public administration and a panel of citizens.
How does it work?
The Citizen Initiative Accelerator is co-piloted by the Interministerial Directorate for Public Transformation (DITP) and the Interministerial Department of Digital (DINUM). It has been designed based on eight components: access to government data and digital tools; coaching and project growth strategy; connecting with relevant contacts in the government; financing solutions and assistance with legal arrangements; technical compliance and data protection; networking with innovation venues and communities; local experimentation with government assistance; and project promotion and enhancement.
In-depth interviews are conducted with project leaders to better understand the issues and problems of each project, and thus better adapt the acceleration offer. On April 14, 2022, the launch meeting of the acceleration program was held with the 9 selected projects. In addition to the support provided by the DINUM-DITP teams, a whole community of ministerial advisors was mobilized to contribute their business expertise and knowledge of the administration.
How is the innovation envisionned for the future?
The AIC is a new and therefore experimental program, both in terms of its objectives and its operation. Its success in regularly welcoming new project promotions and even expanding the number of projects implies structuring and running the program from start to finish. This requires planning and providing adequate resources to the DINUM and DITP. In addition, the mobilization of referral persons in the administrations is essential. This mobilization will only be sustainable if it is recognized and valued.
In order to ensure that, beyond the 6-month support period, the winning projects continue to develop and gain in impact, feedback sessions with each project and partners involved.
In order to spread the word and encourage spin-offs, a community should be created around the AIC to bring together the winning projects, the ministerial referents and the players in the AIC ecosystem (public innovation laboratories, the tech for good ecosystem, third places, etc.). This community would meet at least once a year.
Finally, a monitoring and evaluation system is currently being set up in partnership with social and political science researchers. The aim is to add a reflective and evaluative dimension to the system by the first half of 2023. Eventually, the program's documentation could be used to provide tools to administrations wishing to develop similar programs for a given public policy or territory.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The Citizen Initiative Accelerator is an unique program at the national level that promotes new modes of cooperation between the state and civil society in order to improve public service delivery.
It has foster new collaborations and synergies between the public administration and civil society and encouraged the emergence of citizen-led initiatives for the public good.
What is the current status of your innovation?
As the first cohort of selected projects reaches the end of its acceleration period, we are currently setting up an independent evaluation mechanism to improve and prepare for next year's program.
3 main areas of improvement have already been identified:
- Further engage public servants from all policy areas in order to better frame the selection process and make it more transparent to applicants.
- Strengthen the program's key differentiators.
- Improve the "exit strategy" of the program and work on the financial and legal issues that currently block further collaboration.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The DINUM/DITP co-piloting is a real asset for the success of this project, which we must continue to capitalize on. Thanks to its experience with state startups, DINUM plays a key role in the AIC program through its ability to quickly equip and integrate innovative projects within the State. As for the DITP, it brings its strong capacity to mobilize the various networks within the government and its knowledge of current public policy priorities.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Chosen from among 200 candidates by a jury of experts and a panel of 15 citizens, these first nine initiatives will have been accelerated for a period of six months by a dedicated Acceleration Officer, supported by the expertise of an interministerial referent (DINUM/DITP). Ministerial correspondents were also mobilized in the main administrations concerned by the initiative, allowing for a more in-depth analysis of possible synergies with the public policies concerned.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Due to the presidential elections and the change in government, it was difficult to properly formalize government sponsorship at a high level. Nonetheless, government officials at the forefront of service delivery were actively engaged with the selected projects and several new collaborations were initiated.
7 out of 9 initiatives received public funding after securing partnerships and/or new projects with public authorities. These 7 projects are using the funding obtained to hire new employees and further consolidate their tools and resources.
Challenges and Failures
- Setting up the AIC team and building the support methodology took time. Supporting initiatives of varying degrees of maturity, spread across various sectoral areas, introduced additional complexities. In addition, working with NGOs that rely heavily on volunteers requires adapting the initial time frame that was envisioned,
- A case-by-case legal review of all associations had to be conducted in order to characterize the nature of the financial assistance that could be provided by the program.
Conditions for Success
- Getting political sponsorship for this project is key. Being announced by President Macron gave it significant visibility that was essential for the launch of the program.
- In order to achieve our goal of creating an "augmented public service," the right set of legal and financial rules and tools must be available and easily accessible in a short period of time.
The innovation has not yet been replicated, but it is our goal.
In addition to the challenges and key success factors listed above, we have identified 3 main areas of focus for successful civil society-public sector collaborations:
- Consolidation: need to strengthen the structure's foundation, governance, assets, formalize processes, solidify a replicable model and absorb future growth,
- Integration: need to strengthen integration with the lead jurisdiction(s),
- Deployment: need to scale up, to deploy in new areas/territories.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
16 November 2022