Where to Get "Grande" Ideas for Government

I have a big idea for Starbucks. OK, it's at least a "tall" idea: a drink-to-own policy. Instead of the frequent-drinker cards offered ...
by | July 11, 2008


I have a big idea for Starbucks. OK, it's at least a "tall" idea: a drink-to-own policy. Instead of the frequent-drinker cards offered by some coffee shops (10 cups and your next drink is on the house), Starbucks could offer up stock instead. Perhaps one share for every thousandth latte?

With the company's stock price down and plans announced to close hundreds of stores, Starbucks' marketing gurus are thirsty for good ideas. So a few months ago, the Seattle-based caffeine pusher unveiled a new Web site -- MyStarbucksIdea.com -- to collect customer input. Registered users not only can post suggestions but vote and comment on other people's ideas too. In fact, several customers had already posted their own variations of my sip-for-stock concept before I tried it out.

So can government organizations collect constituent ideas the Starbucks way? Apparently some leaders in the United Kingdom think so.

A four-month-old Power of Information Task Force there just unveiled a new Web sited called "Show Us a Better Way." The site is designed to collect citizen input on new ways to make use of government data and info. "Tell us what you'd build with public information and we could help fund your idea!" it promises.

Here's how it works:

"The UK Government wants to hear your ideas for new products that could improve the way public information is communicated. The Power of Information Taskforce is running a competition on the Government's behalf, and we have a £20,000 prize fund to develop the best ideas to the next level....

"To show they are serious, the Government is making available gigabytes of new or previously invisible public information especially for people to use in this competition.  Rest assured, this competition does not include personal information about people."

Ideas are posted publicly and user comments are welcome too. The site also offers examples of what its creators are looking for. And a "House Rules" page makes clear what sort of ideas they do not want -- including those that are "intended to be humorous, or which have no point about government policy (however witty these are, it is not appropriate to use a publicly-funded website for purely frivolous purposes)."

(Thanks to former media biz colleague Maxine Teller, a business development and strategy consultant here in D.C., for tipping me off to the U.K. initiative. Next coffee is on me, Maxine.)

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