A Comparative Analysis of Municipal Public Innovation: Evidence from Romania and United States
2. Theoretical Foundations
4.1. Capacity to Innovate
4.1.1. Cluj-Napoca Urban Innovation Unit
Data Management Capability
Openness to Partnership
4.1.2. Boston’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM)
Data Management Capability
Openness to Partnership
4.2. Behavioral Insights for Increasing Urban Innovation Capacity at a Local Level
4.2.1. Cluj-Napoca Urban Innovation Unit (UIU)
Provision of Information
4.2.2. Boston Mayor’s Office for New Urban Mechanics (MONUM)
Provision of Information
Changes in the Physical Environment
Change in Default Policy
5. Discussions and Implications
6. Conclusions, Limitations and Further Research
Conflicts of Interest
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|PSI Lab||Founding Date and General Organizational Characteristics||Mission and Approach||Team||Public Policy Focus|
|The Cluj-Napoca Urban Innovation Unit (UIU)||2017|
UIU is a research and development program on urban innovation jointly developed by Cluj Cultural Centre (CCC) and Cluj-Napoca Municipality, Romania.
UIU acts as a capacity building mechanism, both for the local public authority, and for other city actors in order to co-design a sustainable organizational arrangement for innovation. From 2022, inside the municipality
UIU was known as Cluj Innovation Fund between 2017–2018 (its pilot phase).
|To bring together ideas, knowledge, and resources from civil society, the academic sector, the cultural sector, the business sector as well as the public administration, in order to propose alternative solutions to the strategic challenges of the city .||Four full-time members covering roles of coordination, program design, stakeholder engagement and evidence-based policy making|
4 part-time members working on strategic partnerships, communication, graphic design and finance
Several project-based collaborators for areas of like data processing, spatial analysis, technology deployment and curricula development.
All the staff of UIU is hired through CCC. Although UIU works closely with several key staff from Cluj-Napoca Municipality, their job descriptions have not been changed formally to cover municipal innovation tasks.
|Urban mobility, future of work, urban resilience, and housing.|
These four areas are deemed by the local stakeholders as the most pressing issues that the city’s needs strategic responses to, as well as strong collective actions.
Cluj-Napoca has experienced in the last decade a constant growth, which is imposing pressure on its housing market and urban mobility options. Additionally, although the city has successfully managed to diversify its economy and encourage several knowledge-intensive sectors such as ICT, the nature of jobs remains highly vulnerable to relocation options of foreign companies. The city is also experiencing growing socio-economic disparities and needs to build its social resiliency capabilities.
|Boston’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM)||2010|
MONUM is the municipal city innovation team and it was one of the first municipal innovation teams in the world, and, in hindsight, one of the most consistent ones in terms of core team and mission .
Initially known for its use of technology for “civic hacks” , MONUM’s approach evolved over the years to embrace a holistic perspective and a system-thinking approach, with an emerging emphasis on “design justice”.
|To create the future for the city’s public services through experiments or prototypes that offer the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for residents.|
MONUM’s projects follows three core phases in order to be considered “prototyped”: explore, experiment, and evaluate. While wide engagement and inquiry is encouraged in the first phase, an experiment can only happen if it is specific enough, can be done with limited financial resources, and has as delivery partners at least one other municipal department, as well as an external partner (sometimes a residents’ group, an artist, a startup, or a university). The evaluate phase marks a reflection on the results or experiences prompted by the experiment and a decision for next steps, which can include ending the experiment, deeming the experiment a failure, or a success that can be transferred to the department within Boston municipality which can oversee its medium term development.
|The current team of 10 members is led by two co-chairs, one of them also being one of the original co-founders.|
Team members’ roles match either the long-term thematic projects of MONUM on housing or mobility, while other roles are transversal, dealing with technology and civic engagement.
|The themes of MONUM’s projects are aligned with the Mayoral priorities’ areas of intervention, and the key strategic documents of the city, such as Imagine Boston 2030, the city’s overall development plan and Go Boston 2030, the city’s long-term transportation plan.|
A recent review of MONUM’s projects conducted in 2019, found a total of 46 prototypes in the following areas: social relationships, ICT, built environment, procedures and policies, urban visioning and planning, mobility, health and safety, and business .
|OECD framework for evaluating the innovation capacity of cities||Organizational arrangements||The first category refers to how the formal and informal institutional structure of municipalities can either foster or hinder innovation. Specifically, this accounts for various innovation resource assets (e.g., human resources, financial resources) that may become transformative in time, building up an innovation capability . Political and administrative leadership is a common ingredient of this dimension. This comes either from the rhetoric of public discourses or informed more from business experience, where innovation leadership significantly enhances firm performance by cultivating the strategic fit of the organization with its environment . Only recently, it has been shown that leadership also has a bigger effect on public innovation capacity, by comparison to the rest of the usual determinants (e.g., processes, structures, context) .|
|Data management capability||The second pillar follows up on aspects like the capacity to collect and analyze data, and access to technology. When applied to cities, this factor is congruent with the view that smart cities are part of urban innovation. At the same time, an essential distinction appears, highlighting that smart city governance is not exclusively a technological issue [60,61]. For instance, Lember and colleagues  explicitly discuss technological capacity, illustrating for the case of Estonia how it is interlinked with administrative capacity in public organization.|
|Openness to partnership||Finally, the partnership focus includes interactions with different stakeholders: citizens, private sector, and non-profit organizations. This embraces the open and collaborative approach, much praised in the pursuit of societal challenges [33,63]. The role of trust and social capital are paramount in ensuring successful collaborations and a functional, thriving network governance.|
|A taxonomy of behavioral interventions; the 2011 Behavior Change report of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee||Provision of information||In order to consider provision of information as an effective technique for behavior change, beyond the rational choice models, it must possess the distinctive characteristics of accuracy and a just-in-time availability (e.g., the type of leaflets showing nutritional values of food exactly when it is consumed, the energy use of our households in relation to appliances etc.)|
|Persuasion||This technique appeals to both conscious and unconscious thinking: through logic and arguments, counseling, and educational campaigns, but also more traditional marketing.|
|Changes in physical environment||This method is closely related to better designs that would support better decisions (e.g., bigger red stop lights or more carefully positioned, bigger fonts on different announcements etc.)|
|Changes in default policy||The method is largely based on framing a choice either as an opt-in or as an opt-out possibility. For rather complex decisions, inertia appears in both cases for most of the population, but the outcomes in terms of participation are empirically proven, and radically different: lower rates for the opt-in and higher rates for the opt-out (e.g., the organ donation study is one of the most cited examples for the power of defaults).|
|Changes in social norms||The technique is a refined version of information provision with a much narrow focus: the information provided refers to the behavior of other specific and comparable situations.|
|September 2019||Benchmark of practices for the PSI labs||2 days exchange visit of UIU at MONUM||Boston (USA)||MONUM: one co-chair MONUM, 5 MONUM staff;|
UIU: three co-designers of UIU, the Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, 3 UIU collaborators
|To better understand the internal logic of MONUM projects in key areas for the newly founded Cluj-Napoca UIU: urban mobility, future of work and housing.|
To have a clear image on the working mechanisms of both PSI labs.
|November 2019—January 2020||Review of online resources||Content analysis of documents and projects (the UIU and MONUM websites, as well as published articles on MONUM’s work)||Online||n/a||To systematize the insights from the workshop and to further complement them with official public information.|
To contrast the existing information with the framework provided by OECD for assessing the capacity of cities to innovate  and with the general literature on public innovation and PSI labs.
|April—May 2020||Qualitative data gathering on the capacity to innovate of the two PSI labs and behavioral change taxonomy||Online interviews||Online||MONUM: Chief of Staff|
UIU: Director and co-founder
|To follow up on the existing gap in our knowledge of the two PSI labs.|
To further extend understanding by including information in line with the taxonomy proposed in the 2011 Behaviour Change report of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee , scrutinizing measures that fall into one of the following categories: eliminate or restrict choice, fiscal incentives/disincentives, non-fiscal incentives, persuasion, provision of information, changes to default policy, use of social norms. Beyond the description of such projects, we tried to articulate how the units used the results and what lessons can be derived for other cases.
|July—August 2020||PSI peer review of final draft of the article||Online interviews||Online||MONUM: Chief of Staff and co-chair and co-founder|
UIU: Innovation officer and the second co-chair
|To review the final draft version of this manuscript.|
|Organizational Arrangements||Data Management Capability||Openness to Partnerships|
|UIU||Outside the municipality, hosted in a public-private organization.||Collaborations with data scientists in academia.||Strong, sustained also by the city’s strategic directions.|
|MONUM||Inside the municipality.||Collaborations with data scientists in the public administration, and some data analysis and visualization capability within the MONUM team itself.||Strong, reinforced by MONUM’s one decade experience.|
|Behavioral Insights Categories|
|Provision of Information||Persuasion||Changes in Physical Environment||Changes in Default Policy||Change in Social Norms|
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Vrabie, A.; Ianole-Călin, R. A Comparative Analysis of Municipal Public Innovation: Evidence from Romania and United States. J. Open Innov. Technol. Mark. Complex. 2020, 6, 112. https://doi.org/10.3390/joitmc6040112
Vrabie A, Ianole-Călin R. A Comparative Analysis of Municipal Public Innovation: Evidence from Romania and United States. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity. 2020; 6(4):112. https://doi.org/10.3390/joitmc6040112Chicago/Turabian Style
Vrabie, Anamaria, and Rodica Ianole-Călin. 2020. "A Comparative Analysis of Municipal Public Innovation: Evidence from Romania and United States" Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity 6, no. 4: 112. https://doi.org/10.3390/joitmc6040112