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iCatalyst is a cloud-based tool used to spark innovation within Commonwealth secretariats and agencies. The tool creates secure, password-protected communities where peers can interact with one another through Idea Challenges.

In Idea Challenges, an executive sponsor poses a question to a defined audience to gather information, ideas, or solutions. The design of this feature incents users to engage in a friendly competition for recognition of the best ideas. The audiences for these challenges can be internal employees, or external constituents as specified by the executive sponsor. In some cases, the users may include both audiences.

Challenge questions are designed to address complex challenges the office or agency is facing, or to solicit advice and opinions from the users. Examples include: What is the greatest barrier to our agency’s primary mission? How can we improve our compliance rate? What is the best way to implement the new policy?

The most effective challenge questions encourage positive participation and drive appropriate and actionable submissions. The easy-to-use user interface is similar to that popularized by many leading social media tools. Community members vote and comment on solutions proposed by others. The users can vote ideas and comments up or down, depending on whether they agree with the original contributor. Comment threads enable collaborative feedback, allowing for replies both to ideas and to other comments. iCatalyst automatically calculates approval ratings for each idea and tallies votes, page views, and comments. Algorithms within the application use this data to identify the most popular ideas.

These idea-ranking metrics are used to generate “leaderboards” displayed to the users of the community. Leaderboards help challenge organizers to easily see which ideas are gaining traction. Leaderboards also enable users to receive recognition from their peers for their innovative ideas and commitment to collaboration. Top ideas are passed onto a team of agency experts based on constraints such as approval rating. These experts review the ideas and ultimately decide which to choose and implement.

With iCatalyst, agencies can eliminate many logistical and record management challenges that come with traditional efforts to engage employees, constituents, and stakeholders. The application is hosted on the cloud and is securely available 24/7 via any internet connected computer or mobile device.

iCatalyst goes beyond online forums, email and surveys because it provides interactive processes that foster collaboration and innovation. Game dynamics (also called “gamification”), like leaderboards, and familiar user interfaces encourage healthy competition and engagement and allow everyone in the community to participate in a meaningful way. With iCatalyst, there is no need to coordinate meeting times and physical meeting room schedules. It also eliminates the need to manually compile responses and communications. iCatalyst frees each community to identify issues, shape powerful ideas for organizational change, and execute solutions for maximum impact.

iCatalyst facilitates listening to a broad base of employees or constituents at the same time and involves them in key issues, allowing their valued views to be heard. It also provides an environment which facilitates iterative brainstorming among participants.

The Office of the Government Innovation Officer (OGIO) has procured an enterprise-wide iCatalyst site license for the entire Executive Branch. As such, all Executive Branch employees can be registered iCatalyst users. In addition, our iCatalyst license allows an unlimited number of “external” constituent users.

A wide variety of agencies have already used (or are planning to use) iCatalyst, including: the Human Resources Division (HRD), the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), the Department of Revenue (DOR), the Division of Banks (DOB) and others.

For example: OGIO, working closely with the Human Resources Division (HRD), recently wrapped up a highly successful Idea Challenge focused on identifying unusual Commonwealth jobs. The many ideas generated by this Challenge will be incorporated into an advertising campaign to highlight unique employment opportunities within the Commonwealth. The ad campaign (featuring a video series showcasing these jobs) harnesses new media to reach a broader audience than traditional job postings.

The Executive Sponsors of these challenges have been quite favorable regarding the value of iCatalyst: “The iCatalyst tool provided the Division of Banks with a new approach to obtain staff input and collaborate on the agency’s strategic direction”, said Commissioner of Banks David Cotney. “I consider the Division’s ‘Ideas Challenge’ a success – 66% of our staff participated and 29 creative ideas were generated. We look forward to using the iCatalyst tool in the future to engage with the financial industry in the Commonwealth”.

Paul Dietl, Chief Human Resources Officer, said, “using iCatalyst enabled the HR Community to validate challenges and leverage the voice of the crowd in order to inform strategic planning for HR and to secure funding to enable the implementation of related projects and initiatives.”
If you are a Commonwealth of Massachusetts agency or secretariat leader who is interested in utilizing iCatalyst, please visit the official webpage for more information (including short highlight videos).

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Written By:


Digital Communications Intern
Megan Schatzman manages digital communications for the Office of the Government Innovation Officer (OGIO). She is also a dual degree candidate for both Marketing and Information Systems at Suffolk University. Megan is passionate about innovation and the effective utilization of multiple digital media channels. She has 5 years of experience in strategic social media usage and is a recipient of the Xerox Award for Innovation and Information Technology.

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