Seeker Spotlight: Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

Posted by Connie French on Apr 8, 2009 8:07:35 AM

We recently announced that the Challenge posted by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce to increase public transportation ridership had been solved.  I asked Lance Pressl, President of the Chamber, to give us a bit more information about the background of the Challenge, and the impact that he expects to see from its solution.

Hi Lance - thanks for speaking with us today.  Can you tell us why the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce decided to host this Challenge?

The Chicagoland Chamber has a long tradition of promoting public transportation in the region.  We believe that a robust transit system, moving people to and from their place of employment efficiently, safely, conveniently and in a manner that reduces the region's carbon footprint is critical to the future success of the region in a very competitive, global marketplace.  Our members and their employees represent a significant portion of the customer base of Chicagoland's public transit agencies.  As a key stakeholder, we decided to take the lead in posting the Challenge to demonstrate our commitment to collaboration and showcase the power of crowdsourcing on a real issue that affects all of the businesses and residents of the region

What appealed to you about posting your Challenge on the InnoCentive marketplace?

Posting a Challenge on InnoCentive offered a unique opportunity to tap into the unlimited resources and brainpower of over 170,000 minds from around the world on an issue of great significance to our members.  Gaining access to this pool of "Solvers" was a very exciting opportunity for the Chamber.  In addition, posting the Challenge on InnoCentive also afforded the Chamber the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to solving the most perplexing problems through open innovation and collaboration.  Through our InnovateNow initiative (see, we actively encourage organizations to use collaborative platforms and tools to meet their strategic objectives.  Posting the challenge on InnoCentive allowed us to showcase the value of crowdsourcing and demonstrate the importance of collaboration.

I understand that you received many solutions from around the world - was there anything that surprised you in the submissions you received?

We were surprised by a number of things.  First, that people as far away as Kenya, Australia and Japan had opinions and useful ideas about how Chicago could decrease automobile use and greenhouse gas emissions by boosting public transpiration ridership.  Second, we were surprised at how many international solvers had actually been on the Chicago public transpiration system and because of their firsthand experience had very specific, experience-based solutions.  Finally, we were surprised at the quality of the solutions solvers provided.  Some solvers submitted a paragraph or two, but most solvers invested a good deal of time and effort in crafting their responses.

What impact do you think the solution of this Challenge will have on the environment in the Chicago area, and when do you think this impact will be felt?

We had multiple objectives in posting the Challenge.  In the immediate term, one impact we expect to see is more openness to collaborating and crowdsourcing.  We received a great deal of positive feedback from public, private and nonprofit leaders asking about our experience using the InnoCentive platform to solve a real life complicated problem.  We were encouraged by the responses and the level of curiosity.   So, we are optimistic that we will see more organizations experimenting with collaborative platforms in the short term, a result we hoped for from the outset.

We knew from the start, however, that achieving the main goal of the Challenge, i.e., reducing greenhouse gas emissions from autos by increasing public transit ridership to 1 billions rides a year, would take much longer.  We recognize that changing human behavior and public bureaucracies is a long-term undertaking.  Nonetheless, we have already stimulated a new dialogue with one of the key service providers and look forward to sharing all of the responses we received with each of the key transit service providers.  Starting a new dialogue may seem like a small step, but from our perspective it is absolutely critical.  So we see this as an important step forward and are optimistic about the future.  Regardless, the Chamber will continue to promote public transit use and lowering our carbon footprint as a means of differentiating the region on the competitive world stage.

Do you plan to work with the CTA in implementing or promoting any of the Solutions?

The Chamber's Transportation Committee will take the lead from this point on to identify the key policy proposals and legislative fixes necessary to keep the wheels of this initiative moving forward.  Given that we have already engaged one of the transit agencies in a substantive discussion, we look forward to identifying low hanging fruit to take action on immediately and continuing to look for other short- and long-term solutions across all agencies.  We will remain a key advocate until we see the results we set forth in the Challenge- achieving 1 billions rides per year.

This is the first InnoCentive Challenge posted by a major metropolitan area.  What role do you think open innovation can play in shaping policies at this level of government?

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce is proud to be the first organization from a major metropolitan area to post a Challenge on InnoCentive.  We hope other organizations are encouraged to follow our lead.  We believe strongly that organizations need to be as innovative as possible in the 21st century global marketplace to be successful.  Innovation requires collaboration and tapping into the best minds available, regardless of where those minds are located geographically.  We also believe the value of open innovation and crowdsourcing is not limited to one sector and encourage every organization--public, private and nonprofit--to take full advantage of the benefits it affords.

Do you plan to host more Challenges on

Tapping into InnoCentive's pool of global talent is intoxicatingly inviting.  The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce looks forward to working with InnoCentive on future Challenges.

Thanks for your time Lance, and we look forward to hearing more about the implementation of this solution.

My pleasure.

For more information on how to engage the world's brightest minds to Solve your city's critical  Challenges, please contact InnoCentive here.

Topics: Challenges, Seekers

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