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Chile's Carabineros are a national public police force whose mission is to guarantee public security throughout the country. The Carabineros have a long history of innovating on the services they provide to the community, but in 2016, they truly embedded innovation after participating in Chile's Innovative Public Procurement Program, a pilot managed by ChileCompra, the Chilean Ministry of Economy, and the Laboratorio de Gobierno. The goal was to install innovation in the purchasing processes of public agencies.
The Carabineros were selected to participate in this program for their well-organized purchasing process and high purchasing capacity as the fourth largest buyer in Chile.
They decided to focus their innovation challenge on their force's standard-issue footwear: a product that is supplied at a large scale (around 120 thousand pairs of shoes annually), and that, for almost 90 years, had not changed.
Building on Citymart's problem-based procurement methodology, implemented in earlier programs with the Chilean government, the Carabineros set out to secure footwear that meets the needs of their force.
Putting user needs first after 90 years
In the Discovery stage, the Carabineros held two workshops to understand the needs of officials and managers of different ranks. Carabineros of all ranks shared that their current footwear often caused physical pain; that the shoes were not practical for every situation; and that the shoes were poorly made.
As a result, the Carabineros posed their innovation challenge: how might they secure comfortable shoes that would be suitable for all weather and terrains and be adaptable to any situation?
The Carabineros are now determining the bidding rules and the technical specifications of the footwear they need. They're considering running a small-scale tender where shoe prototypes will be tested by Carabineros officials. Testers will share their assessments of each shoe, once again ensuring the user is at the center of this process.
Lessons learnedOne of the most important learnings for the Carabineros in the program has been how critical it is to place the needs of the user at the center of the public procurement process. One of the Carabineros, General Cabrera, stressed that it was important to engage both executives and lower-level officials in the shoe evaluation stage and in developing the bidding rules.
"For us it is easy to get used to one way of purchasing and always buying the same thing, but we do not really know if it is what people need--that is, whether it satisfies the needs of our internal clients, the Carabineros. Now we have the tools to be able to define what people want."