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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

The Innovative Public Procurement Program's methodology replicated Citymart's best practice procurement workflow, with the stages renamed for the program's purpose to Discover, Formulate, Link and Acquire.

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 second stage, Formulation, the Carabineros identified how the challenge could be solved. The Carabineros released an RFI to engage the market and solict ideas for the kind of shoes that might be tendered. The RFI was distributed from the ChileCompra portal, but also to other institutions like the Industrial Chamber of Leather, Footware and Allied Industries (FEDECCAL) and Prochile, which promotes Chilean exports. This wider scope resulted in a large group of responses from different suppliers.
 

Next steps

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.

Trial and error is central to the innovation process, and the Carabineros are open to restructuring and revising their process at any time. Redefining public procurement as an iterative process and incorporating failure as a real possibility allows them a broader scope with a higher likelihood of finding the right solution.
 
 

Lessons learned

One 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. 
 
Claudio Calvo, Head of the Office of Management Control of the Directorate of Public Purchasing and participant in the program, said,
"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."
Another important result for Carabineros has been the creation of a Department of Research, Development, and Innovation. General Cabrera expressed that it was a "way to make the innovation permanent and give it a context." Creating this department helps to fully install innovation within the institution of the Carabineros.
 
Building on the success of the Innovative Public Procurement Program, 850 Chilean institutions will now benefit from the new Public Procurement Directive, launched in January 2018 and coinciding with the government's adoption of Citymart to enable collaboration and sharing in problem solving and procurement.
 
The Directive serves as a guide for how any Chilean agency can improve public procurement processes at a large scale.