Seoul Innovation Bureau

Case Study

Creating the world’s first Social Innovation City

  • Methods
Location in government

City government

Where it is based

Seoul, South Korea

Mission statement

“Using social innovation to improve citizens’ lives”

Annual spend

£5 million1

Size of team


Example of impact

Applying the social media tools used in the mayor’s political field campaign to day-to-day government, rapidly increasing citizen engagement.

Seoul City Hall is undergoing rapid change. Led by a mayor on a mission to revolutionise the policy-making process, the city government is embarking on extensive civic engagement to help identify and solve challenges.

What it does

Reporting directly to the Mayor, the Seoul Innovation Bureau is a cross-departmental innovation unit with 58 staff members and an annual budget of £5 million. The overriding principle of the Bureau is that citizens are the main catalysts and sources of innovation, whether that be in identifying problems, clarifying issues or generating solutions. The Bureau team captures and orchestrates this knowledge and insight.

Establishing Seoul as the world’s first Sharing City was a key priority for the Mayor. The advancements in online technologies and mobile phones have made it easier for the city to engage with citizens and companies, and to create the platforms for resources  to be shared.

To advance the Sharing City agenda, the Seoul Innovation Bureau oversees a range of projects to tap into dormant assets across the city, ranging from housing to hammers. Projects include Tool Kit Centres that offer communities a shared space stocked with items such as tools and suitcases for residents to borrow. Another example is the Generation Sharing Household service which matches elderly people who have spare residential space with students in need of a place to live. In exchange for housing, students help out their elderly housemates with day-to-day tasks, such as shopping and cleaning.

Offline, the Seoul Innovation Bureau works with departments across City Hall to host listening workshops with citizens and policy makers to discuss particular topics. More than 6,000 of these have been held — allowing the government to hear from more than 600,000 citizens.

Interesting features
  • Methods: The move toward a social innovation-led government is a departure from the cultural and bureaucratic norms of South Korean Government. Mayor Park use of social media tools used in his political field campaign to day-to-day politics to help rapidly increase citizen engagement.

​Learn more
Read the full case study on Seoul Innovation Bureau in the i-teams report. 

If you liked Seoul Innovation Bureau you may also be interested in
Open Mexico


  1. Confirmed in email to Nesta, 5 May 2014. Converted from 8,725,000,000 KRW, * as of 21/01/2013, taken from

Photo Credit: An ear outside of City Hall to symbolize Mayor Park’s promise to listen to citizens. Photo courtesy of Kyungsub Shin©.

This page was last updated on

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 15:41