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A global capacity revolution

An increasing number of governments around the world are currently invested in improving their innovation capacity. We did a scan of this work and think, if combined as interventions, we have reasons to be optimistic that governments can find their innovation craft and become better public problem solvers. What we found:

Strategic innovation agendas

Launching strategic (branded) innovation agendas that initiate a large range of activities under an overall heading. These for example include the Seoul government reinventing citizen engagement practices under headings of being a ‘Sharing City’. In Estonia, E-Estonia is enabling a large innovation project portfolio focused on creating new digital systems in health, education, public safety and business growth. And the Finnish government’s experimental government initiative has created different policy and democratic innovations enabling better trials of new ideas, increased public participation and people-driven legislation.

Leading by example

Governments investing in dedicated innovation units, labs or programmes. They are leading by example – building government capacity by showcasing how things can be done differently. In the UK (and now also beyond), the Behavioural Insights Team has been pioneering how to use behavioural science to achieve public savings and more efficient service delivery in areas such as tax, employment and health. Denmark’s MindLab has for many years been introducing design-led innovation methods to government policy and service development. In Canada, Alberta Co-Lab works with the regional government to radically redesign public service systems across various policy areas. And Mexico City’s Lab de la Ciudadis pioneering how to mediate conflicts and opposing views to enable positive outcomes in complex urban environments.

Capacity-building programmes

An increasing range of initiatives specifically targeting the expertise, roles, skills, behaviours and professional development of government servants. For example, ChangeSA in South Australia focuses on creating a culture that speeds up the decision-making process and celebrates innovation and creativity. In Chile, the Laboratorio de Gobierno is facilitating a government-wide, practice-focused learning process to embed new innovation capabilities among selected public servants. Similarly, in Singapore, PS21 was initiated to reward the knowledge and creative potential in public officers. And through programmes like La Transfo in France and SALAR’s capacity-building programme in Sweden, capacity-building is being orchestrated through distributed support and peer-to-peer learning.

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