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Work in Progress

A gathering for public innovators to share their unfinished and in-progress work and co-create new opportunities to take it further. Hosted by States of Change and powered by Sitra Lab. It was on 9 - 11 November 2021. All recordings of the calls are online.

Institutional innovation: we need it. How we respond to our current issues will take a transformation of our institutions and ways of working. Both urgent, and necessary if we are to rise to the challenges of our era. But many questions remain without clear answers. What should the core capacities and work of government be? What new management practices and infrastructure should we be developing to support that shift? Who is responsible for leading the ‘boring revolution’, the work to fix or reinvent the plumbing. And with this backdrop, what role does public innovation play in making all these necessary changes actually happen?

#1 Why institutional innovation?

Our institutions and ways of working need to transform to respond effectively to the current challenges and context. But how? In what direction? We need governments that are relevant and legitimate in these times of uncertainty and global transformation. But what does that transformation look like for governments around the world?

Pia Andrews, public service transformer, formerly at the Australian and Canadian Government joined by Sir Geoff Mulgan, Professor at UCL + Ex-Nesta, will set the scene for the urgency and importance of public innovation, a reminder of the mission.

Watch the recording of the call with Pia and Geoff.

#2 How to spend it: public spending as a public service

Governments spend trillions each year. That is serious market and even society shaping power. We ask: are they spending it well? The world of procurement can often fall prey to long and rigid obligations for services that no longer fit the original intent. But what if it could be done differently, as a force for shaping outcomes as well as contracts. What would that look like?

Sascha Haselmayer New America fellow alongside Dom Campbell, founder of FutureGov, and Jess Lee, co-founder of the Institute of Impossible Ideas and Jakob Schjørring from the Bikuben Foundation discussed the alternative ways that procurement could power a paradigm shift in responding to our social issues.

Watch the recording for the call with Sascha, Dom, Jess and Jakob.

#3 Innovation transformed by action research

We know that climate, equity, and reconciliation are complex, urgent challenges facing governments all over. What could supporting people at the front lines of these challenges teach us about our ambitions for innovation? Can learning journeys, communities of practice, and participatory action research show promise towards transforming how public sector practitioners confront complexity?

Mumbi Maina, Maggie Low, Lily Raphael, Kyla Pascal, and Lindsay Cole of the Transforming Cities from Within facilitation team discussed what they have learnt from their action research with a cohort of innovators.

Watch the recording of the call with Mumbi, Maggie, Lily, Kyla and Lindsay.

#4 An education for the very modern public servant

The problems that face governments the world over have shifted, and so too, the approach and skills needed to respond to them. What does the curriculum of the modern public servant look like, and how does the best education for a government fit for today take shape?

Exploring an emerging education for public administration, Martin Stewart-Weeks guided a session exploring with Beth Noveck from GovLab, Daniel Gerson from OECD, Rod Glover of Monash University, Sally Washington and Subho Banerjee from ANZSOG and Sam Hannah-Rankin from the Victorian Public Service commission, the possibilities and pitfalls for how we can better prepare the public servants of today and tomorrow.

Watch the recording of the call with Martin, Beth, Daniel, Rod, Sally, Subho and Sam.

#5 Creating a learning organisation.

Most institutions feel disjointed or siloed, slow, sometimes ponderous, maybe not even fit for purpose. But what if instead they felt more like a free-flowing network of insight and action? Able to learn, and share what they learn as fast as was needed.

Gina Lucarelli and Bas Leurs shared their work to create the largest network of labs from inside the UNDP; the Accelerator Labs. They shared how they have been doing, what seems to have worked and where things have got tough.

Watch the recording of the call with Gina and Bas.

#6 Public innovation lab futures.

Some argue that there’s a limit to what an innovation lab can ever achieve: limited sometimes by their small size, often easily marginalised and, sometimes even, a bit of a passing political fad. But what if we’ve not yet reached the full potential of what labs can achieve, what if there’s untapped potential that’s going to waste, what would that look like?

Join Lindsay Cole from the City of Vancouver’s Solutions Lab and Mathias Bejean, Associate Professor at IAE Gustave Eiffel Management School as they discussed what the value and potential of labs are in an era that’s past ‘peak labs’. Organised by Stéphane Vincent from La 27e Région for France’s exciting Public Innovation month.

Watch the recording of the call with Lindsay, Mathias and Stéphane.

#7 Thriving social R&D ecosystems

We’re used to breakthroughs in science. You’re reading this on one. But what if we invested in social R&D as much as we did in technology? Imagine a thriving scene, developing new ideas for the way we live and govern. What would it look and feel like, and what would allow it to thrive and make an impact on the critical social issues facing us.

Chris Vanstone of TACSI and Jason Pearman from the Canadian Government have both been working to nurture and encourage burgeoning scenes of social R&D, they told us how that’s been going, what's been working, and what's hit a wall.

Watch the recording of the call with Chris and Jason.

#8 The future of public policy

Our practices of innovation and development are evolving rapidly while our models of policy and governance seem to stay unaltered. For innovations in policy and public design the future is already here, it’s just very unevenly distributed. Are there approaches to learn from to make public policy more adept to challenges we are facing? With Mikko Annala from Demos Helsinki, Thea Snow from the Centre for Public Impact and founding director of the Innovation Growth Lab, Albert Bravo-Biosca.

Watch the recording of the call with Mikko, Thea and Albert.

#9 Are missions the answer to everything?

Time to make sense of institutional innovation. So what does this all mean? How do we invest our innovation efforts most meaningfully? And are missions the answer to everything these days? A conversation with Vinnova’s Chief Executive, Darja Isaksson and Danish Design Centre’s Chief Executive Christian Bason to draw to a close the gathering and reflect on useful next steps.

Watch the recording of the call with Darja and Christian.

Why we gathered

Public innovators come up with bold visions for new futures or fresh ways of simply getting-sh*t-done, and they combine that spark with the grit needed to make it happen. That work hasn’t stopped, even with a pandemic as it’s backdrop. It’s only moved: to laptops on sofas and kitchen tables, with children in meetings, in our communities and online, so very online.

Now feels the right time to come together and reflect on what’s been a gruelling couple of years, mired in deep loss as well as hope. It feels right to host a campfire of sorts. For weary travellers in need of a pick-me-up, to intrepid adventurers to share their tales of success and failure.

In some ways we’ve seen transformative shifts in the way we live and how our institutions operate, but in others, things seem pretty much the same. Business as usual. We’re asking: what next for a field of public innovators?

Over a few days in November, we hosted a series of sessions with public innovators, those dreaming the big ideas and sweating the small stuff. We asked them to help us take stock of where we are as a field, pause to understand what we’ve learnt and decide on what comes next for the people who want to change the world.

We explored some of the new ideas and skills for the future; how teams are enabling learning and have learnt from one another; and how best to set a new course and lead change within the rooms where decisions are made and shaped.

Your hosts

Sitra Lab and States of Change are laboratories, playing with new ideas and experiments for how to better deal with the pressing challenges of our time. Wondering and working on ways to answer our oldest – and newest – problems.

Together with a set of distinguished co-hosts, we are gathering some of the world’s most inspiring and ambitious innovators and change-makers; practitioners who, dotted around the globe, share the same challenges and aspirations with an ambition to do better.

Let's work together