Why are we doing this?
Governments have pioneered innovation throughout history. However, as economic, social and environmental challenges become increasingly complex, governments are struggling to effectively solve the problems they are facing. As the environments and tasks of government change, so do the competencies and skills needed to be an effective public leader or official.
The ability to innovate is ultimately about how governments operate to create public and democratic legitimacy. Governments dedicated to driving innovation are being forced to rethink and develop their structures, capabilities, methods and tools in the search for effective action.
An ever expanding landscape of potentially disruptive innovation approaches is available to public decision-makers. These include abilities to experiment, test and improve promising ideas rapidly; to generate and use data of all kinds; to harness knowledge from many sources and in multiple ways; to design interventions that resonate with people’s lives and aspirations; and to make the most of successive generations of digital technology.
The challenge is how to approach this complex innovation space. There is a genuine need among public leaders and policymakers for better strategic and practical support of this transformational process. However, current training and development offers in the field are falling short of fulfilling the task of educating and enabling better government innovation capacity.
What are we doing?
Nesta is developing the i-school – a new way of developing and supporting public innovation learning for creating public impact. The objective of the i-school is to strategically support the people, teams, labs, offices and organisations inside government with a mandate to innovate and/or tasked with developing new approaches that increase the ability of governments to innovate. These include different levels of government (city, regional, national, institutional), different parts of the government hierarchy (from cabinet offices to operational units) and different departments (across all policy areas).
The i-school will seek to create an environment for accelerated learning and a curriculum for government innovation to ensure a more useful, consistent and evidence-based field. We will co-create learning experiences, insights and approaches based on how people and organisations practically create successes in their innovation work.
The i-school aims to advance the field of innovation learning beyond methods and tools by focusing on the craft of government innovation – what it takes in practice to navigate and apply a range of innovation approaches, as well as managing the conditions and implications that these new approaches create within government organisations.
Partners in the i-school will get strategic support for their government innovators in their task to build new practices, skills, capabilities and cultures. Nesta is currently working with pioneering government partners, innovation labs, international institutions and educational organisations around the world to explore and co-create new insights, frameworks and material. This happens through multiple, peer-led parallel experiments and systematic research and co-development.
The i-school is first and foremost building on the expertise, experiences and ideas of the current community of practice within government innovation. In addition, Nesta has a wide-ranging portfolio of work focusing on government innovation. Significantly, several projects are exploring how innovation teams work in government, innovations in democracy and public participation, data-led governance innovation, and redesign of public services within core areas like health and social services.
The i-school is furthering this work and is specifically building on the i-teams research focusing on how to dedicate innovation resources within government organisations. Equally, it links to further the insights presented by the monthly newsletter focused on innovation lab practice LabNotes and the global gathering of government innovation labs at LabWorks in 2015.
We are currently open to including potential partners that have a significant ambition to take effective action and develop approaches and skillsets that are better suited to the challenges of the 21st century. If you wish to be a part of this movement, we are eager to hear more about your ambitions and talk about possibilities for collaboration. For more information, contact Jesper Christiansen, Senior Programme Manager.