Helping UK public servants embed innovation skills into their everyday work

At Nesta’s Government Innovation Summit last month, over 400 people came together from across the UK and beyond to share tools and ideas for the future. One of the key messages was that while tools can help us do our work in new ways, to really bring about change we also need to think about the culture and mindsets in our institutions.

This includes creating the right conditions and permissions for people to experiment with new ways of working. It requires leadership that backs up the easy rhetoric of the importance of innovation with sustained and consistent support of teams who are actually walking the talk. Especially when things don’t work the first time around, which inevitably they won’t.

New skills and attitudes for an uncertain world

We know that governments around the world are facing complex problems, to which there are no easy answers. To be fit for the future, it’s clear that new approaches are needed. In our breakout session on future public servants later that day, we explored the question of how we can equip public servants with the skills and attitudes to embrace our increasingly uncertain world.

It is also the reason that Nesta, working with partners around the world, initiated States of Change, to build the next generation of public innovation. Since its launch two years ago, States of Change has run learning programmes around the world, from Colombia to Australia, New Zealand to Canada. And in 2020, we are excited to announce that we will be launching the first States of Change learning programme in the UK.

About the States of Change learning programme

This programme is a practice-led experience that embeds innovation capability and helps public servants become better problem solvers.

Over six months, teams take part in the programme alongside their day jobs and learn how to take an experimental approach to problem solving. This involves exploring problems from new perspectives, and then testing and iterating possible solutions in order to quickly learn what works and what doesn’t. Importantly, participants also learn how to help create the right conditions for innovation to happen.

Throughout, teams work on real-life projects from their departments that they bring to the programme. This ensures a bias towards practical action and ‘learning by doing’, taking teams on a learning journey where they go from testing out new approaches to applying them in practice.

Our faculty and partners for the UK programme

Central to States of Change is our faculty and partner network, who are all experienced innovation practitioners. As facilitators, mentors, subject matter experts and contributors they give practical support and guidance (e.g. on how to use specific tools or get buy-in from senior leaders) and help teams navigate challenges based on first-hand experience.

For the UK programme, the faculty will be drawn from across our extensive local partners (for example Nesta, Design Council, FutureGov) as well as our global faculty - see the full Programme Info Pack for more information.

Who is the programme for?

The programme is designed to support teams of public servants who are eager to challenge ‘business as usual’ ways of working and ambitious to learn new approaches to government problem-solving.

It's open to teams from any local, regional or central government agency across the United Kingdom. Your team can already be working together, or a new team brought together specifically for the programme.

Government teams prototyping in the States pf Change programme

Teams in one of the intensive training weeks

Find out more and how to apply

If this sounds like something you’d like to be involved in, then please download the Info Pack for full details and pricing, and then get in touch! We are here to help you shape your project and design a team that will set you up for success.

We know that it can take some time to get all the internal approvals required to take part, so we suggest getting in touch as early as possible. There is only space for 10 teams on the programme, so we advise starting on your application as soon as you can. The deadline for final applications is November 29.

Get in touch with us to talk about the UK programme at [email protected], and sign up to our monthly newsletter to keep up to date with with what we're doing.


Brenton Caffin

Brenton Caffin

Brenton Caffin

Executive Director, Global Innovation Partnerships

Brenton was Nesta’s Executive Director, Global Innovation Partnerships, leading Nesta's work globally to help people and organisations get better at innovating for the common good.

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