A new era of government innovation

The UK finds itself in the grip of election season. Politicians on every side of the aisle are making bold promises to the electorate, to tackle the issues they see as holding back the UK’s growth or happiness of its citizens.

With the chancellor having declared the end of austerity in September this electoral campaign in particular is already characterised by pledges of unprecedented public sector spending, much of it at a local level - Labour have pledged £3billion for adult education, the conservatives £2.7billion for 40 new hospitals, Lib Dems £5billion for flood defences.

If this money is realised it will help. There’s no doubting that governments of all tiers need new solutions, new services, new ways of working with citizens to tackle the challenges of our time. We asked some of the speakers at our recent Nesta government innovation summit to share the biggest challenge facing governments and how might we go about tackling them.

Spending well

In September we published 20 Tools for Innovating in Government to help public servants and their partners navigate the “how” of innovating to solve the challenges they raised like trust, the needs of an ageing population, automation etc. The tools are based on our experience working with hundreds of governments around the UK and the world.

Too often when faced with a big challenge we revert back to the methods or designs we have used before, rather than selecting the best one for the job. This is a real danger when public sector spending has been constrained. As new funds are released it would be easy to revert to the models of government services that used to exist, rather than looking at what is needed for the years ahead.

For example:

  • In London we’ve been working with governments to look at predictive analytics to find rogue landlords
  • In Essex we worked with local government and NHS teams to create new support services that reduced the risk of elderly re-admissions to hospital using the 100 day challenges method that bring together frontline staff and citizens with agency to prototype new services. One frontline team achieved a 24 per cent reduction in A&E attendances and a 50 per cent reduction in GP attendances for children aged up to 11 years old who were registered at two local GP practices.
  • In Bournemouth we’re prototyping how to generate new income sources for parks by testing if users will donate via contactless giving points near their favourite spaces like playgrounds and viewpoints. Using the prototyping method creates a framework to find out what works - from the technology to make contactless possible, to the location of the donation points to the language on the signage.
  • In Singapore the government is using anticipatory regulation alongside foresight and futures work to create a regulatory environment that favours innovation and risk-taking, and makes it possible to test new technologies for which regulation does not yet exist like autonomous vehicles and drone deliveries

Tools proven to help innovation flourish inside government

Explore our 20 tools for innovating in government

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New combinations of data and people power

The book contains another 16 tools from bringing new ideas to life. We hope it’s a helpful guide and if you think we should add other methods to future editions please get in touch: [email protected]

Many of the tools combine the skills and resourcefulness of citizens with the opportunity new technologies bring.

That feels key for me in this new era of government innovation. Shevaun Haviland from UK central government summed it up in the video “people getting together in partnership to really make a difference”.


Vicki Sellick

Vicki Sellick

Vicki Sellick

Chief Partnership Officer

Vicki was Chief Partnership Officer

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