States of Change 2018 - our year in review

"A new approach to capacity building that goes beyond methods and instead is centred around culture change"

It’s hard to believe that our first full year has whizzed past since we launched States of Change in Paris, back in November 2017. Before we strap ourselves in for another busy year, we wanted to share some reflections on our journey to date and give a sneak peek at what’s in store for 2019.

Why are we doing this again?

Last November we officially launched States of Change as a global learning collective for public innovation. The initiative was born out of many conversations across the community over the years that suggested a shared desire to increase the quality, coherence and reach of public innovation learning.

We set out with the aim to transform the capability and culture of governments to practically deal with the complex problems they face, and to strengthen the community of practice around public innovation. And we would do this through two primary activities: Learning Programmes and Research & Development.

So what have we done (and learned) this year?

Since our launch, we have successfully launched learning programmes in three different locations and contexts around the world: with the Victorian State government in Australia, the Privy Council in Canada’s federal government, and the Innovation Team in Colombia’s National Department of Planning.

Through our learning programmes, we were able to test a number of hypotheses about how to create more impactful learning for innovation. These included:

  • Learning through working on ‘real-world’ challenges rather than just classroom exercises.
  • Focusing on the team rather than the individual as the learning unit, to build in greater social support for embedding new practices.
  • Engaging senior leadership in the learning programmes to help maintain the authorising environment necessary for change.

We have exposed participants to a growing number of our global faculty, to ensure they hear a diversity of experiences and perspectives on the messy reality of making innovation happen and stick in government. Participant feedback suggests this diversity of perspectives is one of the strengths of our approach - rather than simply hearing and adopting one organisation’s take on innovation, our approach builds participants’ literacy and confidence to ‘choose their own adventure’.

We have experienced both highs and lows - from teams changing their country’s national policy on public innovation, through to teams disbanding midway through the programme - and everything in between. And while we haven’t sugar-coated the challenge of innovating in government, we have managed to inspire people to take action regardless, if our participants’ blog posts are anything to go by.

On the Research & Development front, we have continued to develop, experiment with and share resources to help move the field forward, such as our Playbook for Innovation Learning, our framework for Experimental Problem Solving, our Landscape of Innovation Approaches, our Competency Framework and Impact Framework for measuring culture change.

We’ve also worked to tap into and share the collective wisdom of our community through guest articles, provocations and debates on our new website. All of which are a part of creating and trying out a new approach to capacity building that goes beyond methods and instead is centred around culture change.

So what’s in store for 2019?

While continuing our learning programme activities in Australia and Canada, we will have a stronger focus in 2019 on developing regional programmes across Latin America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region, working together with our partners in these regions.

We know that there is more to do to activate our amazing faculty across all of our activities even more, and we will be reaching out to you again shortly to explore how best to achieve this.

We will also continue to create more opportunities for sharing experiences across our global community, through the website, through regular webinars and online meet-ups, and at a global gathering on government innovation in June, hosted by Nesta in London (more info coming soon).

This a collective effort, and so we invite you to share your thoughts on what we can be doing better to achieve our aims of making States of Change the world’s leading learning collective on public innovation - tweet us on @States_Change or email us [email protected].

And finally… some thanks

I can’t miss the opportunity to briefly thank the many people who have helped to make States of Change real in the world.

Thanks to our partners in Colombia, Canada and Australia who have given us the opportunity to turn words into deeds, and kept faith to let us try something different.

To our learning programme participants - thanks for your energy, enthusiasm, curiosity and perseverance.

Thanks to our faculty: those who have joined us on the road and away from their loved ones; those who have shared their local experience; those who have provoked us; and those who have dialled in at random hours to share your wisdom with us.

And finally, thanks to the Innovation Skills team at Nesta who have made this our collective passion project, and who find better ways every day of living up to our collective ambition (and have fun doing so).

Here’s to a great 2019!


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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