Why did we do this?
Digital innovations create many opportunities to empower citizens, improve society and grow economies. But the fast pace of change is disrupting the labour market, making it necessary for people to adapt to the new demands of work and widening the gap between those who have the skills to take part and those who don’t.
Policymaking must also adapt. To foster a society in which everyone can prosper, policymaking for skills needs to be more dynamic, more inclusive, and more responsive to digital transformation.
What did we do?
Our workshops were designed to provide policymakers with hands-on experience, linking learning to practice and focusing on solving problems collaboratively and creatively.
Our key principles were:
1. Design as a method: Design thinking is about solving problems through a highly user-centred approach. Through creativity and empathy, our workshops aimed at designing policy that’s smarter, more inclusive and fit for the future.
2. A bias towards actions: We facilitated learning by doing, provided our network with practical examples and helped break down policy challenges into actionable outcomes.
3. Anything is possible: Openness is key to navigate turmoil and uncertainty. We applied a ‘yes and’ approach to break through unpredictability, open up possibilities and create a space for testing new ideas.
4. International collaboration: Our workshops helped create a network of international senior stakeholders, experts and practitioners who worked collaboratively and got inspired by how other governments address similar challenges.
In the two years of the programme we ran 8 workshops which saw the engagement of 115 senior representatives from government, industry, trade unions, the education sector and academia, and 215 attendees from across 7 countries. We partnered with a range of government departments and agencies such as the Finnish Prime Minister Office, Futurion, Demos Helsinki, UniGlobal Union, the Swedish Employment Agency and Swedish National Digitisation Council in Finland; The Think Tank DEA, the Danish Design Council and SISCODE in Denmark; the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, Techniekpact, Platform Bèta Techniek (National STEM Platform) and Katapult in the Netherlands; Department of Work and Social Economy, the Flanders State of Art in Belgium and many others.
We promoted our work externally and engaged in the wider debate by attending the EU Vocational Skills week, the EU Industry Day, the 2019 OECD Forum, the Nordic Conference on The Future of Work.
‘I appreciate the interactive workshops where we can focus on real cases and share with our European colleagues. Digital Frontrunners is a great community builder — we get to know and like each other which means we can share more and get a lot out of it’. Jorg van Velzen, Senior Policy Advisor, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, the Netherlands
‘The Nesta Digital Frontrunners programme has these magical components: radically open-minded people that want to arrive to something new, [and] a set of world-class inspirers in the best cutting-edge practices around’. Mihkel Kaevats
Former Advisor on the Future of Work, Ministry of Social Affairs, Estonia
The programme built on the work of Readie, Nesta’s European policy centre, and research into upskilling and reskilling. It also took inspiration from Nesta’s extensive experience testing new approaches to policy making and running programmes for senior officials. Our Global Innovation Policy Accelerator, for example, has helped 50+ participants from 11 countries to develop and test innovation policy.
Digital Frontrunners combined these areas of expertise to offer an innovative and powerful approach to policy making that unlocks effective ideas, engages a wide range of stakeholders, and lets senior policymakers collaborate with a network of digital pioneers in government and industry.
What did we learn?
The insights collected through our international workshop contributed to over 30 articles and 5 reports:
- Digital Frontrunners: Designing inclusive skills policy for the digital age
- Delivering Digital Skills: A guide to preparing the workforce for an inclusive digital economy
- What Motivates Adults to Learn: A rapid evidence review of what drives learning new skills in the workplace
- Digital Frontrunners Country Spotlight 2019: Meet the nations leading the way in digitalisation
- Partnership for Skills: Learning from Digital Frontrunner countries
The research produced under the Digital Frontrunners programme, informed the creation of FutureFit - a major training and research project led by Nesta and supported by Google.org, focused on creating an effective adult learning system to help tackle inequality and social exclusion.