About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Prototyping in Public Services

What is prototyping, why is it important, and how can it be used in the development of new public services?

Key findings

  • Prototyping is an approach to service development that encourages low-cost, low-risk experimentation.
  • In recent years, we’ve seen a growing number of public service practitioners embrace prototyping as a new way of working.
  • There are some key factors that will help prototyping take off in public services: strong leadership to make the case for prototyping, ensuring there are the correct skills and roles on the project team, and ensuring the organisational culture embraces prototyping (and that staff feel empowered to ‘just try it out’).

Prototyping is an approach to developing and testing ideas at an early stage before large-scale resources are committed, to see what works and what doesn’t. Although commonly used by engineers, designers and web developers, the approach is increasingly being applied to help develop new and innovative public services.

Nesta has produced this guide for policymakers, strategy leads, heads of service, commissioners and anyone else in a public service looking for new and better ways to meet the needs of their communities. It sits alongside the Prototyping Framework: A guide to prototyping new ideas which provides examples of activities that can happen at different stages of a prototyping project.