This week, Network member and MindLab head of research Jesper Christiansen and InWithForward’s Sarah Schulman shared the third part of their blog series on creating impacts through government innovation labs. The first part focused on fostering government innovation through internal vs. external labs, and the second part explored the question of risk in public innovation. The third and final piece asks how a mandate for change can be created within government.
“In our work within the Danish public administration, one of the longest ongoing conversations has been about the responsibility of the policy-maker and the success indicators of the work carried out. We attempted to challenge the previous consensus that the job was finished once the policy was formulated, the law was passed or a decision had been made. Instead, we have tried to facilitate a conversation about outcomes; and not least the ways in which policy-makers are bound to them. In this light, much of what we do is aimed to at creating ‘professional empathy’ and bind civil servants with public problems and people’s experience in a more direct relationship.
The good news is that this conversation has been lifted up the ranks. Ministers and permanent secretaries are now publicly stating that ‘a reform is not a reform before there is an actual change in behaviours and experience in practice’. This emphasis changes the mandate for change significantly. It corresponds well with Sarah’s description above (and also with Michael Lipsky’s description of street-level bureaucrats as ‘everyday policy-makers’). This begs the question of how we are involving citizens’ experiences and the concrete practice of the frontline in the development and implementation of public policy?
So despite being an internal innovation lab deeply embedded in the central administration, the theory of change is the same: we need to reframe the development and implementation of policy as an explorative innovation task where the goal lies beyond developing a single new service. We need to public service systems where the backbone is the open and ongoing engagement of the public and the public sector ecosystem in making, testing, and improving the services and systems.”