Innovation 2019 kicks off with five key lessons on policymaking

By on 28/02/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
From left Andrea Siodmok, Paul Maltby, Dr Andrea Schneider

At the first session of the Innovation 2019 conference on Thursday, civil service leaders from three countries identified five key changes that they believe could boost innovation in policy making.

Innovation 2019 – which was hosted by Global Government Forum, in collaboration with the UK’s Cabinet Office – attracted over 500 delegates from 39 countries to Westminster’s Central Hall. And following panellists’ presentations in the first session, chair Matt Ross asked them to name a single change that they’d like to see.

For Paul Maltby, chief digital officer at the UK’s Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, the key lies in the creation of “multi-disciplinary teams”.

“Policy and delivery have been two separate worlds, sometimes,” he said. “The arrival of digital teams brings another dimension to that.” He described the “huge opportunity” of people with different skills working more closely together.

Canadian and German perspectives

Matthew Mendelsohn, Canada’s deputy secretary to the Cabinet for results and delivery in the Privy Council Office, stressed the importance of creating feedback channels running from the frontline of public service delivery and “cascading through” to policymakers – carrying messages about what works, what doesn’t, and how new policies are bedding in. “This requires a real diversity of voices,” he said.

Dr Andrea Schneider, head of the Directorate of Innovation and Policy Planning in Germany’s Federal Chancellery, called for the creation of “infrastructure” to allow those working on innovative policies to share their experiences. Supporting Mendelsohn’s point, she emphasised the importance of policy makers learning about “what actually happens when a service reaches a citizen.”

Matthew Vickerstaff, interim chief executive of the UK’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority & Matthew Mendelsohn, Canada’s deputy secretary to the Cabinet for results and delivery in the Privy Council Office

For Matthew Vickerstaff, interim chief executive of the UK’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority, the key point is to embed innovative projects in the real world of delivery – ensuring that managers and staff have the skills and processes to realise their goals. Noting that the UK will shortly go through its five-yearly Comprehensive Spending Review budgeting process, he said: “The one thing we need to embed into the evaluation of policies and innovative ideas is ‘deliverability’. Perhaps in the past we have had problems around ‘optimism bias’, and it really is important to embed that deliverability aspect into that once-every-five-years reset.”

Constraints force innovation

Finally Andrea Siodmok, deputy director of the UK’s Policy Lab, argued that limitations on people’s freedom of manoeuvre can sometimes produce the most innovative policies. If people can spend as much as they like, for example, why bother innovate? So “carefully considered constraints” can be important in prompting people to find new solutions.

Innovation 2019 was opened and closed by John Manzoni, chief executive of the UK civil service, and saw a keynote by Government Digital Service chief Kevin Cunnington and panel sessions covering policy making, procurement, process automation, data, workspaces, and service design.

Global Government Forum will be running reports on many of the key events over the coming days.

About Ian Hall

Ian is editor of Global Government Fintech a sister publication to Global Government Forum. Ian also writes for media including City AM and #DisruptionBanking. He is former UK director for the pan-European media network Euractiv (2011-2018), editor of Public Affairs News (2007-2011) and news editor of PR Week (2000-2007). He was shortlisted for ‘Editor of the Year’ at the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) Awards in 2010. He began his career in Bulgaria at English-language weekly the Sofia Echo. Ian has an MA in Urban and Regional Change in Europe and a BA in Economics, both from Durham University.

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