New compendium profiles innovative techniques from around the world

By on 08/04/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
There’s more to innovation than white boards: new compendium explains tried and tested methods. (Image courtesy: Michal Jarmoluk).

A leading think tank has published a compendium detailing 13 innovative techniques deployed in public sectors around the world, including accelerator programmes, challenge prizes, evidence quality standards, and public sector labs.

UK-based charity NESTA, which works internationally to uncover, develop and test innovation from across multiple sectors, hopes the report will inspire others.

The authors, chief executive Geoff Mulgan and Kirsten Bound, executive director of research analysis and policy, write in the introduction that they foresee “a vast new range of opportunities” for the next generation of innovators, enabled by the digital revolution. 

Innovate in innovation

Digital technologies demand changes in public servants’ approach to innovation, the authors argue: “The advent of the big data era and the mainstream exploitation of artificial intelligence is recasting innovation processes, with blockchain and driverless car testbeds just a hint of what’s to come,” they say.

But while the digital revolution has “transformed how innovation happens,” they write that “government policies and support for it have sometimes seemed stuck in a 20th century model of innovation.

“For the last decade or more, Nesta has been searching for ways to support innovations that exploit these new trends, aiming to spread the capacity for innovation and apply it to the problems and communities most in need,” the report says. 

Box of tricks

The 13 methods featured in the 71-page document are named: accelerator programmes; anticipatory regulation; challenge prizes; crowd-funding; experimentation; futures; impact investment; innovation mapping; people powered results: the 100 day challenge; prototyping; public and social innovation labs; scaling grants for social innovations; and standards of evidence.

The authors say the compendium draws together “just some of the innovation methods we have analysed, developed, tested and spread over the last decade.”

In each case, they describe the method and outline their work in that particular area over the past ten years. Each section is then illustrated with specific case studies, with links to “relevant resources and inspiration on our website and beyond.”

The case studies highlight the breadth of work in which NESTA is involved internationally. They include a collaborative project between NESTA and the Welsh Government to map innovation across the country, and a training programme for civil servants in Australia and Canada named States of Change: a collective that will bring together government innovators and support public innovation learning.

The 71-page document is free to download from NESTA’s website.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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