Supporting innovation in local government

i had a great morning in Exeter at the beginning of the week, talking with the corporate management team at Devon County Council about innovation and digital. Dom Campbell was there too, thus proving that the two of us can both be in the same room at the same time.

We were invited down by Carl Haggerty, who has been one of the most relentless supporters of new working and the opportunities of technology to change local government for the better. In September, Carl is running Open Space South West – an event all about nurturing innovation in public services in the area. I’ll be speaking at it, and I recommend you come down if you can. Tickets here.

In my little session, I spoke about how digital innovation can happen within local government by making some small cultural changes and giving examples of them in action. My slides are embedded below, or if you can’t access sites like Slideshare, here’s a PDF you can download.

[slideshare id=13847856&doc=devon-clt-120803015237-phpapp01]

I wrote a fair bit about supporting innovation in councils about 18 months ago, my starting point being the skunkworks in central government, which is now part of the Government Digital Service at the Cabinet Office. The posts were:

It’s fair to say with hindsight I think that I got rather carried away with the concept of skunkworks in those posts. But the point is that few local councils have a properly thought-out and communicated approach to innovation. If someone in the organisation has an idea about making things better, where do they go? How do they tell people about it? How are ideas judged, prototyped and implemented?

It ought not be too hard to come up with a simple model that can be customised by individual authorities. It could involve a simple platform for identifying issues and problems, or sharing ideas, combined with some open space style face to face get togethers where solutions can be explored and worked on. Regular reporting on progress and evaluating activity would be vital too.

Any local authorities (or other organisations!) up for trying something out? Could be really interesting.

(The photo, if your’re interested, is of Dawlish in Devon where I and the family stayed during our brief visit to the area.)

One thought on “Supporting innovation in local government”

  1. Dave,
    Thank you for an excellent presentation. The slides are great and the posts were very good. I would caution against assuming that innovation is slower in some areas because of the lack of time or innovative capacity.

    I would suggest that if you are looking at the culture for innovation, you have to look at the source of the culture and what makes for an innovative culture. I would suggest you need to consider theemployee voice and whethe the organisations encoruage voice. The more employee voice there is, the more open the culture, the more it is open to innovation.

    Staff need a psychologically safe space to innovate. Moreover, the culture has to encourage it both explicitly and implicitly. It is one thing to say “we are a learning organisation” but then to follow that up with supervisors who questions why someone has time to blog/innovate/cogitate, when there is work to be done.
    We are at the cusp of an age where employee voice is now a greater possibility because of social media than at any time previously. What would be interesting to see is work done on the correlates of employee voice/silence and innovation in local government. However, there is a lot of work to be done before local government’s culture, across the board, is as receptive to innovation as are other fields.
    See also Morrison Employee Voice Behavior: Integration and Directions for Future Research Author(s): Elizabeth W. Morrison Pages 373-412

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