Disrupting Government from Within: The Canadian Chapter of States of Change

Jesper Christiansen

Jesper Christiansen – Head of Strategy and Development, Nesta

Late last year, alongside a global community of innovation experts and practitioners, Nesta launched States of Change - a new global collective set up to develop and support innovation learning for creating public impact. Central to the mission is helping governments to build their capability and culture to practically deal with the complex problems they face.

As a part of this effort, Nesta has been developing learning programmes on public innovation that draw upon the expertise on some of the world’s best innovation practitioners. We’re now excited to partner with the Canadian government through the Impact and Innovation Unit in the Privy Council Office. Together we’re creating an ambitious learning environment for leading change agents within the Canadian government focused on developing and supporting new ways of working for better public impact. 

What is the States of Change learning programme?

The States of Change learning programme builds on the experiences and knowledge of leading innovation practitioners (including Nesta’s own) on how to make innovation happen in the public sector. It focuses on building innovation capacity and creating culture change over time, and champions learning by doing and solving problems together.

In teams, participants work on real-life challenges that are connected to their job roles in order to enable in-practice learning. This not only helps them to develop and make the most their roles, as each project tackles a persistent challenge that requires a shift in the approach of how governments traditionally operate. But it also to help teams to develop their skills with the guidance of experienced innovation practitioners and peer-learning that focuses on exploring what works and learning from each other's experience in a structured way.

The overall aim of the programme is to support public servants to adopt innovation mindsets and habits that help them become more effective change agents, and to sustain an innovation culture in government. To do so, the States of Change curriculum goes beyond just innovation methods to also include the behaviours and cultures that enable innovation in government.

This means that as well as learning new approaches, participants receive guidance on how to create an enabling environment for innovation, and how to manage projects within bureaucratic and political contexts. Because much of this curriculum is experiential and consists of tacit knowledge, the States of Change faculty (see the States of Change website for more info) will use their valuable first-hand experiences of driving innovation in government to guide participants through the innovation process.

Working with the Canadian Deputy Ministers Task Force on Public Sector Innovation

Under the mandate of the Deputy Ministers Task Force on Public Sector Innovation, the Canadian States of Change chapter will work with the group of Policy and Program Entrepreneurs (PPE) to advance concrete initiatives that focus on complex and persistent policy challenges, core systems transformation, and experimentation with disruptive technologies within government.

They will be focusing on areas such as disrupting public service systems in health, food systems and social inclusion, innovating staffing and HR systems, and making use of new forms of data and technology to develop better public engagement and solution development.

Building the next generation of public change agents

The goal is to support the PPEs to make cultural change happen both inside and outside of the Canadian government, as well as explore and illustrate a new action-oriented way of investing strategically in professional development of change leadership while constructively disrupting government from within. The involvement of the Deputy Ministers Task Force on Public Sector Innovation and a dedicated, cross-government PPE group provides a unique opportunity to experiment with how best to organise and support innovation from within and across government departments. 

To support the development of public change agents and the learning journey of the PPEs, we need to focus on strengthening their practical change capacity and capabilities. First and foremost, this means developing the core mindset that in combination with the strengthening of key skills and competencies can enable a more effective approach to public problem-solving in government settings (for more information, read this Nesta blog on the Competency Framework for Experimental Problem Solving).

Sharing the States of Change learning journey

The programme kicks off next week in Ottawa, and we are excited to be working the Canadian government while it is embracing such an ambitious agenda around impact-oriented experimentation and cultural change. This will be an explorative process to learn about what works in public innovation, and we are eager to share it in an open way to engage with fellow practitioners and peers along the way.

While the main objective is to achieve impact for the participating teams, we’re also aiming to learn across countries about what works when embedding experimentation and innovation in government, and to share this within the States Change learning collective.

To keep up to date with our journey as we progress, please sign up to the States of Change newsletter and follow us on Twitter at @States_Change, @impact_innovEN, and #SoCCanada.







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