7 tools that worked in government innovation

Recently I realised that my image links on old Shift blogposts on this site weren’t working… so I dug up old images to relink them, and re-discovered some useful bits of work that I’d done.

I’m sharing them here. They will be useful to people interested in government innovation labs, service design methods, and encouraging collaborative creative communities inside an organisation.

Shift was an innovation lab in Surrey County Council; it was a joint venture between FutureGov and the council. Now it has taken on a different incarnation, which I’m pleased to hear is going well.

The ideas shared here were very specific to Surrey County Council’s unique circumstances; however, I’ve tried out things that worked in Surrey in different contexts and they still work. It’s my hope that others in government that want to foster grass roots change, or those with the power to suggest an innovation lab be set up, get useful nuggets of insight and inspiration from this work.

1. The Shift guide. This is how we worked at Shift. It details processes and example projects. It’s a hugely useful read if you’re interested in what government innovation labs can do – there’s quite detailed explanations of how things worked.

2. The Shift process. This is how our process was articulated. We had lots of conversations about this. They really liked alliteration. The little illustrations are by Emma Gasson.

3. Lunchtime Sessions posters. We made snazzy posters to entice people to come to events. This was unusual for the council, and it did rile them up that we were putting up posters in a paperless-policy environment. It did attract attention though. Obviously, attention from the people that like this sort of clean modern graphics look.

4. How to put on the Lunchtime Sessions. These were fortnightly show and tell sessions, designed to not only connect bring in the outside world into the council and provide inspiration, but to encourage the practice of council staff speaking about their work across departments in order to break down siloed working. There was also informal networking after the sessions, helping foster cross departmental networking. (I must say: I totally loved making this guide. I think I have a *thing* for making instruction manuals and reports.)

5. Idea generation tools handout. We made this for a special event with the Public Service Launchpad. They’re three idea generation tools. I’ve since used variations of these tools in workshops many times. They work! Try them out.


6. Think Big presentation. This the presentation I gave as part of the Public Service Launchpad accelerator programme – it wasn’t really part of Shift. It was to encourage intrepreneur start ups to challenge their idea in a moment when they might have otherwise stagnated. (Intrepreneur = entrepreneur but within an organisation, in this case, within councils.) I got them to come at their ideas from different angles, and I got them to swap teams to come up with ideas for other start ups. Had resoundingly positive feedback from this session.


7. Workshop agenda. This was the agenda for the Think Big workshop. I’m not precious about sharing this – this is like sharing a song sheet with someone that needs a new song written and performed for them. If anyone else uses this as a template for a workshop, they would bring their own style to it: who the facilitator is is hugely important. I’d like others to try out workshop formats such as this – it’s creative and critical. This workshop format was made specific to the context; any other workshop needs to be tailored to the audience, aims, time, and resources. I hope that sharing this makes it just that bit clearer about how a similar workshop might work.

Please let me know if you’re doing similar practices. I’m exposed to lots of talk from leaders in conferences about government innovation, but I don’t see that many examples of HOW things actually work. I’d like to be able to share knowledge about the HOWs with others so that we can build on each others’ work, in order to become more sophisticated with our tools and approaches.

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