Governments are facing increasingly complex problems and do not have a repeatable approach for creating solutions that meet citizens needs. Lightning Lab GovTech is a three month government accelerator programme that takes government teams through a six stage innovation process of problem discovery, solution co-design, market validation and technology integration. Through LLGovTech, government departments can create more innovative, efficient and effective solutions to better serve citizens.
Governments are faced with increasingly complex problems. They need a process to put citizens at the centre of problem-solving to ensure solutions implemented address the core need of citizens.
Currently governments make decisions about solutions (e.g., a new product or service) having done a limited amount of experimentation and validation with the end user. This approach increases the risk as they lack evidence that the solution will deliver the desired outcome. For this reason, the citizens often end up with a product or service that does not meet their core need.
About Lightning Lab GovTech (LLGovTech):
LLGovTech is about better serving citizens by creating a more trusted, inclusive and sustainable public sector. As a globally unique accelerator programme, it provides an opportunity for local and central government agencies, from NZ and abroad, to tackle some of the world's biggest and most urgent public sector issues.
LLGovTech is a highly structured three-month innovation programme adapting startup-style innovation science (Agile, Lean, Design Thinking) to create inclusive citizen-led solutions. The timeboxed programme takes a cohort of 10-12 projects from across the public sector through a six stage ‘sprint’ process to truly understood the problem (1. Problem Discovery Sprint), to validate the concept with users and funders (2. Sell Sprint), to co-create a fit-for-purpose solution (3. Design Sprint), to experiment and iterate on the solution to get it right (4. MVP [Minimal Viable Product] Sprint). This is all designed to ensure that the solution creates the desired outcomes. The project teams also plan how to scale their solution to maximise impact, often enabled by technology (5. Scale Sprint) before creating an investment case plan to ensure the financial viability of the project (6. Investment Case Sprint).
Teams are 3-5 full time staff and are a mix of government agency staff and people from the private and community sectors. We ensure each team have the diverse skill sets needed to accelerate their solution, as well as diverse experiences and perspectives to reflect the demographic of the stakeholders. Teams are also well supported through a cross sector advisory board, and Te Ao Māori support. Te Ao Māori support enables teams to effectively consider and engage iwi to uphold the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi - NZ’s foundational document between the indigenous people of NZ and the British Crown.
The value of the programme:
- Solving the root-cause problems and building the right solution to meet citizens needs.
- Enabling co-design and collaboration with citizens and the public and private sectors, leveraging the power of the broader community.
- Effectively engaging iwi and the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in government problem solving.
- Upskilling of government staff in new ways of working through immersive learning by doing.
- De-risking public sector innovation through the experimental, subsidised and timeboxed approach.
- Public sector innovation promotes core government imperatives of trust and transparency.
LLGovTech has run for two years. The 2018 cohort had seven central government, four local government, and one international government (from Chinese Taipei) projects. The programme culminates in a ‘Demo Day’ event where teams present their solution to over 500 attendees, including government ministers and officials, stakeholders, investors and the local community. Projects ranged from creating a personalised, incentivised digital platform that helps kiwis in financial hardship, grow their financial wellbeing (Spring), to developing technology to detect local water facilities leakages (team from Chinese Taipei). 13 months on, 6 out of the 12 2018 projects are in operation, better serving citizens.
The 2019 cohort (Aug-Nov 2019) had six central government and four local government projects. Projects ranged from redesigning the way we measure service providers’ outcomes to focus on a more holistic, community-based measurement of whānau wellbeing, to protecting nature through sustainable human waste management. 7 projects have already secured support to continue developing their solutions.
LLGovTech is an initiative of Creative HQ, a not-for-profit local council controlled organisation in Wellington, NZ. The LLGovTech programme receives sponsorship from corporate partners to subsidise the cost of the programme for government agencies ($50k). Lowering the cost is part of the strategy of de-risking innovation in the public sector.
Our vision is twofold; to continue to grow the LLGovTech programme within NZ around particular issues, such as climate change or health. At the same time we are planning on delivering this programme internationally. We are currently in conversation with Taiwan, Samoa and Pakistan about running in-country LLGovTech programmes.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Lightning Lab GovTech is globally unique in its approach to applying proven innovation methodologies to a government project. While there are hundreds of accelerator programmes across the globe, this is one of very few to work specifically with government.
Further, the Bennett Institute of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge published a report in January 2019 Thinking about GovTech: A Brief Guide for Policymakers, which highlighted Lightning Lab GovTech as one of two accelerators that focus on ‘GovTech’. The other, GovStart in the UK and France, focuses on how tech startups can transform the public sector. The LLGovTech focus is distinct for two main reasons. Firstly, the programme drives innovation from within government agencies who have ownership over the solutions. Secondly, by having public sector employees on the project teams, it is upskilling government staff through immersive learning.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The 2019 programme wrapped up in November 2019 with over 600+ attending the Demo Day, including ministers, government agency CEs as well as community leaders. Organisers are now undergoing an evaluation, including in person qualitative interviews with key stakeholders as well as a quantitative and qualitative survey of all participants. This feedback is then digested in a report articulating actionable improvements for next years programme. LLGovTech organisers are always trying to improve on what they deliver.
LLGovTech is being run again in 2020, so organisers are beginning to run workshops with interested project teams from across government - the process of selecting the most impactful and urgent projects begins.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Cross-agency collaboration and public, private and community sector partnerships are a key component of the programme. Within the 10 teams in the 2019 programme, 9 were cross-agency partnerships which included 6 national agencies, 4 local agencies, 3 NGOS, 3 Startups, and 4 private partners.
The programme is sponsored by private sector partners Spark, (NZ’s largest Telco and Technology provider) and Accenture. Their involvement subsidises the cost and provides tech expertise to the teams.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
User-centricity is a core component of LLGovTech. The six sprint process requires teams to engage the end-users of their solution during problem discovery, solution co-design and MVP development as they iterate on the solution.
Each multidisciplinary team has a Stakeholder Board of relevant govt/NGOs and an Executive Sponsor. The Executive Sponsor is the govt official responsible for long term funding of the project. Their involvement ensures executive buy-in and long-term support for the
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
LLGovTech is contributing to a culture change across govt, to one where trust, inclusivity and sustainability are at the centre of how the public sector serves.
They have a partnership with the local university to track the impact that LLGovTech has on the individuals who participate. The methodology is to survey participants four times looking at aspects such as perception of ability and confidence. LLGovTech creates impact by enabling the success of each project. Impact is a criteria of the project selection process.
For each project, organisers ensure the teams Executive Sponsor (Exec) articulates their desired outcomes in a ‘success statement’ doc. The Exec also financially commits to the project, provided it meets the predetermined outcomes, ensuring resourcing & development after the programme.
6 of the 2018 project teams secured funding to continue and are still active now.
7 of the 2019 project teams have already secured support to continue developing their solution
Challenges and Failures
1. Organisers learnt in 2018 that is was vital to have senior leaders buy-in and to ensure financial commitment to the project after the programme. This was implemented in 2019 to smooth the transition for projects after the programme.
2. Organisers know there are lots of people in govt trying to do new things but management accountability and risk aversion often gets in the way. Finding champions who are willing and eager to put their project in our programme takes time.
However, organisers are seeing increased interest from the colleagues of those who have experienced successful outcomes from the programme.
3. Telling the impact story has been challenging. The data from the local university research will support the anecdotal evidence from teams - for example hearing people are applying the innovative ways of working to their government teams which has had profound effects on their wider agency team, their relationships and work delivered. In the words of organisers: "We are creating intrapreneurs!".
Conditions for Success
Value of public sector innovation
Public servants must a) understand what we mean by public sector innovation and b) see the value of it and how it positively contributes to more trust, transparency and reduced risk - which are core govt imperative.
Leadership within government
We are not government business-as-usual and therefore are powered by public servants who are leaders and willing to challenge the status quo. For example, the leadership of the NZ Minister of Finance who came to visit the teams during the programme.
“We need to show senior leaders and managers that it’s OK to innovate.”
Hon Grant Robertson, New Zealand Minister of Finance
The end of the LLGovTech programme is just the beginning for the project teams. Ensuring time and funding support to continue is necessary. Working together with the broader public sector innovation ecosystem is vital to align resources e.g. cross govt innovation funds and budget cycles.
Replication of innovation process
The structure of LLGovTech replicates the innovation process across different projects at once. Organisers spent time distilling why their process works, as not all innovation is replicable.
Innovation is often defined as something that is:
1. New or better
This type of innovation happens across government, but often in an ad hoc fashion that isn’t replicable. The opportunity LLGovTech is creating is taking structured innovation methods and applying them to public sector problems that result in a solution that is new, gets implemented, and adds value. They call this process Innovation by Method.
Replication of programme
The vision is to replicate the programme within NZ and across the globe. They are developing collateral (GovTech-in-a-box) to make the programme easily replicable and scalable. Organisers also see LLGovTech being applicable to OECD projects, UN programmes and other international impact organisations.
Nurturing relationships across government is needed to build trust. It’s all about the people; senior leaders, managers, and people in the teams. Maintaining these relationships will help you grow your community.
It takes time to build credibility
Governments are more likely to support something with successful case studies as evidence it works, and this credibility takes time. Communicating your success stories is the most useful sales tool to get the value of your initiative across to senior leaders.
It’s hard work at times, but rewarding to be doing such meaningful work - we need to keep at it!
Governments both reflect and influence the culture of society - building more inclusive, sustainable public sectors across the globe will encourage more accepting and compassionate societies, which we are in need of.
“If you take creative people with big problems, add some government backing; this is how we’re going to change things.”
Programme Sponsor, Spark NZ
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
17 November 2020