Latvia has developed an Innovation lab for user centric policy making via diverse innovative methodologies. We integrated innovative approaches to policy making at the very center of public administration, aiming to tackle complex horizontal issues via cross sectoral co-creation in development and testing of solution prototypes. InLab has become a national live testbed for new policy planning approaches with a vision of extending its impact to regional level.
The novelty of the project is in the way how problem solving is being carried out in the public sector in Latvia, which is the most important aspect to the context of innovation. It is not usual to organise design thinking workshops by involving stakeholders from the very beginning (even before a problem is defined) within the project in order to find solutions that could be later implemented. The project involves a systematic approach in addressing the needs of public sector innovation. So far there has been no public sector laboratory in Latvia, nor any other similar format that would be devoted to tackle specific cross-sectoral issues like public sector human resources as a whole, value-based public sector reputation and brand, and reducing administrative simplification. In terms of these specific topics our innovation is a completely new practice in terms of how solutions are being created.
It is a new practice of Latvia's public sector in general, which contributes to the public sector becoming more user-friendly, less bureaucratic, and targeted to solve cross-sectoral issues. Some of the issues the Lab is solving have not been solved for many years, therefore it is only possible to solve them by new approaches - creative, open, well facilitated design thinking workshops that always put the "customer", whether citizen, entrepreneur or public servant in the middle to ensure that the problem solution is serving stakeholder needs. Also project novelty lays in the fact that the State Chancellery, the entity who is leading the project, has become a new actor in the common innovation ecosystem in Latvia. This has highlighted the public sectors' need for itself to become more innovative, rather than just creating an environment for other sectors to be innovative.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The Innovation Laboratory is the driver of public administration innovation in Latvia right under the Prime Minister in State Chancellery, which is the peak of public administration structure. InLab promotes cross-sector, cross-institution, and cross-department collaboration in developing user centric policy solutions. InLab work's methodology is based on the British Design Council's Double Diamond design process, which focuses on user needs for designing the best possible policy solution. In addition we use dynamic development (Agile) or the principles of an iterative approach – solutions are not created trying to solve everything at once, but gradually. InLab works in “sprints” or fixed-term agile project sessions designing policy solutions for horizontal challenges or problem situations, engaging participants from various institutions of public administration as well as experts and potential policy users in the policy design process.
What is the current status of your innovation?
InLab is in its most active phase and currently the product portfolio is under development, with an intention of expanding the approaches used in the Lab and adding behavioural insights, systems thinking, foresight, and design imagining approaches. There is a large list of prototypes which have been developed within InLab and have been implemented as horizontal policy solutions, such as Remunerations policy for medical personal in Latvia, Administrative simplification strategy, Future of Work policy, Shadowing and Entrepreneur programme, and more. Inlab introduced a revolutionary approach to policy making and currently we plan to expand to Latvia's regions.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The Innovation Lab was established in 2018 as a prototype or proof of concept testing design thinking user centric approaches in policy planning activities. With strong partners as the OECD's OPSI, DEMOS, PWC, OXFORD Intelligence and support of the EC DG Reform, InLab has proved the pilot concept and secured national budget for permanent activities. Locally we maintain a horizontal cross-ministerial impact.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Citizens are engaged in policy planning at the very beginning of the process and have a much greater impact on the end result as well as become co-owners of the policy. Government officials have access to novel and effective methodologies for user centric policy planning, and as a result perform better in their sectoral responsibilities. Civil society organisations benefit from recognising the transparency of the policy planning process and user centrism. Companies engage as either experts or policy users.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Some of the results to mention:
- Over 108 co-creating sessions and 1 hackathon
- 47 prototypes or solution designs were developed that were tested in the laboratory and which had potential to be implemented in a real environment in the form of a pilot project
- Over 300 people involved in various roles during sprints
- Fostering overall innovation culture in Latvia's public sector, ensuring proper stakeholder involvement as well as demonstrating the way regarding how the problems should be solved using a user-centric approach.
- An innovation expert network was established across the public sector
Multiple prototypes have been implemented:
- Innovation handbook
- Experimentation guidelines for public sector
- Future of Work guidelines
- Shadowing entrepreneur
- Decreasing administrative burden handbook
- Remuneration policy for medical personnel
An overarching impact has been the naturalisation of the user-centric approach in InLab, which in turn contributes to changing the mindset of the public sector and the culture of policy making.
Challenges and Failures
- Struggle to move from ideas to implementation particularly piloting prototypes of policies or services in a meaningful way
- Low involvement of senior decision-makers to be ‘sponsors’ or ‘owners’ of policy challenges, proposed outcomes, and prototypes
- Lack of resources and internal expertise within the Lab to conduct design for policy interventions, resulting in a reliance on external, particularly international, consultants
Conditions for Success
This is an exciting time for the Innovation Lab as it embarks on its third phase of operation contributing to transformation of the public sector through design and expanding to the regional level. Innovation Lab has an enormous potential but it still needs a critical ''user'' mass across the public sector as well as horizontal recognition across the wider innovation ecosystem. We believe that boosting internal capacity and simultaneously engaging in regional collaboration are success factors for InLab. We have secured a stable financial support for the next planning period which enables us to boost coverage nationwide.
This model is definitely replicable and what is most essential - it is replicable at a rather modest budget impact. The model of the InLab has been tested in a pilot version previously, and has been improved and adjusted via user consulted process minimizing cost and burden on acting human resources. The Lab is built in a way that ensures sustainability - project activities are tailored to build public sector capacity and particularly capacity of the State Chancellery to hold strong in-house consultants in public sector innovation and design thinking and to improve policy making focusing on the user across public sectors. This model has no cultural or institutional particularities which could hinder replication or scaling it. Separate implemented prototypes can also be replicated in other levels, for instance the methodology for admin simplification, can be used in governmental, and also municipal level ( https://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/media/8527/download).
Other practical results for possible transfer or adaptation are the Experimentation Guidelines for the Latvian Public Sector, developed in 2021 by the think tank Demos Helsinki in close collaboration with the Observatory of Public Sector Innovation and the Innovation Laboratory. The guidelines define an experiment as a structured process of trying out policy ideas in order to enable learning and iteration before scaling takes place. Experimentation offers governments opportunities to create effective, people-centred policies and services by enabling engagement and co-creation with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the process. It mitigates risks by enabling the testing of solutions before significant investments have been made. Using experimentation helps create evidence-based policies and enables quick learning in early phases by revealing what works and what does not.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
29 July 2023