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Created by the Public Governance Directorate

This website was created by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), part of the OECD Public Governance Directorate (GOV).

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The Service Innovation Lab

The Lab is an all-of-government neutral space enabling agencies to collaboratively innovate to make it easier for people to access government services. It's a design & development lab to experiment, drive and enable the systemic change of government for the benefit of society. We are providing a way to direct public funding to systemic improvements, horizontal efforts around shared goals, capability uplift, high value reusable components and actionable innovation for all participating agencies.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Our focus is to always to collaborate and enable greater innovation throughout the public service in the course of our work, The Service Innovation Lab, working with agencies and partners across New Zealand, provides a good example of how genuine collaboration around shared goals can drive better outcomes for everyone.

During the 2017-18 financial year (its first) the Lab completed all deliverables. The team also explored the unique value proposition of the Lab which will help inform the cross-agency governance bodies on what work is best done through the Lab.

During the year we looked at emerging technologies and trends and their implications for government and we explored system barriers and opportunities for genuine digital transformation of the New Zealand public sector.

In June 2018, the Service Innovation Working Group (SIWG, the Lab oversight governance body) agreed to increase support for the Service Innovation Work Programme, including work done in and with the Lab, for initiatives agreed by the Service Innovation Reference Group (SIRG).
This vote of confidence, especially in the absence of a requirement for agencies to fund the work programme, speaks volumes about the confidence generated in the Lab and work programme as a means for agencies to accelerate the design and delivery of better services for the people of New Zealand Aotearoa.

The Lab is a credit to the Service Innovation Reference and Working Groups (our cross agency governance groups), the agency teams and partners who came together with the Lab around building better services for people around life events and proactive entitlements, and the dedicated Service Innovation team who have worked to deliver and support both an environment conducive to genuine collaboration, and a highly skilled workforce to support service innovation.

The Lab has had a good year moving through start-up phase to a small scale operational team that can support agencies in the design and development of better public services. A highly skilled team has been established around the key goal of improving government services for New Zealanders. It also aims to enable systemic transformation of the public sector through collaboration and apply design and development best practices with a whole of system, user journey and life event based lens. The team has operated under great uncertainty but delivered above expectations to prove the value of such a cross-agency function as an enabler of genuine service innovation.

The work and the way of working (openly) generates a continuous pipeline of opportunities which will continue to be presented to SIRG each meeting for discussion and prioritisation, where the opportunities align with and complement the work programme as agreed.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

We are a design and development lab which works across many government agencies to experiment, drive and enable the systemic change of government for the benefit of society.
We are providing a way to direct public funding to systemic improvements, horizontal efforts around shared goals, capability uplift, high value reusable components and actionable innovation for all participating agencies. We identify and explore system barriers to innovation and transformation of government, from policy through to service delivery, while actively working to deliver working prototypes of new approaches to integrated service delivery that is designed around the needs of the user.

What is the current status of your innovation?

The Service Innovation team is gearing up for a big increase in activity following finalisation of funding and an approved work programme.

The Digital Government Partnership has now confirmed funding for the Service Innovation work programme for the coming year, showing the breadth of the work the Service Innovation Working and Reference Groups want to progress. We will continue to prioritise the work based on urgency and what our All Of Government agencies have the capacity to focus on. Several streams of work are underway at different stages including Rates Rebate, Renting a Property, Notice of Sale and some work on Better Rules across government. Others are emerging as we talk with agencies to scope what is needed.

To deliver the Lab team is growing to round out its skill set and capacity. We’re interested in hearing from anyone who could contribute to the core lab team and who is dedicated to making a difference for the people of New Zealand.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

We’ve worked with people across central and local government, companies and non-government organisations to collaborate. By taking a cross-agency view and working openly in a neutral space our joint efforts have enabled a system approach to design and delivery, a lift in capability and better services. Where there is a shared need it creates new models for exploring and solving shared goals. For example we developed an easy way for low income ratepayers to find out what rebate they could get.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

The key outcome achieved for citizens with the rates rebate project is that applicants feel empowered. With government agencies, non-government organisations and companies, all feel a sense of achievement, shared purpose and enthusiasm for the possibilities of reusing information components. When people from other agencies work with us they also 'learn by doing', getting an appreciation for the people who use public services, their context and what works for them.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

Over the past year the Lab has delivered:

  • 6 Scopings (tertiary education, city taxes, property rental, health immunisations, immigration and corrections)
  • 5 pre-Discoveries and Discoveries (education, renting and turning 65)
  • 3.5 Prototypes and Alphas (city rates rebates, police, turning 65, low income support)
  • 6 Reusable Components (Services Register, Entitlements Engine/Legislation-as-Code, Open-sourcing, Data Model, Reusable Components, Service Analytics Proof of Concept)

Results can be seen from a commitment by agencies to continue and increase their involvement, the need for a major increase in staff to meet demand and response to the blogging of our work. We’ve measured the uptake of life event services. Other results include savings across government from reusable components.

Challenges and Failures

Key barriers that continue to make progress harder relate to:

  • Governance and Leadership – a lack of collective ownership and accountability
  • Prioritisation – where agency priorities override agreed cross-agency priorities
  • Funding –a lack of sustainable funding for both innovation and operational delivery of cross-agency initiatives.

We are working through these issues at a governance level.

We also had some issues over venues – after initially setting up, we identified we needed a space neutral. Unfortunately we needed to vacate the new space and had to relocate to our third venue. We now have a more secure and much better venue which is being well used.

We have responded through resilience, being able to work digitally, and the support of agencies thanks to the building of strong relationships at a variety of levels.

Conditions for Success

The success we’ve achieved has been due to:

  • Growing maturity of the Digital Government Partnership to lead system-wide change
  • Dedicated leadership and governance who consistently attend and engage in regular meetings and decision points, ensureing continued momentum on delivery of the Work Programme
  • A prioritised work programme ensuring collaboration while keeping resources focused on common areas of need
  • Consistent focus on evidence- and values-based, user-centred design for integrated and systemic solutions that work across agency boundaries
  • A neutral Lab environment that uses a skilled core team and multi-disciplinary approach to:
    • support agency collaboration
    • facilitate a human-centric service design process using agile methods that develops reusable components and promotes system thinking.


The Lab was established for agencies across government to work together to make it easier to deliver better services for people.

It has helped to break down barriers and silos within agencies (including set up and processing time and costs) by providing a neutral space, the tools and people to collaborate.
Our special way of working includes cloud-based tools on tap and an experienced team, skilled at navigating processes so projects get underway instantly, saving significant agency time in everyone getting up to speed. Additional benefits include results from work on better rules and legislation-as-code with system-wide impacts.

Other Lab environments do not offer neutrality, so they are generally only used across agencies or organisations when the host is involved.
Our work has earned us a national and international reputation, encouraging others to come and use the Lab. There is now a real groundswell of interest in our work and we can tap into a wide range of resources.

Lessons Learned

We have been helping create a revolutionary new way of doing government through establishing a uniquely cross-agency funded and governed all-of-government function, for collaborating on the design and development of better public services for New Zealand.

By taking a "life journey" approach, agencies have a reason to work together to improve the full experience of people rather than the usual (and natural) focus on a single product, service or portfolio.
The Service Innovation Lab has a unique value in providing an independent place and way to explore design-led and evidence-based approaches to service innovation, in collaboration with service providers across public, private and non-profit sectors.

Through our optimistic futures work we have explored what is possible, rather than just iterate away from pain, and our exploration of better rules for government including legislation as code. The next stage for the Lab is very exciting! We have an ambitious work programme to accelerate the delivery of more integrated and more proactive services with a growing team.

Everything we do in the Lab is focused on systemic change, and it’s doing a great job at having an impact on the NZ (and global) system around it. But there is a lot more than needs to be done to scale both innovation and transformation involving a rethink of how the entire system functions, especially at the policy and legislative levels.

We believe public services should engage constructively and respectfully with indigenous communities, not just because they are part of society or because it is the right thing to do, but to integrate important principles and context into the work of serving society. We have a lot to learn from them in how we live and work today.