Government agencies around the world are making dedicated teams responsible for policy and program innovation. These teams are often small, but have specific responsibility to drive forward innovative practices. That means that they are often in touch with the techniques that other organizations are deploying and the best ways to harness talents within and beyond the agency. Those in the “skunkworks” don’t have to deal with the day-to-day tasks that people with lead responsibility for a policy area often have, so they have the necessary time and resources to really think creatively and to ensure that innovation is put into practice.
The U.K. Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit was set up in 1998, and other countries including France, Australia, and Japan have copied its model. The unit’s members aren’t experts in any policy area. They are instead experts on thinking creatively to solve problems. The Danish agency MindLab is another example. The team’s values include challenging traditional thinking and bureaucracy, challenging teammates’ thinking, and experimenting with the objective in mind.
The U.S. Department of Education’s new Office of Innovation and Improvement administers a significant funding program designed to promote innovation in education and brings teachers together at the department to help develop policy on improving the quality of public education. It also publishes “innovation in education” guides that showcase effective forms of innovation across public schools. Programs such as these have real potential to make government more responsive and efficient.
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