Innovation labs as public change agents

Jesper Christiansen and Runa Sabroe of the Danish human-centred internal governmental body MindLab ask how to increase the effectiveness and legitimacy of public sector interventions – both by creating the actual outcomes that are politically intended, and by enabling a more open approach to governance by involving and building on the resources of citizens, communities and other users that could aid in addressing societal issues.

This question is currently being explored by Public and Social Innovation Labs (PSI labs) around the world. Embedding a human-centred design approach in the central admin- istration of government, PSI labs have the potential to address this question by contrib- uting to a shift in the culture of decision-making and by rethinking the practice of public policy. This allows PSI labs to create better outcomes and enable a more effective realisa- tion of political intentions and ideas.

They conclude:

PSI labs can be valuable assets in pursuing better public outcomes. Not only in creating user-centred solutions and service systems facilitating a new relationship be- tween system challenges and citizen interface. Nor only by opening up government to ide- as and experiences outside the system and working with citizens, communities, NGO’s and businesses to co-design and co-produce new solutions. But also by creating a new culture of decision making that transforms the way government works by institutionalizing a new organisational capacity to explore, learn, shape and adapt over time.

Jesper Christiansen (PhD, Head of Research, MindLab) works with complex change process- es and the relationship between strategy and practice in the public sector. He has completed his PhD at MindLab on public innovation with a focus on the cultural, epistemic and systemic implications. Jesper has responsibility for assigning the knowledge and research to Mindlab’s project work.
Runa Sabroe (Program Manager, MindLab) has extensive experience designing and implementing public development projects. As a program manager responsible for Ministry of Education at MindLab, she focuses on interdisciplinary collaboration. She holds a MA in Media Studies and is a popular speaker, facilitator and teacher in Denmark and internationally. She has collaborated with UNDP, the European Commission, Reykjavik University among others.