Why measure public sector innovation? What we’ve learned so far from the Nordics

8 January 2020

For the past 6 months, Y Lab has been exploring how countries around the world measure public service innovation in different ways. Here’s what we’ve found out so far.

At the end of November, we went to Denmark to meet with thirteen other countries to discuss an emerging method for doing it and understand how we might do this in Wales.

The original and most embedded is the Center for Offentlig Innovation’s Innovation Barometer. In 2015, they decided to work with Statistics Denmark, to develop a survey that would ‘separate myth from reality’ and collect data on how innovative the Danish public sector was. The overarching question was ‘Has there been an innovation in your workplace in the last year and was it evaluated?’.

COI found that four out of five public sector workplaces in Denmark are innovative. They also found that others were interested in this data; soon more Nordic countries were conducting their own surveys to encourage the spread of innovation and experimentation in their own public sectors. 

The OECD’s Oslo Manual, first published in 1992, outlines ways to measure (predominantly private sector) innovation and has been used to collect data on business innovation in at least 80 countries. COI decided it was time to co-create a ‘Copenhagen Manual’ that would enable others to measure public sector innovation and gather data for their own country in a more rigorous, consistent and, hopefully, comparable manner. 

COI gathered 13 countries together in Copenhagen to discuss how to put together the most effective manual for those embarking on their own project. We were lucky enough to be there, able to ask questions of those who had worked on their own measurement projects already, and ultimately think about what we planned to do. 

Why measure PSI in Wales?

All the time that we were there, we wanted to know; what could an innovation survey do for Wales’ public services? 

One of the key benefits expressed by representatives from Sweden, Finland and Norway was that the barometer approach helped to dispel some of the myths that exist around PSI in their countries.  In Denmark, the team found that lots of PSI isn’t being evaluated, either effectively, or in lots of cases at all. This helped them develop new tools for public servants to help develop evaluation of innovations.

So, could we use the data to show what we already have some evidence to suggest – that there are innovations being introduced all over Wales that may not be identified as such? Could we identify cold spots; areas or environments where innovations need more help to succeed? In time, we hope that data collected from a Welsh version of the barometer might help us and others develop a more effective PSI ecosystem.  But we’d also love to hear what you think and how developing a measure for PSI in Wales might be useful to you.

What’s Next?

In early 2020, we will run our own small test survey to adapt the Danish questionnaire to a Welsh context. We’re still discovering and learning from others’ experiences; we will continue being part of the co-creation of the Copenhagen Manual and to share what we learn during our process with others. 

Most of all, we are excited to find out more about the public sector in Wales and how we can support more and more effective innovation in the future.  If you’re interested in taking part in the initial test or our early findings, please get in touch.