A few free gifts for you this week: I made the newsletter pink, we made you an app, there's a free workshop, and three questions to ponder.

We got a bunch of new subscribers between our last musing and this one so thank you for sharing this with friends and colleagues. I know how many newsletters exist these days. Genuinely appreciate anyone opening this one.

If you are new, this is the States of Change newsletter, we help individuals and institutions become more experimental, participatory and agile so they can respond to the challenges of our age. Subscribe here for more or unsubscribe and say goodbye!



🔨 A tool to empower public innovators and learn the skills and attitudes of innovative teams.

⛰️ Get an intro to our Foundations of Innovation Practice course. Free workshop. 25th March.

📓 Test your assumptions to close the gap between what you think works, and finding out what actually does.

A screenshot of the app. It says Empowering public innovators.

A tool to empower public innovators

For a time, innovators in government were seen as the people comfortable with creative thinking, sticky notes and brainstorming. But we think it takes more than that. That’s why, at Nesta, we created the Competency Framework, to show the full range of what we believe it takes to work on public problems.

That was way before Covid-19 and before so many of us worked remotely.

So we turned that framework into an app to help you learn about what those skills and attitudes are. So you can better understand your own role in changing the world for good. You can use the app online, on your own or with a team. It’s a beta version so try it out, and let us know how you get on with it.

Launch the app

An intro to The Foundations of Innovation Practice

If we’re facing multiple, urgent, overlapping challenges then organisations and governments need to be able to adapt and respond. Join Brenton for this hour long introductory session to our foundations course to explore the skills and attitudes necessary for public problem solving and six principles for navigating complex public problems, a simple set of principles that we find is effective in cutting through the noise.

Free | Thursday 25 March | Online | 12-1pm AEST

Book a place
A painting of sunlight coming behind some tall trees.

Testing your assumptions

Teams we work with are sometimes daunted by innovation methods. The Landscape of innovation approaches captures just how many we’ve come across (111 so far!). They range from the fashionable to the business as usual, spanning from design thinking to data analytics and everything in between. It’s no wonder it’s hard to know where to begin, what methods to use, or why defaulting to what we’ve always done is easiest. Under pressure, we reach for what we know, rather than explore the space of the unobvious (where the gold lies).

These three questions have helped teams to see the wood for the trees and reveal the knowledge, assumptions and gaps of their project. We hope they might help you too:

  1. What do you know for sure?
  2. What do you think you know for sure (but which you don’t have evidence for)?
  3. What is it that you don’t know?
Three circles with the words knowledge, assumptions, and gaps in the centre of each.

Community noticeboard

After the thread last time about system thinking Geoff Mulgan has written about how the rhetoric of thinking systemically can be turned into action. Take that ‘analysis paralysis’!

A story of data and how you don’t know what you don’t know. Important when data is “how our leaders apprehend reality. In a sense, data are the government's reality. As a gap opened between the data that leaders imagined should exist and the data that actually did exist, it swallowed the country’s pandemic response". Ooof.

Write reports? Read this on writing them. Your readers will be grateful. “The most important work is not writing the final report; it’s the constant effort throughout the project to understand, to get to the point, and strip away distractions”.

If you are into public procurement reform like Sascha is into public procurement reform then these consultant jobs to help design and run some workshops on that topic are worth a look, and if interested add your details to this shared document.

Aly shared how they’re trying to help teams stay cohesive in a world where a lot of us still work online only; build a structure and make space for reflection. I’m not even sharing just because they publicly rated this newsletter along with some great ones.

Have you introduced something novel into the public sector and seen it have a wider impact? Time to blow your own horn in the direction of Gian who is doing a PhD and would like you to share your experiences for what looks set to be some useful research.

With your average case study “we get half the story: sanitised of missteps, triumphant over adversity, effortless”. I re-read Legible Practices and a lesson I love is project blogging (pg 75), for capturing a genuine record of what happened. Added bonus: “how can I know what I think until I see what I say?”

Oldie but a goodie, Joeri on the different levels of public innovation maturity. Speaking of immaturity, (mostly my own), he quotes Al Etmanski who compared innovation to teenage sex; “Everyone is talking about it, but few have done it. And no one is particularly good at it yet. The only way to learn is by doing it."

Maybe like Nicole, you’re hoping to take improv classes so you can style it out after another Zoom meltdown. You can actually practise your own Zoom malfunctions if you’ve avoided them so far.

The trees image for this week’s newsletter came via this awesome catalogue of free to use museum images (useful for your project blogs 😉).

If you’ve got something you’d like to share please send it my way!

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