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23

Mar

Public Sector Innovation: My journey through Lightning Lab Govtech

In March 2019, I joined a pool of nearly one hundred participants, mentors, challenge authors and innovation experts in being a part of Smart Seeds Wellington 2019, ready to tackle some significant challenges facing Wellington.

Public Sector Innovation: Lightning Lab Govtech

Intergen has been involved with Smart Seeds, an innovation program run annually by GHD, since its inception. Over ten weeks, young professionals have access to the tools and support they need, to use innovative ideas and design thinking methods to solve some of the major problems facing their local communities. As a participant, I was very excited to learn these techniques, meet new people and take a bite out of a tough challenge.

The Smart Seeds program culminates with a final showcase to an audience composed of a large group of business owners, executives, and city leaders.

My team and I managed to pique the interest of the Wellington City Council, who were impressed with our approach to solving the problem we had chosen, “How do we balance conversations about public interest projects from ‘Not in my backyard’ (NIMBY) to ‘Yes in my backyard’ (YIMBY)?”.

They wanted to see our idea further incubated, and with the support of the Wellington City Council, Intergen, and Greater Wellington Regional Council, myself and two others from our team of four (miss you Joeli!) were given a chance to participate in the Lightning Lab Govtech 2019 -  and we eagerly jumped at the opportunity.

Lightning Lab is a structured innovation accelerator program, based on the startup culture and agile methodologies, designed to bring about breakthrough innovation in places where it may not always be common.

Creative HQ runs several Lightning Lab iterations each year, and Govtech is the version adapted explicitly to service public sector organisations. The chance for us to learn innovation methods, agile methodologies and experience the public sector from a new perspective was extremely valuable. Being based in Wellington, the heart of New Zealand’s public sector, was one of the reasons I wanted to make the most of this chance.

I wasn’t sure if I had considered myself to be an ‘innovator’ before, but I am certainly someone who likes to solve problems and someone who generates far more ideas than I could ever follow through. I quickly found that I was in my element for the three months of the program.

My teams’ journey through the program began with an in-depth Problem Discovery phase, gathering a deep understanding of the issues we faced. As we were looking to solve the problem of negativity and non-representative engagement on public interest projects, this meant an extensive set of empathy-based user interviews and data collection, SME interviews and more, trying to gather the right insights on our problem to further our progress. After all, if you want to solve a problem, it is vital that you first understand it.

Following this phase, we began to analyse our insights and ideate solutions through a Sell Sprint phase, ensuring at every step that our potential innovative solutions would be suitable for both our end-users and the clients that were reaching out to engage with these users.

Once we had settled on a solution to the problem, we began to move towards designing, prototyping, testing, and developing early MVP versions of our solution. Key to this phase is user interaction, involving both the end-users of your creation and the organisation who needs your creation.

When you work in an Agile way, this process is fast and often fun. As your initial prototypes will become something quite special, quite fast, I found this very rewarding.

Public Sector Innovation: Smart City

Our project was well received at all of stages of Lightning Lab by Wellington City Council and by our end-users, which meant we could focus our remaining time at Lightning Lab embedding our ideas, changes, and tools to engage with the public.

We garnered support from key stakeholders throughout the organisation, while reaching out to specific teams to continue our work immediately and into the future. Our project is currently working its way within WCC, with the support of the end-users in the community and those using our solution to engage with them.

We are very proud to have brought a little slice of innovation to a wicked problem, and to begin to make a difference for the general public and the public sector alike.

I had a great time at Lightning Lab, and I learned that with the right support, technical skills, and motivation, innovation is more than just a buzzword. Innovation can help to solve problems that have been in communities for a long time. Innovation is not just about getting hold of the latest and greatest gadgets or sitting in a room long enough for a bright spark idea to form. Innovation is about wanting to do things differently and wanting to do things better. Every time you do something in a way different from how it was done before, you are innovating. Every idea you have that hasn’t been done before is a little piece of innovation, no matter how small it seems to you. Innovation brings about improvement, whether incremental or breakthrough and often embracing change as a driver will pay great dividends for organisations, as it has for Wellington City Council.

My time at Lightning Lab Govtech 2019 was fantastic, and I feel very grateful for having the opportunity to really embrace innovation through the program and bring it into my work and career.

I would like to make a special thank you note to my teammates Hannah Geddis and Olivia Stevens, Wellington City Council, Creative HQ and the Lightning Lab team, the Govtech 2019 sponsors, and of course Intergen for being innovative, being different, and being a part of this journey for me.

If you want to hear more about our work, the program itself, or want to talk about what innovation means to you, please reach out to me anytime.

Posted by: Adam Fenemore, Associate Developer | 23 March 2020

Tags: Government, Smart Seeds


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