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The Service Innovation Lab has gone from a good idea to a very active and well-functioning All of Government entity in the space of 18 months.

It has been funded through the cross-agency innovation fund to help deliver the Service Innovation Work Programme.

At a celebration for those who have contributed to the Lab’s progress General Manager Service Innovation Karl McDiarmid said the Lab was established to enable agencies across government to work together to make it easier to deliver better services for people.

“It has helped break down the barriers and silos that exist within agencies by providing a neutral space where we can all work collaboratively to design and deliver new services. 

“The approach has been to centralise cross-agency decision making and funding so projects are supported by a consistent approach and driven and implemented through joint ownership and commitment. Supporting that focus has been the dedicated leadership and governance from the Service innovation Working and Reference Groups, who collectively ensure we continue to have the momentum to deliver.

Four staff from the lab at the celebration.

Tiopira Piripi, Darryl Carpenter, Clare Toufexis and Karl McDiarmid at the Lab celebration

Michelle Edgerley talked about the early days of integrated services.  “When we went out to talk to public service colleagues about how we could integrate services around the needs of people, almost without exception people could see the benefits of user-centricity and related quickly and empathetically to the stories of user pain. 

“The story we were telling about people’s experiences of government services, the integrated service model, agencies working together in new ways and then how we could help them was quite overwhelming and it was really hard for people to take it all in.  They needed to hear the story 3, 4, 5 times and they picked up something new each time.  We saw people nodding as they listened and it seemed they understood, but they didn't get it ... and they still didn't get it ... and they still didn't get it ... and then suddenly they did.  It was so cool to see those lightbulb moments happen. These people then become our champions.

“We told stories, we drew diagrams and models, we ran workshops, we gave presentations, we wrote papers. The biggest challenge we had was that, in those early days, we couldn’t show people “the thing” and we knew that we needed to do that for people to understand how the conceptual ideas, frameworks and models of customer-centric service design and delivery would work in practice. 

Rachel Prosser talked about the early days of the first physical Lab, operating from the Assurity offices with the support of the Assurity team. 

“Cross agency work has long relied on people who can navigate their way through rules and take the tiny windows available to them.  Often the work succeeds despite the system settings, not because of them.

“I used to do a demo in the lab by attaching two stretchy physio bands to pillars, and then having people put them around their waist, stand in the middle and meet.  It is possible to stand there and work together, but it takes a lot of energy, and you were always pulled away to the different direction. It is heartening that we are beginning to see the changes across the system which are beginning to make this easier.”

Rachel said the Lab’s real successes are very evident: quicker progress, cross-pollination and, knowledge-sharing, making cross-agency collaboration and sharing easier, and building capability of a diverse range of people

Three staff from the lab at the celebration.

Rachel Prosser, John Draper and Michelle Edgerley at the Lab celebration

Lab lead Pia Andrews (who is off to Australia) said it had been “such a privilege” to work in New Zealand and develop new ways of working.  “New Zealand is the best place in the world to do system transformation because we are a relatively small but smart, nimble, naturally innovative country with big ambitions and the drive to get on and deliver things.” She had learned a lot and noted the principles of being evidence based, working in the open and human-centred design are critical to the Lab’s success.

Nadia Webster, current Lab lead, says the focus is to continue to build capability within agencies and grow the Lab team to support an ambitious Service Innovation work programme.

“We’re really opening minds through explaining the different approaches to service delivery and it is starting to make a difference.”

Manager of Integrated Services Darryl Carpenter thanked the reference and governance teams for “giving permission” to work this way as the basis for advancing their work programme agenda.  He reiterated the service innovation work programme is more than the Lab;  which is an enabler for the work programme which includes the following elements:

  • Integrated services, such as SmartStart or Renting a Property
  • Proactive Delivery,  to improve access to services such as the Community Services Card or Rates Rebates
  • Digital transactions, continuing to support agency efforts as they transition from non-digital to digital channels
  • Digital Identity, supporting the RealMe part of the government’s Digital Identity work and linking in with the emerging Digital Identity transition work
  • Consent based-information sharing and linking in with the data and information work being led by StatsNZ
  • Digital Inclusion to identify and measure the effectiveness of possible government initiatives closing the digital divide. 

“A big part of our work involves information sharing across the agencies as well as building capability to work in a new way and with a new mind-set.  Supporting all of this is our Foundations work, including the Innovation Lab itself, developing an Innovation toolkit, supporting the emerging national network of innovation labs as well as the service design and developer communities of practice.

Tim Occleshaw, Deputy Chief Executive of the Service and System Transformation branch within DIA, said there is strong interest within government regarding the fantastic work happening in the Lab. 

“It’s great to celebrate achieving the important things that are happening here and will continue.”

If you'd like to stay across the work coming out of the Service Innovation Lab, please join mailing list

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