Public Sector Innovation

Introduction to Public Sector Innovation

The challenges of our neighbourhoods, cities and towns, provinces and our country are not getting any simpler or easier. It’s becoming increasingly clear that governments absolutely cannot solve these tough problems by themselves. All levels of government are experiencing unfamiliar territory, facing very complex problems and decreasing financial resources to address them. They need to find new, effective ways to work with others, to integrate relevant information and knowledge, and to discover new roles that support the most positive impact possible; the impact that matters to all of us.

Innovation in the public sector encourages new forms of collaboration across government ministries and departments, and between government and the organizations, businesses and people that their policies will affect. Public Sector Innovation is not a new concept, but it is being more widely accepted as necessary and experimented with to understand how best to do it.

Dip into Public Sector Innovation

There are a growing number of examples of innovation happening within different governments. One very interesting example is the MindLab that is part of the national government of Denmark. Watch this video of the lead at MindLab, Christian Bason, talking about the process and the impact of his work.

Closer to home, the government of British Columbia formed a special Advisory Committee on Social Innovation in 2011. This tri-sectoral committee released recommendations to support the work of social entrepreneurs and social innovators in BC. Read this report, which outlines the recommendations going forward from this ground-breaking initiative, to see what’s possible when government collaborates differently to support social change.

To implement the action plan above the Council proposed the creation of the BC Partners for Social Impact. Co-Chair of this initiative is Molly Harrington, Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, BC. Molly recently joined a webinar with SiG to discuss where public sector innovation and social innovation meet.

If you’re involved in social change activities, then you may need to engage in, or connect to, efforts to create policy change and to support innovation in government. In this short video, Sean Moore, SiG Fellow and Founder of the Advocacy School explains the value of policy advocacy and encourages individuals and organizations to build the necessary knowledge, skills and relationships to perform this role effectively.

Moore explains what public policy advocacy is and why it’s important to public sector innovation.


The Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) was the world’s first municipal agency designed to innovate solutions to climate change. Over the years they have refined their approach, adopting an innovation framework to find partners and scale their impact beyond the Greater Toronto Area.

Dive into Public Sector Innovation

If you are interested in the impact that strategic policy making can have on social innovation, this paper by Frances Westley and Michele-Lee Moore from SiG partner, the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience, offers important insights.

You might also check out these two great books on why innovation is absolutely necessary in the public sector and how it can be realized. One is a detailed account of the work of Mind Lab in Denmark by Christian Bason.

The other is a recent publication by Jocelyne Bourgon, a Canadian who led an international inquiry into the new reality of what it means to govern in the 21st century.

For more resources and training opportunities to become more effective at public policy advocacy, visit

Our west coast SiG partner, Al Etmanski maintains a terrific blog on all subjects explored in the Hub. Check out his stream on public policy here.

Note: A complete list of all SiG educational resources can be found in our publicly-available document library. We hope you’ve found this pathway to learning about public sector innovation helpful.