Success factors of Government Innovation Labs

In one of our last blogs, Marie Wutzler and Nicolas Stühlinger introduced the three factors that determine the success of Government Innovation Labs (GIL). They argued that it is essential that its initiators have a clear vision about what shall be achieved, that the results are measured and communicated, and that the lab creates a support network to scale its impact

In this article, Alexander Grünwald from GovLabAustria will provide his reflections on the three success factors outlined above and how they are incorporated in the work of GovLabAustria.

An insider’s perspective

Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Vienna, GovLabAustria is a joint project of the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport and the Danube-University Krems. GovLabAustria was created to provide an open and experimental space for innovation, bringing together stakeholders from different fields in order to develop multidisciplinary and intersectoral approaches to key challenges of public administration on the federal level of government. In doing that, GovLabAustria uses innovative methodologies, such as gamification, Design Thinking and rapid prototyping.

GovLabAustria and its desired impact were developed based on the principles and methods outlined above as well as on an incremental, multidisciplinary and intersectoral approach. Already during the development of GovLabAustria, a first pilot project, focussing on digital public participation in law-making, was designed to test, learn and modify structures and outputs of Austria’s first public sector innovation lab. This pilot was chosen as it anticipates the complexity of future projects and to learn how future projects and services of GovLabAustria have to be set up. Besides developing projects and consulting other administrative units, one of the most important tasks of GovLabAustria is to raise awareness for outcome-oriented public sector innovation and provide civil servants and project partners with state-of-art skills and competencies to drive innovative projects in the public administration and disseminate learnings from its projects.

Communication is a key success factor for any Government Innovation Labs. It is important to safeguard the lab’s survival and the stability of its projects, but crucial to enable open intersectoral innovation. By communicating present and future projects through multiple channels in a transparent and straightforward way, new partners with innovative ideas and approaches become aware of the challenges the innovation lab wants to address. These new partners are then invited to join the projects in a collaborative manner, share their knowledge and profit from the projects’ results. All final results are also communicated through GovLabAustria’s website and its stakeholder events.

Scaling the lab’s impact and multiplying successful projects, remains one of the biggest challenges for any innovation lab. GovLabAustria has developed a network of institutional and individual partners from the start to ensure high-quality project results, close to the needs of users from different fields. Its Sounding Board comprises over 20 experts across public administration, science and academia, the private sector and civil society organizations and supports scaling and dissemination of ideas and projects. Furthermore, it acts as a sphere of reflection for the organization’s further development.

To ensure organizational learning and evidence-based development, monitoring and evaluation are essential. In 2013, Austria introduced outcome orientation as a performance management framework across the federal public administration. Since then, defining outcomes, outputs, inputs and measuring success through sets of indicators is part of Austria’s administrative DNA. Thus, GovLabAustria’s impacts are evaluated on a yearly basis through the federal performance management framework. As GovLabAustria is an experiment in itself, its projects, processes and structures were evaluated in 2019/2020 and a plan for the lab’s further development was designed in cooperation with its Sounding Board and partners; we cannot tell you the details for now, but more is yet to come!

Alexander Grünwald is Head of GovLabAustria and Deputy Head of Department for Strategic Performance Management & Public Sector Innovation at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sports.