Beyond Ideas – enabling a culture of innovation for improved public services (September 2019)

Part of: The Innovation Lab, The Innovation Lab - Case studies, publications and external resources

This report explores the state of innovation in the public sector in Northern Ireland. It is the result of research into innovation in the public sector and in the Northern Ireland Civil Service in particular. It is the product of collaboration between the Innovation Lab and the Centre for Effective Services, as part of the wider GOAL Programme.

Why you should read this report

Beyond Ideas is offered as a stimulus to thinking differently; it shares

insights on innovation and implementation, based on interviews and wider engagement with senior public sector leaders. Among those interviewed was the Head of the NI Civil Service – David Sterling, a willing participant it the work that went into this report and endorsed the report at its launch. The report itself reflects views as to what may be required to embed creativity, innovation and implementation within public services in order to foster the level of innovation needed to deliver better outcomes.

This report is designed to be a useful resource for staff across the Northern Ireland public sector. It introduces you to a number of systemic, radical and incremental innovations from our recent past. The authors try show that there is a process that can be used in innovation – an ‘innovation curve’ with recognisable stages and show that there are ‘public entrepreneurs’ at work around you. The report points to evidence that old policies and programmes survive despite weak evidence of their positive impact – this sometimes hinders the adoption of great new ideas and they stay small. If you are a leader in the public sector or aspire to be one, then this report will tell you about the opportunity and obligation to unlock innovation.

If you would like a hard copy of the report, please e-mail the Innovation Lab and they will arrange for a copy to be sent to you: e-mail:

The team involved in this work

From the Innovation Lab:

Malcolm Beattie

Malcolm heads up the NI Public Sector Innovation Lab. He was instrumental in its launch in 2014 and has overseen the evolution of the Lab to the point where it offers innovation through design, experimentation and creativity to address complex public sector problems.

Tony Young

Tony is a service designer in the Innovation Lab. He is also a civil servant with more than 30 years’ experience serving the citizens of Northern Ireland.

From the Centre for Effective Services

Irene Hewitt

Irene Hewitt an associate consultant with CES. She specialises in organisation development and has designed and led numerous leadership programmes. Irene supports leaders to guide their organisations through complex environments and is an experienced coach.

Majella McCloskey

Majella heads up CES’s work in Northern Ireland, including its support to government departments, agencies, funding bodies and voluntary and community organisations. She has led the roll out of the Goal Programme for Public Service Reform within Northern Ireland.

Melanie Stone

Melanie works in CES in their practice development. This includes supporting the design and implementation of programmes aimed at transformational change and a range of voluntary and community projects. She is also involved in making evidence available and useable for practitioners to improve outcomes. Melanie’s background is in statutory social work in children’s services.


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