Urenio Watch Watch: Innovation

i-teams Report

i-teams_june_2014-1Drawing on an in-depth literature review, over 80 interviews, and surveys, i-teams report tells the stories of 20 teams, units and funds, all are established by government, and all are charged with making innovation happen. The i-teams case studied are based in city, regional and national governments across six continents, and work across the spectrum of innovation ‘“ from focusing on incremental improvements to aiming for radical transformations.

These teams take different approaches, but all are part of a movement that is building momentum fast, and that is bringing knowledge and practices developed in other fields into the heart of public service. By drawing on the disciplines of design and user engagement, open innovation and cross- sector collaboration, and mobilising data and insights in new ways, the i-teams are creating a new kind of experimental government.


The greatest concentration of i-teams is in Europe and North America, but the number in Asia is rising fast. There are fewer in Africa, where the leading innovation organisations tend to be NGOs, and beyond the scope of this study.

Key findings

  • All governments need institutions to catalyse innovation. The best mayors and ministers recognise this and put in place i-teams, dedicated teams, units and funds, to structure and embed innovation methods and practice in government.
  • i-teams fall into one of four categories: creating solutions to solve specific challenges, engaging citizens, non-profits and businesses to find new ideas, transforming the processes, skills and culture of government, or achieving wider policy and systems change. They are overcoming a range of issues, from reducing murder rates, making it easier to register a business, improving school performance, to booting economic growth.
  • Drawing on desk research, site visits, over 80 interviews, and a survey to analyse twenty i-teams from across six continents, the report reveals that innovation requires dedicated capacity, specific skills, methods, partnerships, and consistent political support. The study shows the ways in which these elements have been combined successfully to achieve impressive results.
  • A set of 10 recommendations is available for other government leaders to learn from and to emulate these efforts.
    1. The type of i-team you create should be driven by your ultimate goal ‘“ whether that goal is to generate specific solutions, engage citizens, grow innovation capacity in the public sector, or encourage system level change.
    2. Forge strong links to executive power inside government, leveraging internal and external partnerships, resources and insights, to achieve goals.
    3. Build a team with a diverse mix of skills and a combination of insiders and outsiders to government.
    4. Develop a lean funding model for the team itself, and attract secure funds from partners for implementation.
    5. Continually demonstrate and communicate the i-team’ s unique value.
    6. Employ explicit methods, drawing on cutting edge innovation skills and tools, alongside strong project management to get work done.
    7. Have a bias towards action and aim for rapid experimentation, combining early wins with longer term impacts.
    8. Be clear on handovers early on, tasking implementation and delivery to government.
    9. Relentlessly measure impacts, quantify successes, and be sure to stop what isn’ t working.
    10. Celebrate success and share credit.