top of page

Public Innovation 

Participatory approaches to social innovation - from user-centred design, to citizen-centred policy making, to community based research - promise better outcomes by directly involving those most effected by these social / environmental challenges. But what role can these “users” and “citizens” actually play in these change-making efforts? And what are the implications for public policy-making?

The Guelph Lab hosted a small group of City staff, University faculty and students to discuss “public innovation” with Jesper Christiansen. Jesper was Head of Research at MindLab, a Danish cross-governmental innovation unit that involves citizens and businesses in creating new solutions for society. Jesper discussed Mindlab’s work and the role of citizens in public sector innovation. He is now Head of Strategy and Development at Nesta – the UK’s leading innovation centre.


  • Mindlab was a response to the disconnect between political intentions, policy making, implementation and intended outcomes.

  • If social innovation is the bottom-up development of new solutions for societal problems, then public innovation is the scaling of social innovation.

  • Examples from Mindlab’s work include working with “Mothers’ Groups” - a grassroots public health innovation, as well as developing educational policy under the “New Nordic School” project. In both these examples, policy is seen as a “platform” for innovation - with others (local governments responsible for implimentation) tasked with putting the policy into practice. In this model of policy making, higher tiers of government become responsible for encouraging diverse responses to policy, sharing learning, and supporting the best responses.

Read more of Jesper’s work here:

bottom of page