Mapped: the childcare deserts where nearly half of Canada’s young kids live

Almost one in two preschool children in Canada live in a “childcare desert,” where they have to compete with at least two others for childcare, a new report has said. This amounts to 776,000 kids without sufficient support. The findings come from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), a think tank, which mapped out every licensed childcare centre in Canada for the...

For government innovation to take off, it needs to break out of the lab

A single team or lab could never create the volume of ideas needed to make hundreds of small improvements in all aspects of a complex organisation. That became obvious to me while working for the New Zealand Post. I was in the Total Quality Service team, which had a year to develop comprehensive strategies to...

Finland is building a robot that will help you get a job

Talk of robots in the labour market usually focuses on their job-destroying capabilities (or lack of them ). But in Finland, the government is building a bot that could not only help you get a new job, but also warn you if your current role is destined for oblivion. Olli-Pekka Heinonen, director general of Finland’s National Agency for...

Public sector innovation buzzwords: translating jargon into plain English

Innovation labs and units have become so fashionable in the public sector that the question “Have we reached peak lab?” has become a cliché. From MindLab’s ideation pod to Louisville’s digital badges , the culture of innovation is spreading. But despite their popularity, innovators have to admit one failing: they are simply not good at defining what it is...

Is government doomed to repeat mistakes, or can it stop losing its mind?

Can government remember? Is it condemned to repeat mistakes? Or does it remember too much and so sees too many reasons why anything new is bound to fail? The case for a permanent civil service is that it organises its memory well, and it is certainly better than governing systems which periodically purge their top...

How to scale up social impact — the challenge of the 21st century

“Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st century is to find out what works and scale it up.” Boiled down, Bill Clinton’s famous dictum has three parts: innovate, learn and scale. He was half right about the innovation, and only half, because that problem solving hasn’t stopped. Every...

Once ranked worst in the OECD for preschool, Canada has a radical plan

For policymakers around the world, Canada frequently leads the way on issues such as gender equality, migration or labour laws. In early childhood education though the country has less cause for celebration. An OECD study published in 2006 exposed Canada’s status as a “ policy laggard ”, ranked last of 14 countries in terms of expenditure on early childhood education and care...

Sweden and Canada fly the flag for feminist foreign policy

Since launching in 2014, Sweden’s radically ‘feminist’ foreign policy has gained international notoriety. While critics have lambasted the Nordic nation – for brazenly funding abortion, inciting a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia over human rights, and provoking Israel by recognising Palestine – the strategy has proved successful by many measures. Sweden, through its new policy, has helped more...

‘Government was created for another era’: why it must change

As Executive Director of the UK’s Government Digital Service, Mike Bracken faced no easy task. He was charged with bringing all public services online – an undertaking he discovered would be made all the more difficult by Whitehall’s workplace culture. Government departments, he found, were stubbornly siloed, with no inclination to share information or collaborate...