Masterclass ‘Expeditie Startup’ inspires the innovative government

What can public organizations learn from startups and how can their way of working be applied? This was the central question of the Masterclass ‘Expedition Startup’ on Thursday. A total of 45 directors and senior managers from various government organisations were present. Location: Apollo 14 start-up hub in Binckhaven, the heart of the impact economy of The Hague.

What is the innovation power of the government and can we strengthen this by learning from startups? This was the focus of this inspiring morning session.

A government is not a startup yet

Government organizations such as municipalities and ministries are constantly looking for new ways to innovate. Yet we should not kid ourselves that they will become a startup: their worlds are too different and run at a different pace. However, steps can be made to bring both worlds together. That is why the Startup in Residence program has been created.

With this program, startups and civil servants work together to create sustainable new solutions for various challenges. Directors also play an important role in stimulating innovation among employees and working more like startups. That is why 45 directors and senior managers from the Municipality of The Hague, Ministries BZK, EZK and the Province of South Holland gathered in Apollo 14, the impact startup location in The Hague.

Visiting Hack the Planet

Peter Hennephof (city manager of The Hague) started the day by reflecting on the fact that this session was unique, as directors from various organizations had come together to talk about innovation within the government. He called to tackling challenges and objectives in different ways and to embrace the startup way of working.

The directors and managers did not only talk about startups but also talking with them. Tim van Deursen from startup Hack the Planet explained how new technologies can solve existing social issues. Such as using virtual reality with lonely elderly people. He asked to think of startups when looking for innovative solutions.

Policy through startup car wash

Led by Matthijs Goense of Novum (innovation lab of the Social Insurance Bank) the group delivered concrete work by using the “startup way of working” and focused on solving problems based on the phases of design thinking. One of the exercises illustrated that governments should focus more on the problem rather than on the solutions.

Dit begint met de belangrijke rol die directeuren hebben bij een opdrachtverstrekking. “Vraag niet om een specifieke oplossing, maar zet het vraagstuk in de markt”. Tot slot heeft iedereen een prototype gebouwd voor een casus van de Sociale Verzekeringsbank: middels een kleine schets van het probleem en de oplossing kun je meer inzage brengen in hoe je doelgroep kijkt naar je oplossing. Want: als een beeld meer zegt dan 100 woorden, zegt een prototype meer dan 1000 vergaderingen.

This starts with the important role directors have in tenders and awarding contracts. “Don’t ask for a specific solution, but rather put the issue on the market”. Finally, everyone built a prototype for a case from the Sociale Verzekeringsbank: by making a small sketch of the problem and the solution you can gain more insight into how your target group sees your solution. If an image says more than a 100 words, a prototype says more than 1000 meetings.

From policy to prototypes

Maarten Schurink, Secretary General of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations closed the afternoon by stating he is an advocate of collaborating with innovative companies. If certain laws stand in the way of innovations, it is possible to see whether we can do something about this. In addition, he challenged everyone to shape policy by using working prototypes. But also use the startup way of working to tackle policy questions or by participating in the different Startup in Residence programs.

The session was experienced as particularly useful: it was inspiring to meet each other and to gain insight into the “startup way of working”. A sequel is in the making!