La 27e Région works with policymakers to create a culture that supports social innovation in French regional government
La 27e Région is a government innovation lab based in France which conducts action-research programmes that support civil servants to try out new socially innovative approaches to public policymaking, particularly at a regional level. The initiative was first founded in 2008 by a group comprised of presidents from French regional governments, former civil servants and consultants, who together set out to address the shortcomings in how traditional public policy is designed and delivered. The initiative resulted in an alliance with the Association of French Regions (ARF) in 2008, and subsequently grew to encompass other levels of public authorities, including those operating at a national level. In 2012, La 27e Région was spun out to become an independent not-for-profit organisation.
2. BUILDING THE SOCIAL INNOVATION CAPABILITIES OF POLICYMAKERS
La 27e Région’s mission is to create a public sector culture that supports social innovation through the co-creation and co-design of public policies involving citizens through user-driven models. To achieve this mission, La 27e Région’s multi-disciplinary team - made up of ethnographers, sociologists, designers and others - run two kinds of practical capacity-building programmes for policymakers: Territoires en résidence and la Transfo. These programmes are designed to encourage policymakers to rethink public policy processes by applying a range of tools and methods that are underpinned by human-centred design, openness, collaboration and experimentalism.
3. ITERATING POLICY SUPPORT PROGRAMMES
Territoires en résidence (The Residencies) was the first of La 27e Région’s capacity-building programmes for policymakers. For three weeks out of the programme’s six month duration, La 27e
Région’s team is deployed to support policymakers to explore new policy projects where they can gain exposure to ethnographic and other socially innovative methods. While The Residencies were useful at exposing policymakers to the basic methods and principles needed to make more socially innovative policy, the policymakers still relied very much on the expertise and guidance of La 27e Région’s team to drive the innovation process.
What then followed was a second programme called la Transfo (The Transformation) - which aimed to build on the learnings of The Residencies. It had two key objectives: 1) inspire civil servants to develop a ‘professional curiosity’ to tackle policy challenges in socially innovative ways and build up their capabilities and skills to do this effectively and 2) develop new innovation teams within regional government, who beyond the programme could sustain the innovation effort from within the public institution setting.
The Transformation differed from The Residencies in that it took place over a longer two year period, during which 15 civil servants were supported by a design team. This time, La 27e Région’s designers were involved throughout the process to ensure the projects were user-led and adhered to social innovation policy principles. Civil servants started the programme with a test case - which involved a combination of group sessions and meetings with key stakeholders. Over the course of the programme, the focus then shifted onto priority policy challenges facing the regional government. By the second month, participants were expected to be able to prototype and test policy ideas themselves, and make use of a range of tools such as user personas and service models.
4. IMPACTS OF LA TRANSFO
Of all the policy ideas generated as part of the La Transfo programme, 50% were successfully implemented by regional government. A good example of such a policy solution is Hub PME (SME Hub) which set out to significantly simplify the application process for small-medium sized businesses looking for support from the Regional Council.
The initial group of civil servants who first participated in La Transfo have gone on to create their own innovation team housed at regional government. La Transfo has also been instrumental in creating a community of socially innovative policymakers, a number which has grown from the initial fifteen civil servants who participated, to a network of 70. This marks a significant growth in the number of policymakers using social innovation approaches (particularly human-centred approaches) in their work.
Ongoing sharing of skills and knowledge is facilitated between different government agencies by ‘Intertransfos’ - retreats and exchanges that bring together policymakers and teams involved in the programme and communities involved in similar efforts together every six months. The meetings are
hosted either in Pays de la Loire or one of the three other regions that participated in La Transfo (Bourgogne, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Champagne-Ardenne). There, participants exchange and discuss each other’s successes and challenges.
5. ITERATION AND GROWTH
In the two years since La Transfo’s initial pilot, La 27e Région is once again in the process of rolling out a new phase of the programme. This time it will engage ten new public authorities in the process (including city halls, sub-regional authorities, regional entities, major public authorities). This phase of the programme is being adapted based on the lessons learned since its first iteration. Further adjustments have been made so that the programme better meets the requirements of this new cohort of public organisations who are set to get involved. For instance, the duration of the experiment has been shortened to reduce costs for the participating public authorities and the Intertransfos component of the programme has been strengthened to encourage greater opportunities for inter-agency exchanges - which it is hoped will lead to more public sector innovation at a grander scale.