Our Public Sector is transforming before our very eyes: being driven by new ideas, new skills and a renewed purpose. This profound change is bringing fresh thinking, broader horizons and ever-more tangible innovation – with the pioneering INFUSE programme providing the platform and opportunity for public service people to develop the knowledge and acquire the tools that will shape Wales and the UK for decades to come.
To celebrate the opening of recruitment for Cohort Two of a truly remarkable programme, this two-part feature explores how the Infuse programme ‘works’, the extraordinarily diverse results it has already delivered in our region – and its vision for enabling and empowering our public sector employees to optimise services and maximise their own potential.
A proud history of the Public Sector as a profound innovator …
Public sectors around the world have long faced acute pressures to transform and adapt. Fiscal pressures, rising public expectations – and the need to tackle issues such as ageing populations and climate change – have challenged government services year-on-year to deliver like never before.
Despite these challenges, the public sector masterminded some of our most transformative inventions – including the Internet and the World Wide Web – demonstrating that carrying a duty of care and delivering deep innovation can (and often do) go hand-in-hand.
Over the last 18 months we have all benefited from that balance of public duty and organisational ingenuity here in the Cardiff Capital Region.
The pandemic witnessed our unitary authorities introduce game-changing (and life-changing) innovations such as Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen Council’s online adult social care service … Caerphilly County Borough Council’s digital automation to radically speed up and expand free school meal provision … as well as the launch of NHS Wales’ revolutionary Digital Service for Patients and the Public single log-in platform, which literally leads the world in democratising the flow of patient healthcare information.
That spirit of continual – and occasionally quantum – improvement fuels the three-year Infuse public sector skills and innovation programme: a catalyst for innovative future public services that CCR and Venture is proud to support.
The Infuse Public Sector Skills and Innovation Programme
Infuse is an innovation and research programme funded by the European Social Fund through Welsh Government and designed to support the 10 local authorities in the Cardiff Capital Region – helping public sector workers in the CCR access the skills, methods and tools that improve their capacity and capability to innovate.
It’s a three-year programme built around opportunities to tackle real-life questions and driven by the biggest challenges faced by our region – including the two key themes of accelerating decarbonisation and developing supportive communities. As such, this pioneering programme is playing an active role in finding answers to critical questions such as how do we become carbon neutral, how do we enforce and measure the impact of our changes, how do we best deliver our services in a post-pandemic world – and how do we help our communities become more supportive?
The programme is led by Monmouthshire County Council in collaboration with Cardiff University, Y Lab, Nesta, Cardiff Capital Region City Deal and the 10 local authorities – and runs alongside our CCR Challenge Fund activity, which is designed to offer funding for solutions to the challenges unearthed by the Infuse programme.
A practical Programme of exploration, testing and delivery
The programme is designed to maximise the skills and capacity for innovation and ambitious ideas. Delivered over six months, associates who join Cohort 2 of the programme can expect to progress through five phases, designed to inspire new ways of working, empower associates to take action and celebrate and share learning.
The ‘Inspire’ phase is about challenging the status quo, exploring potential, considering the art of the possible and asking ‘what if…?’ The ‘Learn and Activate’ phase lays the foundations for innovation. Collaborative relationships form and appetite for change is increased. Next is ‘Learn and Explore’, building knowledge and skills in the innovation labs, focussing on collaboration and their team challenge. ‘Experiment’ phase tests ideas in a safe environment where failure is a success because we’ve learned something. The final phase is ‘Celebration’, where learning is communicated so that everyone can benefit. With coaching and mentoring throughout, by the end of the programme every participant has the confidence and capability to put the newly acquired skills into real world practice.
The ‘lab experience’ is exceptional and includes exploring, discovering, testing and delivering ‘better’ methods and outcomes through:
- The Adaption Lab – which empowers public sector servants to design and deliver experiments that test potentially scalable solutions to regionwide problems.
- The Data Lab – which enables participants to better collect, manage, analyse, understand and leverage more effective use of data in decision-making.
- The Procurement Lab – which supports public sector employees to learn, develop and test new processes and methods for procuring innovative products and services.
This unique programme is an outstanding opportunity for our public sector employees to learn best practices from some of the sharpest minds in Europe – and acquire fresh skills in a safe environment that gives every encouragement to try them out, while at the same time building new networks that enable people to work collaboratively with colleagues from across the region.
How ‘Cohort Alpha’ is already changing our world …
The first cohort of this CCR-supported Programme ran in 2021, with a trailblazing group of 13 employees from across the region embarking on a personal and professional journey aimed at developing the courage to try new ideas, getting practical hands-on support to explore and prototype, building the personal resilience to learn from failures – and ultimately growing as individuals, strengthening still further the spirit of innovation that is a key driver of the public sector here in Wales and the UK.
‘Cohort Alpha’ has already proven a resounding success, nurturing ground-breaking ideas that are developing into inspired innovations across a wide variety of areas, including:
Mapping the CCR Residential Area for Prioritised Decarbonisation, through a cross-authority team of Infuse associates who are developing a GIS map to identify and engage with the communities that would benefit most from relevant interventions.
Carbon Literacy Training that’s enabling communities across the Vale of Usk to address the Climate Emergency, helping individuals understand – and reduce – their carbon impact
Innovative Procurement that’s creating commercial opportunities across the CCR, encouraging more ‘local’ public procurement that builds greater local supplier resilience.
Exploring Viable Solutions to Managing Waste Streams, generating energy through anaerobic digestion of matter such as dog waste – turning a health hazard into a sustainable energy source.
Developing a Digital Lending Library, using the tools and knowledge gained on the Infuse programme.
Embedding an ABCD Approach in Local Authorities – exploring how best to put communities at the heart of the community process, through Asset Based Community Development.
The progress already made has been incredibly encouraging and in our next feature, we’ll be scoping in more detail how each of these projects are bringing together best practices and novel approaches to the benefit of all communities across Southeast Wales – and discovering how the Infuse vision is already opening the eyes and minds of stakeholders in many different communities across our region.
To find out more about this pioneering programme – or to participate in the next Infuse cohort – go https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/infuse/