Public sector innovation (PSI) units are increasingly being established and commissioned by governments in Australia and New Zealand to bring new insights and approaches to policy design and the delivery of public services. This report is part of an ANZSOG-funded research project, conducted by Melbourne University’s Policy Lab, to analyse the methodology of PSIs and their role within the broader policy environment.
It found that while there is a wide range of structures to PSIs, they are generally small, reliant on contractors and consultants, located within a single department and focused on the early stages of the policy cycle. The survey notes that, internationally, the rise of PSI units has been framed as a response by governments to increasingly complex challenges, particularly in the field of social policy. In Australia and New Zealand the PSIs are focused far more heavily on areas of social policy and services, rather than areas such as energy and taxation. Only four PSI units reported that their establishment was an initiative of an elected official or member of government. This suggests that the emergence of PSI units within government in Australia and New Zealand is being driven by public managers and administrators, rather than by politicians or elected officials.
The Policy Lab’s research team will continue this project and build on the survey results by carrying out five case studies of PSI units working on various policy and innovation domains at different levels of government. The results of this research will be available towards the end of 2018 and a public summary will be shared on the project web page