New thinking needed to reform public sector - Foster

Seeking radical solutions to difficult issues is the reason for projects like the Innovation Lab said Mrs Foster
Seeking radical solutions to difficult issues is the reason for projects like the Innovation Lab said Mrs Foster

Finance Minister Arlene Foster, has called for new thinking to tackle the issue of public sector reform in the province.

Addressing an international conference in London, she said radical solutions were needed to meet growing need for services at a time of greater budget constraints.

Mrs Foster was speaking at the Labworks 2015 conference, organised by Nesta, an independent charity that works to increase innovation capacity in the UK.

This fourth annual conference brings together a growing international network of innovation teams who work in an innovation laboratory, both inside and alongside government on society’s biggest challenges.

The Innovation Laboratory is a new methodology, which has been used internationally, to develop solutions to complex problems with the help of experts in a “hothouse” environment.

“New thinking is needed across government to reform our public sector and deliver better and more targeted services for those in greatest need.

“While the public sector is facing a sustained period of budgetary constraint and increased demand for public services we must continue the process of reform and improve services despite reducing budgets.

“Northern Ireland departments are already undertaking ambitious programmes of reform and the launch of our first public sector innovation lab in April 2014 will be an important tool in driving the reform agenda.”

Arlene Foster added: “Northern Ireland’s Public Sector Innovation Lab is one of the first regional labs to be established by a devolved administration.

The lab offers a fresh, alternative approach to developing both strategic and tactical solutions to complex policy and operational issues.

“Innovation labs offer a mechanism where service users, their families and representative bodies can work with partners from public, private, voluntary and charity sectors in co-designing and co-producing solutions to their needs.”

Today’s event brings together public innovators from across the world to hear about the latest tools, learn new skills, share thinking, experience and build the basis for future collaboration.

Arlene Foster concluded: “Northern Ireland can learn from the work of other groups that have been established to address some of the most complex and challenging problems that face society today.

“The Northern Ireland Innovation Lab will benefit from this network and be in a better position to foster and promote innovation within our public sector.”