Co-Creating for Social Impact

Resource Type: Audio Seminar || Speaker: Christian Bason
Christian Bason

This podcast deepens our understanding of co-creation and how it fosters social innovation in the public sector. This seminar connects the dots between public sector innovation and community innovation in eye-opening ways.

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Co-Creating for social impact In this podcast, Paul Born speaks with Christian Bason, a leading international thinker on public sector innovation and Director of MindLab, a cross-ministerial innovation unit in Denmark.

Christian profiles some of MindLab's achievements and explores the notions of co-creation, innovation and social impact in the public sector. By focusing on citizens' own experiences and resources, Christian describes how MindLab is helping to drive radical innovation in the public sector.The result is truly valuable services that respond to citizen needs and achieve their intended outcomes at less cost. 

This podcast has been developed by Tamarack, in partnership with Social Innovation Generation (SiG) as part of the Inspiring Action for Social Impact national speakers' series. 

Learning Objectives:

  • To deepen understanding about innovation and the conditions that nurture it
  • To appreciate how the process of co-creation fosters public sector innovation 
  • To explore the four dimensions of public sector innovation 
  • To understand the connection between public sector and community-based innovation

Access Podcast Highlights:

What Is Innovation?

For Christian, innovation is largely about focusing on desired outcomes and continuously asking ourselves how we can continue to strive to do better. Listen here as he speaks about how his personal and professional journeys have, together, led him to his current focus on innovation in the public sector.


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Nurturing Innovation in the Public Sector

For those interested in fostering innovation, Christian identifies three conditions from his experience that help to create an environment that invites and nurtures innovation. They are: having the commitment, will and dedication of an organization or department's leaders; being open to trying different practices in order to achieve different outcomes; and, being willing to engage individuals both internally and externally to help co-create new solutions. In this clip Christian describes how these three conditions have been instrumental in his work with MindLab. 


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Co-Creation: How is it Distinct from Collaboration?

Christian sees innovation as specifically focused on the creation of a desirable future and he believes the process to create that future is more about designing or creating. In contrast, he defines collaboration as a process or approach that can be used in a variety of settings. In this clip, Christian describes the elements of the co-creative process and the importance of anchoring the work of innovation in the reality of what is really happening.

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Public Sector Innovation: An Example

Christian names several examples where innovation has been brought to bear on the development of policy and the work of the public sector. He believes however that the most significant and complex examples of public sector innovation are those that involve human service systems because this work is very emotionally significant. Listen here as Christian shares a powerful example of innovation in a program serving injured workers. 

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The Four Dimensions of Public Sector Innovation 

In his book, Leading Public Sector Innovation: Co-creating for a Better Society, Christian suggests that the journey towards innovation in the public sector must be “led simultaneously across four dimensions. In the following clips, Christian describes each of these dimensions in more detail drawing from the previous example of from the program for injured workers. 

The first dimension - creating consciousness of what innovation is and means to the organization - is about seeing things differently but as Christian describes in the clip below it is also about creating a new language.


The second dimension - building capacity to innovate, from political context over strategy and organizational structure to people and culture - if focused on the strategy we want to achieve and why. In the following clip, Christian describes what capacity - building looks like in action. 

The third dimension - mastering a process of co-creating new solutions with people, not for them - highlights how MindLab supports members in public sector to try working in a different way.

The final dimension is focused on displaying courage at all levels of management to really lead innovation. 

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Connections between Public Sector & Community-Based Innovation

The philosophy, tools and practices that support innovation are equally applicable and transferable to any organization or sector. And, because neither the public or community-based sectors exist in a vacuum, the value of their connection is seen most clearly in the opportunities it offers them to innovate and co-create solutions to strengthen communities. In this clip, Christian shares a story from Victoria, Australia that illustrates this point well.

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Reflection Questions

  • What opportunities do you see for innovation in the public sector?
  • How might the four dimensions of public sector innovation be nurtured here? 
  • What opportunities do you see for co-creation between the public and community-based sectors?

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Links & Resources

MindLab - This website profiles Christian's work and the tools and resources of MindLab.

Leading Public Sector Innovation: Co-creating for a Better Society - Politicians, professionals and anyone interested in the critical issue of public service innovation will want to read Christian's latest book which combines practical advice and theoretical frameworks that are tremendously valuable.

Leading Public Sector Innovation - This article summarizes a conversation with Christian Bason published in the February 2011 issue of Horizons - the newsletter of the Government of Canada's Policy Research Initiative. 

Use co-creation to drive public sector innovation - This article was published in October 2010 in Innovation Management, the “number one platform offering best practice and inspiration to innovation management practitioners.” In it, Christian highlights the importance of engaging citizens to co-create truly valuable services. 

Paradigm Shift - In this October 2010 article, published by the U.K's public leaders network, Christian suggests that co-creation must become a systematic discipline at all levels of government.

Meet Christian Bason

Christian BasonChristian Bason - Christian is a leading international thinker on public sector innovation and Director of MindLab, a cross-ministerial innovation unit which involves citizens and businesses in creating new solutions for society. Part of the Danish Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs, the Ministry of Taxation and the Ministry of Employment, Mindlab develops the public sector from within by working across sectors to co-create new public policy and services.

Christian holds a Masters of Political Science. In his work, he draws on his previous experience as a consultant focused on the development of public institutions together with his background in innovation in evaluation. Christian is a regular columnist and blogger who is currently working on a PhD. His thesis explores the notion of public managers as designers. He is also the author of four books on citizen involvement, leadership and innovation in the public sector. His latest book is Leading Public Sector Innovation: Co-creating for a Better Society.

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