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Public Sector Summit at Harvard University

The 2017 public sector summit was held June 13th—15th at Harvard University



How can government become more citizen-centric – while strengthening trust and improving outcomes?

Participants in the 2017 Public Sector for the Future Summit at Harvard University addressed this question, exploring data and analytics, service design, and behavioral economics as a formula for change.

IDC: Analyze the Future

Citizen-driven by design

This report shares key findings from the 2017 Public Sector for the Future Summit. It features insights developed in partnership with Summit attendees that highlight how leaders can harness data and analytics, capitalize on lessons learned, and understand and apply design thinking concepts.



In Citizen-Centered Public Sector Needs Learning Organizations That Operate As “OneOffice”, Barbra McGann, HfS Research, shares how government agencies are putting citizen and employee interest at the heart of designing a more effective and efficient way to work and create value.



What do you get when government leaders and innovators gather? Fresh thinking. Breakthrough designs. The vision for a better tomorrow.


Traditional economics assumes that every decision is made to maximize beneficial outcomes. Behavioral economics acknowledges that human beings are not always rational.

Behavioral economics explores the “non-rational” influences shaping the decisions we make. With insights, it becomes possible to design “nudges” that guide people toward better decisions while still preserving freedom of choice.

This deck provides examples of nudges that can be used in public sector to improve both citizen facing and employee facing programs. Nudges are grouped into 5 categories; Steering, Social Pressure, Ownership, Information, and Experience.

What do behavioral economics have to do with government? More than you might think. The Public Sector for the Future Summit identified three types of nudges that governments can use.

  • Disclosure: Make citizens aware of economic or environmental costs associated with an action (think: explaining the full cost of a loan)
  • Warnings: Display graphic pictures or large fonts with bright colors to warn of negative impact (think: warnings on cigarette packaging)
  • Reminders: Provide reminders by email or text message for overdue bills and other obligations
  • Default rules: Set the default to achieve the result you want (think: opt-in, automatic enrollment or double-sided printing)
  • Simplification: Design programs so they are intuitive and easy to navigate
  • Increased ease and convenience: Reduce barriers and make the intended outcome easy to achieve (think: putting healthy food first or highlighting the low-cost option)
  • Social norms: Emphasize what people normally do (think: “Most people pay their taxes on time”) and make examples local and specific
  • Pre-commitment strategies: Have people commit to a certain action (think: quitting smoking or reporting truthful information)
  • Implementation intentions: Ask if citizens plan to do a certain action (think: “Do you plan to vaccinate your child?” or “Do you plan to vote?”)
  • Past consequences: Inform people of the results of past actions (think: cost of medical bills or energy use on electric bills)


What’s one of the best ways to improve public services? Start by putting the citizen at the center.

It’s an approach that 2017 Summit participants experienced firsthand through a Service Design Workshop focused on reshaping two processes: recruiting talent to public service and supporting new young drivers through the licensing process.

Design thinking at work

At each step of the process, we encouraged participants to:

Put people first

Put people first

Break the rules

Break the rules

Keep an open mind

Keep an open mind

Fail forward fast

Fail forward fast

See things differently

See things differently

2018 Fjord Trends
A look at what’s ahead for the future of business, technology and design.


Summit participants also heard about the value of applying data and analytics when designing public services—and when determining when and how to incorporate nudges.

The combination of nudge theory, design thinking, and data and analytics gives us some incredible capabilities to experiment with public policy, with the process of how work gets done and how we deliver services to citizens.

Mark Howard

Managing Director, Accenture




In collaboration with Accenture, the Public Sector for the Future Summit is developed by Leadership for a Networked World and convened by The Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH).

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful organizations, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The Public Sector for the Future Summit is developed in collaboration with Accenture. Find more information on Accenture’s public service thought leadership at

Leadership for a Networked World
Leadership for a Networked World develops and manages the Public Sector for the Future Summit.

Founded in 1987 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, LNW is now an applied research program based at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard that works across the Harvard community and academic institutions globally to provide uniquely powerful leadership summits and transformation programs. Since 1987, LNW has conducted more than 200 learning events and gathered more than 12,000 alumni globally. Learn more at

The Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH)
The Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH) hosts the Public Sector for the Future Summit. TECH, part of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is both a real and virtual space for students, faculty, alumni, and industry leaders to learn together, collaborate, and innovate. TECH enables this holistic exploration by sponsoring and supporting opportunities for the innovation community to gather and exchange knowledge via courses, study groups, mentorship relationships, innovation programs and special events. Find more information at

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