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2014 Public Sector for the Future Summit: The Uptake and Edge Report

Discover the "edgy" new operating models and tools that are inspiring leaders' visions for delivering public service for the future.


What does the public sector of the future look like? Government models of the past are not sustainable, requiring major changes and creative solutions to maintain government innovation and improve our standard of living. Guiding these changes are several key questions: How can policy be more responsive to societal needs and citizen demands? Where can new business and technological models enable improved delivery? What type of leadership is needed for sustained progress?

To address these questions, create an agenda for change, and help government leaders delivering public service for the future, Leadership for a Networked World, Accenture, and the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard convened public sector leaders, top practitioners, and Harvard faculty, fellows, and researchers for the 2014 Public Sector for the Future Summit.

This report describes how these leaders identified new strategies during the Summit to adopt and implement near-term government innovations, and discovered long-term solutions and the leadership strategies needed to deliver a more efficient, effective and responsive government.


Facing technological, societal, and political disruptions, public sector leaders have worked hard to respond to the major structural and social challenges of this new era by developing new operating models. Shared services, lean business processes, and cross-jurisdiction collaboration—all have made great headway in promoting government innovation and efficiency, yet more ideas and strategies are needed.

Traditionally, government was positioned for incremental change and there was no benefit for risk-taking. Now, a paradigm shift is underway. Public sector leaders are developing critical mass around government innovation, and responding to changes in technology, citizen expectations, demographics, the economy, and legislation by transforming the way government does business.

Today, changes in the economy, demographics, technology, legislation, and more are forcing leaders to be more creative and collaborative, and to adapt and innovate. They must not only to do more with less, but also build public trust and value.

The Summit’s collaborative environment encouraged participants to explore “uptake” government innovations and business models—those proven to increase effectiveness and efficiency, yet require robust leadership to implement—while grappling with “edge” innovations and business models. While still under development, these new innovations and business models seem poised to deliver a dramatic increase in public value.


The goal of the annual Public Sector of the Future Summit is to develop a vision for the future of government, and the strategy to achieve this vision must account for the challenges leaders are currently facing. In our rapidly changing environment – characterized by a changing workforce, post-recession economy, new tools and technologies, and new demands for outcomes, transparency, and engagement – leaders must develop a strong understanding of how to effectively manage and pace transformational change and government innovation.

To facilitate this process, Leadership for a Networked World collaborated with leading government practitioners, policymakers, and subject matter experts to develop the Public Sector Uptake and Edge Matrix. This organizing framework can help leaders as they negotiate transformational change by plotting enterprise-wide change efforts.

This matrix, which measures the sophistication and pervasiveness of new operational models, is a guide to help leaders chart a course for their organization. By identifying both where their organizations fall on the matrix and where government innovations under consideration fall, leaders can focus their efforts accordingly and employ the most effective strategies to accelerate continuous and multi-faceted enterprise-wide transformation.


Summit participants offered strategies for redesigning systems, maximizing resources and assets, adopting new governance models, and improving connections with citizens. Sessions with leading academics and practitioners encouraged people to use “nudges” and “choice-architecture” to drive outcomes. The case sessions inspired participants to take risks, work across traditional boundaries, develop new partnerships, and build new tools for accountability, transparency, and efficiency.

While the Summit inspired and energized people, it also left participants with a number of questions to consider:

  • How can we use data to not only talk about what we have done, but to talk about what we should be doing?

  • How can we make the customer experience more customized and exceptional?

  • How do we create open doors in our organizations for new collaborations with entrepreneurs, the private sector, academics, and others?

The first annual Public Sector for the Future Summit validated the importance of asking these questions and others. It also encouraged public sector leaders to push the envelope and continue developing transformations on the edge that will shape our future and deliver powerful results through government innovation.

By providing examples of inventive practices emerging across the country, the Summit aimed to inspire delivering public service for the future and assist public sector leaders in their efforts to lead near-term innovations and long-term transformation in their organizations.

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