Discovering policy innovations from across the world

3 min readAug 29, 2020


At the recent London Policy & Strategy Network, we hosted giulio quaggiotto Head of Strategic Innovation at the United Nations Development Programme to share the policy innovations he’s uncovered across the world.

I invited Giulio because of the different arcs to his bow from advising governments to working for innovation foundations across the world and because I wanted to encourage people to look beyond our borders and even our European or Western cultural boundaries to Asia.

This is what people called “reverse innovation”, a concept I first discovered through @danmcquillan and digital reverse development which is “what you get if you combine new technology with methodologies of participatory development. What leaks back to the West is innovation from cultures that haven’t lost the idea of community and collective action as much as we have. Innovation from elsewhere allows us to see ourselves differently.”

Below are some takeaways from Giulio’s talk

  1. Governance cannot be conjured at will

It’s better to invest in governance that can empower people to come together and experiment, share collective intelligence and scale, rather than invest in quick fix solutions that haven’t been developed with that lived experience or the understanding of how they will work with our communities.

You can see more about governments’ responses to Covid 19 through this response tracker.

2. Set the overall direction and galvanise the whole of society

Governments who mobilised their societies very quickly to lockdown due to building a high level of trust with its society, whereas others either dithered or took a more authoritarian approach using algorithms to monitor people’s movements to help enforce physical distancing.

3. Invest & repurpose in critical infrastructure

I learnt how the Vietnamese government who invested in parallel experiments to create testing kits and repurposing ATMs to create “rice ATMs” to feed people in need or an equivalent platforms to eBay which enables farmers to create & trade produces and repurpose the supply chains, selling food to people in the cities.

4. Reverse procurement

In Taiwan, the government supported not just innovation for the people, innovation with the people, but “innovation after the people” where the government took an early prototype of face masks by a citizen and scale it.

5. Handle data and disinformation

I learnt how you can use different ways of thinking about communications like “fighting rumour with humour” coined by Audrey Tang 唐鳳 or people translating whistleblower reports into Kling On to help spread information and avoid getting caught by state censors.

Not all things work, in one country they used policemen to use mythical story to dress up as ghosts to encourage people to stay at home, even if people did the opposite because they were intrigued about the ghosts!

In terms of learning from mistakes, South Korea learnt from its failure during SARS in reinventing its social contract with businesses and citizens, which helped it mobilise quickly when the pandemic turned up, with mass testing.

You can find out about other policy innovations through their Innovation Dividend podcast

What policy innovations have you learnt from?

How can we learn from other cultures in preparing for future outbreaks?

What can we learn from the past in preparing for the recession?




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese