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Phase 1


Phase 1 Guide: Set-up


This short guide provides some advice on implementing the Innovation Process. It focuses on the first phase of the process, the ‘Set-up’ phase. It is part of a broader toolkit, which provides advice, with tools and worked examples, on a full process that has been developed, tested and refined in partnership with a number of local authorities and is firmly rooted in innovation practice as well as theory.


Aims and Objectives


The key aims and objectives of this phase are to establish a clear rationale for implementing the innovation process, achieve senior buy-in, develop the overall approach to the process and initiate the project.



At the start of the phase you will have:

At the end of this phase you will have:

- a clear need or driver for change - a clear rationale for proceeding
- a broad understanding of issue or priority

- senior buy-in to the innovation process

- a need to generate ideas and solutions  - an approach to implement the process
  - resources to implement the process
  - governance to monitor progress

- an external support contract (if needed)



Phase 1 Activity Map


Key activities are outlined below, with additional detail later in this guide:



Establish Rationale

Justify Process

Develop Approach

Resource and Governance


Timescales and effort


The length of this phase is dependent on the approach to the overall project.  For an ‘in-sourced’ innovation process, requiring no external support and resource commitments, the decision to proceed could be minimal. For a more significant ‘out-sourced’ process, which requires engaging external support, this stage will take longer.  Crucial results of the effort at this stage will be in gaining buy-in from a senior stakeholder and deciding which approach to adopt.

Supporting Documents and Tools







Innovation Briefing

Short process guide

Phase 2: Planning

Process Presentation

Contract Specification

Simple Facilitator Specification

Facilitators List

Mapping Tool

Beacon Tool

Contract Specs

Case Study 1

Case Study 2

Case Study 3

Case Study 4



Description of Activities


Establish Rationale 

A fundamental question is ‘why implement an innovation process?’ Essentially, there will be a recognised problem or need with no satisfactory solution in sight. Then there are many potential reasons to adopt a structured innovation process, but the key ones are:

  • Incremental change is often not enough, neither to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged – more radical change is needed to make significant improvements to their lives and life chances – nor achieve significant cost reductions.
  • Taking time out from business as usual to look at existing problems from new angles, and discuss issues with organisations and people who have different perspectives, is highly beneficial and consistent with continuous improvement.


This stage of the process is about determining exactly why an innovation process makes sense for your organisation. There are many local reasons and potential triggers, including:


Action Planning Process: the need to plan effective actions against local targets and objectives

Service Transformation Process: the need to improve services for a specific vulnerable segment or disadvantaged community

Improvement: the need to improve performance or efficiency.

Partnership Working: the need to develop effective actions and joined up working with partners

Area Public Spending: the need for overall cost reduction in local public services.

Equality Impact; the need to develop mitigating actions around equality impact assessments.

Empowerment and Engagement: the need to develop strategies to increase community engagement and participation.

Policy Delivery: the need to develop effective and efficient actions to deliver new local policies.



Justify Process


Once the rationale has been established it is good practice to ensure a senior stakeholder for example a service director, deputy chief executive, lead councillor, or senior public service partner is engaged in the process. This is important for a number of reasons:

  • The senior stakeholder can be involved at critical milestones such as signing off the theme and focus of the process, signing off the criteria against which ideas will be shortlisted and judged, welcoming people to the innovation event, agreeing which projects to shortlist for business casing and then chairing a decision meeting on whether to and how to take forward the final idea(s).
  • A senior stakeholder’s involvement legitimises the decision for frontline workers to take a day out of their busy schedules to participate in an innovation event.

This stage of the process involves presenting the rationale for the project, and the process it will involve, to the identified stakeholder, resulting in their agreement to proceed and to participate at critical milestones. A presentation template is available within this tool kit.

Back to activity map


Develop Approach


Once the agreement to proceed has been established there are a variety of options to implement the innovation process which are of varying time-frames and resource requirements. These are detailed in the table below.






Summary of Approach

Whole process completed internally without the need for external support.


E.g. organise the event internally - draw on internal resources to facilitate the event and to write up the ideas and any business cases required, perhaps with support from the finance division.

Elements of the innovation process are outsourced and the rest is completed in-house.


E.g. pay for a consultant to facilitate the innovation event, pay for someone to write the event report, the project definitions or develop the business cases.

Whole process is outsourced to a consultancy or an external individual.


E.g. pay for a consultant to prepare the event, facilitate it and to develop the ideas and business case after the event.

Time Frame

Can be run relatively quickly end to end e.g.


Might take slightly longer if procurement required


Potentially takes longest if procurement involved

2-4 months


Need internal effort to:

-          Project manage the process

-          Organise event/ meeting

-          Facilitate meeting

-          Write up event

-          Define best ideas

-          Develop business cases (if required)

-          Cover potential costs for event room and/or catering

Costs for any external resource – although these might be small if from a partner, or a local university.



While lighter on internal effort, with this option there will still be a need to manage the external resource.

Budget to outsource the whole effort could cost £5k-£30k depending on the work package.


Lightest on internal effort – although work can never be 100% outsourced and there will always be a requirement to manage the organisation/ individual this is outsourced to.


Quick, simple and no need for procurement.

Can be run within normal business

This approach enables a division of tasks to those best suited to deal with them

This approach ensures specialist expertise is applied to all areas of the process, which may result in more original solutions.


Some specialist skills may be required in-house.

External support can bring in new perspectives and assist in change/ creativity.

It will be more complex to plan and engage external effort.

Most expensive option and some budget will be required to get the project started.



The approach adopted will depend on the availability of staff and money within the organisation. Clearly the process is scalable; at one end of the spectrum it can be run internally as a creative problem-solving meeting with a range of stakeholders, while at the other end of the spectrum an external organisation can be engaged to plan and run the event and to deliver some business cased propositions. Either way some clear proposals should emerge that can be taken forward to implementation. If the decision is made to outsource aspects of the work then there are two tools in this toolkit to assist this process:

  • Contract Specification; a specification against which consultants or delivery partners can bid to support the project.
  • Short form Advisor Specification; a specification to engage a facilitator for a 5-10 day assignment to run a short version of the process.


Back to activity map 

Resource and Governance


The innovation process will clearly need to be driven by a project manager who will need to dedicate sufficient time to move it forward regardless of whether the work is outsourced or delivered in-house. This project manager should be in a good position to engage stakeholders from across the organisation and partners. For small, in-sourced processes the project manager should be able to manage the process end to end with little need for formal governance, with the exception of periodic updates and meetings with the senior stakeholder established at the start of this phase. For larger processes it might be worth establishing:


  • Project Team Meetings; consisting of delivery partners and other key stakeholders who are important to the delivery of the project.
  • Steering Meetings; chaired by the senior stakeholder at key points in the process – particularly the idea selection, and the final project/ business case decision meeting. There should only be a need for 2-3 of these meetings.


Back to activity map

Dos and Don’ts



Do justify the innovation process on problem solving and achieving desired social and business objectives NOT on searching for innovative social applications of technology. Technology is just a lens through which to look at social problems/ challenges in a new way, and an enabler to delivering solutions. Good ideas and solutions that do not involve technology will undoubtedly arise through this process as well. 

Do highlight that sustainable and partnership based solutions are key goals of the process. The process incorporates partner support at the outset by engaging them in the problem solving process. 

Do try to align to process outputs with key business timescales within your organisation – for example the production of a business plan, or bid milestones for external funding streams.

Don’t avoid getting a senior stakeholder engaged in the process – this is a critical step in ensuring the process is expected to deliver into mainstream corporate plans, process and strategies. 



Key Questions to Think About


  • Why run an innovation process?
  • What is the priority challenge to focus on?
  • What do you intend to do with the outputs of the process? Put in business plan? Bid for external resources or fund internally? When do the outputs need to be completed by?
  • Who is a senior stakeholder in the process, who has most interest in the problem being solved and the ideas being implemented?
  • Who do you need to get buy-in from to start the process?
  • Is there any in-house capacity/ capability for innovation? Are there any Facilitators, change managers? Or capability in strategic partners?
  • Will you in-source or out-source the process? What are potential costs of outsourcing?  Is there funding available to support this?  


© City of London 2010