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  • February 27, 2019
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Weekly briefing: Innovation labs around the world are closing — here’s why

Our weekly rundown of global policy

Top Stories

Public innovation labs around the world are closing — here’s why. Pioneering labs in Denmark, Mexico City and Bogotá have all recently shuttered due to a shift in political priorities. But it’s not just a new focus on digital that led to their closure, innovators tell us in exclusive interviews: it’s a lack of understanding and respect for their work. (Apolitical)

Should governments back a four-day working week? In New Zealand, one company’s trial led to a 20% jump in productivity, a rise in profits and improved wellbeing. Now, countries like the UK are considering the reduced work week as an antidote to gender inequality and employee burnout. (Apolitical)

Here are three ways to boost innovation — while minimising risk to taxpayers. From funding like a venture capitalist to offering prizes and paying for outcomes, these creative approaches to public procurement and contracting will inspire innovation from partners. (Ann Mei Chang, USAID)

These six steps can make cities healthier and happier. The environments we live in shape how we feel, but cities are rarely designed with our wellbeing in mind. From women-centric urban design to planting more greenery, here’s how governments can make a change. (Apolitical)


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Technology Frontiers

Estonia runs its country like a tech company. When the poor, newly independent nation invested in internet infrastructure over fixing potholes and buildings 25 years ago, critics were sceptical. Today, it’s the most advanced digital society in the world, where nearly all government services are available online. (Quartz)

The state of Kerala swore in India’s first robot police officer. KP-Bot will work at the police headquarters’ front desk, scheduling appointments, recording complaints and directing visitors to the right department. Kerala plans to introduce robot officers in stations across the state. (India Today)

Evolving Cities

Copenhagen is building a ski slope in the middle of the city. To make a waste incinerator more palatable to residents, the city is constructing an urban ski resort on its roof. ‘Everyone talks about the skill hill-to-be, not the waste plant-to-be,’ said one citizen. (The Guardian)


“Amid all the hype, innovation has sadly become conflated with dreaming up some flashy new thing. Ultimately what counts is not the style, but the substance: improved impact” —Ann Mei Chang, author of Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good

Safety and Justice

German police are treating social media misinformation like a public health problem. Rumours about refugees perpetuating violence stoke fear and anger. To stop them from spreading, police are identifying locals who share false information on Facebook and having them publicly disavow their claims. The goal is to inoculate communities from viral misinformation. (The New York Times)

Energy, Environment and Economic Opportunity

A UK city is giving students scooters to improve air quality around schools.Thirty schools in Leeds will be equipped with scooters, and all students will be trained in how to use them to travel to and from school. The goal is to tackle pollution by reducing the number of cars dropping off and picking up kids each day. (Local Gov)

Health and Ageing

In Adelaide, Australia, indigenous healers work alongside doctors and nurses.The 60,000-year-old traditional remedies are seen as complementary to Western medicine. For many Aboriginal Australians, Ngangkari — which uses touch, breath and bush medicine — is key to healing. (ABC)

And finally

The UK’s health secretary had to tell the National Health Service to ditch its pagers. The NHS still uses 130,000 pagers, which is about 10% of the total left in use globally. Because only one service provider still supports them, they cost the government $8.6 million a year. (BBC)

(Picture credit: Unsplash)


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