• News
  • February 20, 2019
  • 5 minutes
  • 1

Weekly briefing: Public servants find their purpose; basic income boosts wellbeing

Our weekly rundown of global policy

Top Stories

To empathise with citizens, public servants need to get out of the office. When the mayor of Seoul moved into a dilapidated shack to see how poorer residents live, many called it a political stunt. But for innovators, putting yourself in others’ shoes is key to designing better services. (Louise Pulford, Social Innovation Exchange)

How to be a better communicator: The masterclass for public servants. The UK’s executive director for government communications, Alex Aiken, shares his top tips on how policymakers can better communicate with citizens and colleagues. (Apolitical)

How to bring user-centred design into policy: A step-by-step guide. The Ministry of Justice pioneered the UK government’s use of in-house design teams. From building an appetite for risk to mandating regular reflection, here’s how they help departments craft better policy. (Alice Carter, UK Ministry of Justice)

Quiz: Ten shocking truths about the global mental health crisis. Millions of people suffer from mental health conditions, and most still don’t get any formal support. Find out how much you know about the state of the problem — and how policy can address it — with our latest quiz. (Apolitical)


In late 2019, Apolitical will present the inaugural Global Public Service Prize. The first-of-its-kind event will recognise excellence in public service. We want to give Apolitical members the opportunity to host. If you are from a capital city, have a venue and are interested in supporting the recognition of public service excellence — let us know!

Governance and Citizen Engagement

Sweden is the only country to give workers six months off to start a business. The legally enshrined right to a leave of absence has boosted entrepreneurship: in 2007, some 28,000 companies were registered in Sweden. By 2017, that number had jumped to 48,500. (BBC)

The UK is going all-in on chatbots. Citizens can now request permits, check train times, notify councils of environmental problems and report crime, all using text and voice chatbots. Twelve councils have banded together to develop and test their use in public services. (The Guardian)

Evolving Cities

Helsinki, Finland has nearly eradicated homelessness. Its groundbreaking Housing First policy gives rough sleepers a permanent home and provides them with support, through tackling addiction, teaching them new skills and helping them find work, education or training. (BBC)

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania is giving slum-dwellers property rights to lift them out of poverty. About 70% of residents live in informal settlements, which, until recently, were regularly demolished by government. Now, the city will give two million residents land deeds, which can be used to secure loans. (This Is Place)


“Our cities and the institutions that govern them need to respond to the challenges facing our societies. Rethinking the role of public servants, collaborating internationally and getting them out of the office, is one small way to do that” — Louise Pulford, Social Innovation Exchange

Gender Equality

American women who receive counselling are 39% less likely to develop depression before or after giving birth. It’s the first time a national panel of experts in the US has said perinatal depression is preventable and offered an evidence-based solution. It affects one in seven women. (NPR)

Energy, Environment and Economic Opportunity

The US Senate passed the most far-reaching conservation legislation in a decade. It will protect 2.3 million acres of public lands and waters, and increase the size of iconic national parks like California’s Joshua Tree, which suffered extensive damage during the recent government shutdown. (The New York Magazine)

And finally

What does Brexit look like? A big, blue, fluffy monster, according to the Dutch.The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs is using a furry mascot to educate citizens and businesses about the UK’s departure from the EU. The ‘Brexit monster’ has gone viral on social media. (Quartz)

(Picture credit: Unsplash)


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