• December 5, 2018
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Weekly briefing: The public sector’s mental health problem; Finland’s experimentation culture

Our weekly rundown of what's working in policy

Top Stories

A high-pressure public sector is bad for mental health. Can government help? Half of UK public sector workers have had to take time off for their mental health. From teaching civil servants to recognise depression in colleagues to bringing massage therapists into the office, here’s how the UK is tackling the problem.

In Finland, innovation culture is taking root across government. Funding experimentation has given public servants license to take risks in their everyday work. But the biggest challenge has been addressing the fear of failure that holds them back.
(Virve Hokkanen & Johanna Kotipelto, Finnish Prime Minister’s Office)

Scaling small, community-level pilots is difficult — here’s how Burkina Faso did it. It implemented a rural cash transfer program nationwide by involving senior figures from an early stage, hiring the people who worked on the pilot and running a country-wide trial prior to implementation.

How to reduce the risk of policy failure: Three actions civil servants can take. Establish early warning systems to spot signs of catastrophe, avoid cost-cutting for profit and use a wide range of evidence to avoid bias and groupthink.
(Oliver Daddow, Bennett Institute for Public Policy at Cambridge University)

In rural areas, resistance to immigration is at its highest. Austria is overcoming local suspicion by engineering interactions which otherwise wouldn’t happen — from language partnering to introducing migrants to clubs and societies frequented by locals.


More governments are realising that supporting employees’ mental health is crucial — but don’t know how to get started. UK charity Mind has built an online gateway that brings together tools, resources and case studies on how to improve wellbeing at work.

Visit Here

Governance and Citizen Engagement

The poorest country in Europe has found a way to bring migrants home. Moldova has repatriated thousands with a grant scheme designed to help set up small businesses. It offers a model for unstable economies, from sub-Saharan Africa to post-conflict Syria, that want to bring back high-potential emigrants.
(Thomson Reuters)

Energy, Environment and Economic Opportunity

The UK will use heat from hot rocks as a zero-carbon source of energy. The project — which crowdfunded $6.4 million from citizens — will create the UK’s first geothermal power station. If successful, hot rocks could provide 5% of UK electricity.
(The Guardian)

Technology Frontiers

In Singapore, robot police patrol the streets and skies. Autonomous cars transmit a live 360-video feed to police and are trained to identify dangerous sounds, like screams and gunshots. Drones monitor search and rescue operations and emergency situations by air.

Buffalo, New York will give free open data training sessions to citizens. In the four-week Data 101 course, the city will teach residents what open data is, the history of the movement and the skills they need to use government data portals.


“Finland’s experimentation model aims to find innovative ways to develop society and services — and to promote individual initiative and entrepreneurship” —Virve Hokkanen, Finnish Prime Minister’s Office

Gender Equality

Iceland ranks first in the world for gender equality — here’s how it got there. Generous social policies, particularly universal childcare and well-funded parental leave, give all women the opportunity to work. But the scarcely mentioned ingredient is mass participation in the women’s movement, said the prime minister.
(World Economic Forum)

Health and Ageing

The UK’s sugar tax has raised more than $129 million to fight child obesity. The extra tax collected from soft drink manufacturers and traders since April goes to physical education and breakfast clubs in 1,700 schools across the country.

And finally

A Siberian mayor is selling off flashy cars to pay for social services. Sardana Avksentyeva, the first female mayor of Yakutsk, was elected on promises to curb corruption and misuses of public funds. First on her agenda: selling off the city’s 13 pricey foreign vehicles.


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