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by Adam Lang, Nesta
12 May 2021
Associate feature: After the heat of the election, it’s time for sustained collaboration and innovation

Associate feature: After the heat of the election, it’s time for sustained collaboration and innovation

I have never found following election campaigns to be as exciting as I always felt that I should.

Politics and public policy matter a lot, of course, but it is the doing of things, rather than campaigning about things, that has always felt to me like the more exciting aspect of making change happen.

That’s why, now that the campaigning is done and we know who our new government is, we must urgently start grappling with how we can do things differently in Scotland.

In addition to the necessary and urgent focus on our recovery from the public health, economic and social devastation of the pandemic, we must now also accelerate our response to the climate emergency, with decisive action and innovation on emissions, a just economic transition, reskilling and tackling household decarbonisation.

These challenges would be significant on their own but they are deeply intertwined with other long standing social issues in Scotland, such as our health inequalities, the lifelong outcome gap for disadvantaged children and our stagnant economic productivity.

If we really want to make headway on these issues over the next five years then we must embrace this complexity and harness new approaches and new ideas to tackle our long-standing challenges.

Recovery from COVID-19 needs an economic strategy that creates jobs that are compatible with long- term sustainability and that allows our developing green industries to thrive.

Educational preparedness and opportunities need to reflect the present reality and future trends with qualifications, training and skills development programmes that fit with a post-pandemic and net-zero Scotland.

Our transition away from emissions-heavy industries must work for both the businesses required to change and the communities and people impacted. As automation, data and digital technologies continue to shape our world they must be proactively engaged with so as to not leave people more precarious, reduce opportunities or entrench social isolation.

We must take the lessons of the pandemic and learn to live in a way which promotes a fairer start for everyone, healthier living and a more sustainable future – both for our environment and our economy.

The community strength and social innovation that carried many of us through lockdowns over the last 12 months must be nurtured and harnessed in order to continue to play a leading role in shaping our recovery.

To achieve these things we need collaboration across the chamber at Holyrood, with local authorities and beyond into public services, industry, enterprise, civil society and local communities.

But it cannot be a tick box exercise, it must be genuine and sustained collaboration which embraces challenge, new thinking and compromise.

More of the same simply will not cut it in the face of the complexity and scale of the challenges we face. Bold decisions need to be taken and evidence-led innovation needs to be embraced at multiple levels of government and service delivery. We need to be more comfortable to try and test, to adapt and develop. And, yes, to fail along the way – as long as we learn from it and improve.

More and better open data can help provide insight to inform what might work in tackling our shared challenges.

Novel data sources alongside approaches which help us to better understand the circumstances that drive people’s behaviours, and that harness our collective intelligence and insight, can support the development of new solutions which drive change and empowerment.

Drawing on the expertise and insights from across our communities – matching data with human experience – we can design, test, evaluate and scale innovative solutions with the urgency that is now needed.

The pandemic has shown us that we can act quickly and decisively when we need to.

At Nesta we will work rigorously, creatively and collaboratively to ensure that Scotland emerges from the COVID-19 crisis as a leader in innovation for social good. Innovation that makes a tangible and positive difference to people’s lives.

Adam Lang is head of Nesta in Scotland

This article was sponsored by Nesta

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Society & Welfare

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