Ministry of Possibilities
The Ministry of Possibilities is a virtual ministry created to incubate and solve the systemic impossibilities of government.
It works by creating time-bound departments experimenting together to ask impossible questions and disrupt the conventional systems with leapfrog solutions that are yet to be explored
Its focus areas & mandate are:
- To IDENTIFY impossibilities
- To INCUBATE virtual, timebound departments/teams to solve and explore the impossibilities
- To EDUCATE and train on the mindset of design and experimentation in government
- To INSPIRE the globe with the UAE’s methodology of possibilities
The Ministry of Possibilities was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the world’s first virtual Ministry to incubate and develop radical solutions for the government’s most critical challenges and represents the next generation of government operations which oversees key functions that require quick, bold and effective decisions.
Its roles include applying design and experimentation approaches to develop proactive and disruptive leapfrog solutions that tackle critical governmental issues, bringing together federal and local government teams and the private sector on seconded full time or temporary basis under the championship of an existing minister in the cabinet. With a cabinet decree and permissions granted, The Ministry relooks at the fundamentals of government and instill a culture in which impossible challenges can be tackled effectively resulting in replacement of current existing systems with solutions that were explored, co-designed, prototyped, and piloted with end users. Practicing agility and constant feedback cycles have been a day to day essential process in the ministry.
The Ministry of Possibilities’ have 4 main criteria for choosing the projects which qualify to become time-bound departments. The first criterion is to tangibly improve lives and have a direct impact on an end user/s. The second criterion that it has to relate to government. The third criterion that it has to disrupt an existing system; in addition to the last criteria in which the topic needs to be globally relevant.
There are 4 basic values in which daily routines and rituals are designed and followed in the ministry; give back & amplify, protect those who try, stay close to the ground, and dare to keep moving. All values which are based on protecting team members and encouraging share back and feedback moments in addition to always ensuring end users are part of every phase.
Based on an agile & human-centered-design methodology, The Ministry of Possibilities was launched through 4 time-bound departments in its first phase which are: The Department of Behavioral Rewards, The Department of Proactive Services, The Department of Government Procurement and The Department of UAT Talent.
The Department of Behavioural Rewards aims to shift punitive associations around certain areas to an approach that encourages and incentivises positive behavior. This could possibly be in the form of a point-based rewards system that can be used to pay for government services. The team is exploring several areas to test their ideas, guided by the themes of individual empowerment, family support, community interaction, economic growth and love of country.
The Department of Proactive Services aims to redefine customers’ experiences of public services by anticipating needs and initiating service offerings before they are demanded. The team is exploring various types of customers and their service needs through every phase of life, and working with them to redesign a customer experience that eases and enriches the lives of every individual in our society.
The Department of Government Procurement aims to improve the government procurement experience for both product and service providers, as well as government entities. The team is focused on making the process faster and more accessible through the development of a user-friendly, digitally advanced procurement platform. This will increase ease of transacting and engagement of SMEs, thereby increasing competitiveness and maximising cost efficiencies.
The Department of UAE Talent aims to empower all Emiratis to be part of the country’s development and future design. The team is focused on creating mechanisms to identify, nurture and appropriately channel every individuals’ talents to ensure all citizens can determine their purpose and contribute to the advancement of the country in their own way.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The launch of the MOP was itself a groundbreaking achievement. The UAE won recognition from around the world for its forward-thinking approach to tackling wicked challenges. The Ministry’s innovative design has been praised for enabling the MOP to be responsive to the changing needs of the country and its people.
By creating a new typology in its own government structure, and by having a virtual ministry is by itself a bold and agile decision in order to experiment if this approach would solve the tangled wicked systemic issues it’s facing.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Since the ministry was launched, and there has been a full year of implementation, The Ministry is in its reflection and designing its next updated and amended phase; in addition to preparing the departments for launch and exiting the ministry.
Collaborations & Partnerships
All groups of stakeholders including citizens, government officials, civil society organisations and private companies were involved in the design phase of the Ministry itself as an innovative solution; in addition, in the working course of the departments, these groups were involved in almost all phases in terms of giving insights at the research phase, in co-designing, and being partners for piloting and scaling.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Government Officials – They now have the chance to get involved in critical projects outside the mandate of their entity yet make use of their knowledge, skills, and networks, in addition to introducing them to a new methodology. Example: Minister of State for Happiness & Wellbeing leads the Department of Proactive Services, which mainly focuses on testing that some services could be proactively offers to citizens before them requesting it.
Public Sector Employees – Team members were chosen based on expertise and influence; hence, some public sector employees were either full time or partially seconded from their main entities to the Ministry of Possibilities to take part in exploring the solutions in a very new environment and methodology.
Citizens – Ordinary or relevant citizens had the chance to be engaged and involved with the Government in workshops/focus groups/individual interviews around main policy areas topics or processes. For example, in the Department of UAE Talent, kids, parents, teachers, experts form the fields were all involved in the different phases.
Companies – Private companies were able to create partnerships with the government and get involved in the design of the solutions. For example, the Department of Behavioural Rewards were able to get “Fazaa” - a social initiative/company which aims to develop social interdependence and maintain effective bonds of solidarity within the UAE community - to sponsor and adopt a solution.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The Ministry was launched by a Cabinet Decree at the highest level of leadership in the country in addition to being operational and supportive to the 4 main time-bound departments.
The Ministry has trained over 60 public sector employees on human-cantered-design methodology in its first year. Have engaged with more than 500 end users in addition to engaging & meeting most of the federal entities.
Each department has progressed individually in terms of offering new products, services, launch of a national strategies and agendas.
Challenges and Failures
There have been several challenges faced throughout the Ministry’s first year, below are some examples.
One revolved around the ability of team members to adapt to a new model of work (in terms of methodology and environment). Challenging one’s perspective & expertise and introducing an end-user’s experience and then considering it as a valid insight might have been totally new to some team members, and it took time for them to absorb and be convinced.
Starting a project with an unknown result has been the most challenging issue on all levels. Government employees default to certainty and working towards a clear goal; which in the Ministry of Possibilities, starting the exploration journey with a good question and without hinting to a solution, could be very hard on many.
Using an agile approach, and introducing a circular phased model might have been uncomfortable too. Going back to some phases might have felt tiring to teams, and re-iterating and amending some proposals have left team members frustrated at times. All of which goes into the learning by doing for team members as a designed outcome of the Ministry.
Conditions for Success
The main condition is the buy in of leadership and high-level support which the Ministry of Possibilities has had in which makes all conversations and opportunities with other stakeholders easier to initiate.
Human resources and the selection of the correct mind-set team members is key to the success of a newly introduced practice like this Ministry. Choosing team members who are not open to new possibilities and who are very attached to their previous expertise areas and knowledge might hinder the progress of some teams; however, having open-minded, creative, and highly empathetic team members who come from different backgrounds and experiences add so much value to the process.
Having a supporting core team which follows a structured yet agile approach is key to ensure the sustainability and constant movement of the projects.
This specific model has not been replicated yet in any other government or entity; yet, its teachings and learning could in the future be exported as a model in which it could be easily replicated.
In April 2019, the Ministry of Possibilities (MOP) launched its first set of Departments/Cohort. This inaugural cohort—the Departments of Anticipatory Services, Behavioural Rewards, UAE Talent, and Government Procurement—brought together diverse skills and backgrounds from across government to tackle a set of four Impossibles.
As the MOP is preparing to graduate the inaugural cohort, it has been reflecting on the successes of the current operational model—and on opportunities to evolve and further strengthen its work moving forward.
Among many learnings and subsequent process adaptations captured, here are several learnings;
- It is essential to have a cross understanding and agreement of the definition of the impossible and the goal between all stakeholders to be able to progress and support the process.
- Leveraging and managing public/media exposure at key moments of the journey is important to protect and motivate teams.
- It is critical to have a dedicated team that have specific competencies who aren’t distracted with other tasks in order to achieve positive results.
- It is very important to build capabilities and form a common knowledge level when initiating a new practice between stakeholders
- There will always be resistance to new approaches and environments in which we should always be patient and ready for since it challenges some beliefs and norms.
- Having a new physical space and changing one’s environment could lead to new reactions and experiences.