Nesta’s Competency Framework for Experimental and Public Problem Solving was launched in 2017 as a skills and innovation map and reflection tool for users in the public sector and their teams.

After the launch of the framework, FutureGov and Nesta started building an app aiming to provide a remote way for public sector teams to use the framework to self-assess their innovation skills and attitudes. After that alpha version, Nesta was able to use it with the teams of civil servants that they worked with.

Earlier this year, Nesta asked us to review the alpha, refine the audience and collaboratively create a new version that better fits user expectations and needs. With a focus on the skills needed to work differently in the current public sector.


We initially spoke with potential users from different organisations and countries, to understand whether the app’s existing features were useful, and gain a wider understanding of the value the app could add to their personal development.

We used a hypothesis-led user research process to test our assumptions that the app:

  • had too much information, causing users to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information throughout the assessment and within their results
  • was confusing as users didn’t know how to apply the results of the assessment in their current jobs
  • was not clear with the results as users didn’t know how and where to gain or develop skills the app suggested
  • provided no guidance on how to use the results to improve the innovativeness of the user’s team

We designed and conducted research, interviewing eight potential users of a new (beta) version of the app. Our findings covered six recurring themes that would become our focus:

  • understanding and contextualising: There was confusion around terminology, what skills look like in practice and the difference between skills, attitudes and behaviours.
  • action plan: The app needed a way to inform and guide users on how to use the results and direct them to further resources.
  • teamwork: There was a missing feature that would allow users to cross-reference the results with the rest of their team, providing suggestions on how users can work with their teams to develop their skills.
  • audience: The app needed to be open to users in the public sector at all levels, from leadership to front-line staff, with potential to be used in recruitment processes.
  • trust verification: There was a lack of detail around the story behind the organisations and method used to create the framework. Users also wanted to see how the app was affiliated to a respected body.
  • visualisation and function: The app needed to bring things to life through visuals. The constant scrolling was distracting and time consuming, and the presentation of results needed to be clearer.


Using insights from our user research we designed the beta version of the app. The tool now includes new and improved features including but not limited to an improved UX, a rebuild on modern architecture, Nesta design style and branding and the ability for users to manage/delete their own data.

Their technical skills and knowledge (from user research to back-end app development) really helped to push us, and shape this product for the better.

Nesta tool for innovation skills beta web app user centred design improvements

FutureGov were responsive, flexible and patient to our questions and alterations throughout the process, and helped to challenge our thinking.

Nesta tool for innovation skills results page: providing clearer definitions, more information and better visual design

The next steps will be testing the beta app with people working in the public sector innovation space from the UK and internationally, with the involvement of the State of Change team. This testing phase will aim to understand how far the changes we’ve made have addressed the original challenges and what further improvements might be required to have a full live version of the digital tool for public sector innovation skills.

In March 2021 the beta version of the tool was launched, helping public innovators to better understand their own role in changing the world for good.

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