We are a strategy group focused on public-serving solutions. We create solutions to delivery problems.
What is a delivery problem? A delivery problem is a gap between the goal of a policy or program, and the outcome of it. Delivery problems tend to be both banal and complicated. They stem from a common set of constraints that affect the public sector, including a responsibility for high stakes services, arcane and outdated operational limitations, demand brought about by market failures, complex and sticky regulatory backdrops, silo-ed budgets that do not map to holistic ROI, and difficult to resolve end consumer needs.
Our teams design programs, create tools and build capabilities to shore up gaps in service delivery. We do this by creating strategies, building plans and analyzing data that address these constraints and sometimes even leverage them. Most of our work involves experimentation and practical planning to ensure solutions work ‘in the wild’.
Policy is only the first of many steps needed to bring great public-focused services to life. Our work comes after policy is made– we work to improve the way policy is brought to life through the services that are delivered underneath it.
We also focus on making this work more visible and traversable by:
– Shattering the general perception that public services cannot be excellent, by demonstrating clear, visible wins
– Elevating and empowering all professionals who are focused on bringing novel public-focused solutions to life, by creating opportunities, resources and interactions that support their work
– Clearing barriers to business building and tool development in public service delivery, through more domain appropriate approaches to innovation, investment and growth
Public-serving outcomes are our north star. We define a ‘public-serving solution’ as one that enhances our collective ability to meet basic needs, create equity, and build shared future vitality for all. Policy is often the first step to producing strong public-serving solutions and it is rarely the last.
Our teams use a set of common approaches across projects that are meant to realize impact through our work. We also rely on ad hoc ideas to push each project even more in this direction (we borrow on the “If you see something, say something!” approach to have everyone own the idea that there is likely always something more to be done to serve the public interest through our work – and it is on all of us to spot it).
We work to create bright spots and new kinds of proof points –for others to learn from, build on and scale. Our teams are at their best when they are designing and creating something new, as a pilot or test. We do this to show what is possible, and to spur engagement and action from others.
We tend to focus on deliverables that are novel in one or more of the following forms: operationalizing new knowledge or deploying new technology to solve an old problem in a new way; identifying and designing new ways of paying for and incentivizing organizations that are providing services, to improve outcomes; developing and supporting new stakeholder groups to transform the processes used to deliver services.
Our project teams use a set of systematic approaches as well as a structured creative process to isolate a specific delivery problem and break down its many layers, in order to map the constraints and possibilities for solutions. We work to move beyond the traditional “tri-sector” model (public, private, nonprofit) and instead focus on better ways to blend end user feedback, new knowledge and technology, lessons from parallel spaces, and a deep understanding of the stakeholders and systems currently operating today.
We exist to get things built! Many delivery problems exist precisely because execution has been constrained, deemphasized, or underinvested-in at some point in the past. We work to move beyond that, by supporting direct execution and implementation in most of our work.
We scope deliverables to be as close to outcomes ‘in the wild’ as possible. We do that by setting up new programs and developing new tools directly, or by supporting partners to take the lead on execution when that is more appropriate. 17A projects are typically execution- or implementation-oriented even when they start with blue sky thinking and high level strategy – this is to ensure that the solution we identify is put into action as part of our project.
We design solutions that will have longevity, so that each one is well set up to be a part of a broader transformation in the delivery of public-focused services.
We do this by focusing on ensuring the right capabilities, financial arrangements, ongoing access to the problem and flexibility for continuous improvement over time. Our teams focus on solutions that have a pathway to sustainability that is at least visible on each of these dimensions, if not immediately achievable on all of them.
We also focus on our ability to step away from the work we do, and leave it in the hands of partners who are better suited to lead it over time. Our vision for the public sector of the future is that we have helped play a role in designing some of the most creative improvements and that we have set them in motion in a way that is easy for others to run, scale and build on.
Our teams blend expertise in traditional business strategy, analytics, rapid prototyping, regulatory research, administrative agency operations, and large scale transformation. 17A’s approach is to bring this menu of skills to each project, along with an ability to use it flexibly.
We build our teams with the tiger team model in mind–focused on coupling the right professional expertise with creative energy and flexibility. The first Tiger Team worked on the Apollo-13 mission and has been described as a group of “uninhibited technical specialists, selected for their experience, energy, and imagination, and assigned to track down relentlessly every possible source of failure in a spacecraft subsystem or simulation”. While we are certainly working on different sorts of problems, the team ethos works.
Our work is built on the belief that many of the biggest public problems persist because of (or are at least made worse by) very banal and uninteresting failures that happen after policy is made. The bogeyman of a strong society is not often imagined as a back end data processing issue, a well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful state regulatory requirement from the 1980s, or an underfunded frontline team given a narrow mandate in the face of a broad problem – though it is often precisely these sorts of things that get in the way of strong public service delivery. And every time something gets in the way of strong public service delivery, we tend to trust government less. Engage with it less. Invest in it less. We tend to believe it will simply always fail. We work against that – to create bright spots and novel examples for others to build on.