UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Digital Leadership in the Entrepreneurial State

20 April 2023, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

Digital Leadership

UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) invites you to the first talk of the IIPP 2023 Festival: The Entrepreneurial State 2.0. - Rethinking the State in the 21st Century​.

Event Information

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IIPP Communications


Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose
11 Montague Street

Watch the video here

Thursday 20th April | 18:00-19:30 (BST) UK Time

The emergence of the internet and online-oriented services has fundamentally raised citizens' expectations for public services, with demands for user-friendly, secure, reliable, efficient, accessible, and transparent digital services.

However, many countries are challenged in responding to these most basic demands. Many services are either not available online, or too difficult to navigate and use. More ambitious ideas of using new technologies to reimagine the state and its capabilities feel still more remote.

This general lack of capacity can cause real and direct harm. A software failure by a Royal Mail contractor led the agency to falsely accuse sub-post masters (effectively sub-contractors) of theft, fraud, and false accounting. Many sub-post masters were prosecuted with some even receiving prison sentences. As countries design ambitious digital strategies, the question arises: are they ready to implement them? What skills do public servants require to be effective in the digital era, and how will governments respond to these demands? Who will lead the changes needed to enhance innovation and digitalise governments?

The panel explored strategies to enhance long-term state capacities, dynamic capabilities, and civil servants' skills to promote innovation and digital transformation in governments.

Meet the panel: 
This panel discussion was chaired by Dr David Eaves, Associate Professor in Digital Government at UCL IIPP in conversation with panellists: Prof. Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director of UCL IIPP, Jennifer Pahlka, Founder of Code for America and US Deputy Chief Technology Officer (June 2013- June 2014), Mike Bracken, world leader in digital government and Visiting Professor of Practice at UCL IIPP and Nai Kalema, PhD Candidate at UCL IIPP.

This event is part of the IIPP 2023 Festival: The Entrepreneurial State 2.0. - Rethinking the State in the 21st Century.  #TheEntrepreneurialState2.0

About the Speakers

Jennifer Pahlka

Founder and former Executive Director at Code for America

Jennifer Pahlka
Jennifer Pahlka is the founder and former executive director of Code for America. She served as the U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 2013–2014, where she founded the United States Digital Service. She received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, and was named by Wired as one of the 25 people who has most shaped the past 25 years. She serves on the Defense Innovation Board and the board of the Tech Talent Project. She holds fellowships with Ashoka, the National Academy of Public Administration, and the Volcker Alliance. Jennifer is a graduate of Yale University and lives in Oakland, California. 

Jennifer is author of the forthcoming book Recoding America: Why Government Is Failing in the Digital Age and How We Can Do Better, which has been described as a bold call to reexamine how our government operates—and sometimes fails to.

“If you’ve ever wondered how government can get better, you’ll love Pahlka’s fresh take on the solutions to our bureaucratic dysfunction. Everyone can learn something from this wonderful book: How to strengthen democracies, how to lead with more wisdom, how to make government work for all of us. The future of our society—and even our planet—depends on our ability to recode the American government.” —Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better
More about Jennifer Pahlka

Mike Bracken

Partner at Public Digital

Mike Bracken
Mike Bracken is a Visiting Professor of Practice at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), as well as a Partner at Public Digital. Mike Bracken CBE is a global digital leader who has led wholesale transformations of large institutions in the private and public sector. He helps organisations use digital to change their way of working and solve systemic market, societal and macroeconomic challenges. Mike is best known for leading the global revolution in digital government.

In 2011, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude brought Mike into government from the private sector as the UK’s first Executive Director of Digital and Chief Data Officer. Over five years, he created, led and scaled the Government Digital Service (GDS), reversing a decades-long culture of IT failure in government.

In the private sector, Mike led Guardian News and Media’s transformation into a digital institution, delivering core digital platforms and new digital products, and opening content and data to third parties. As the Cooperative Group’s Chief Digital Officer, he launched a digital membership scheme increasing membership by 60%, and delivered multi-million pound efficiencies in its retail, legal services and funeral care businesses. In 2016, he co-founded Public Digital, a consultancy which supports multinational businesses, governments and NGOs with digital transformation.

He is an advisor to the Inter-American Development Bank on digital transformation in Latin America, and an Honorary Professor at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at University College London. He is a Non-Executive Director at Chetwood Bank, a fully licensed UK fintech. His previous non-executive portfolio has included Lloyds of London and the Omidyar Network philanthropic investment firm.

More about Mike Bracken

Professor Mariana Mazzucato

Founding Director and Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

Mariana Mazzucato
Mariana Mazzucato (PhD) is Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London (UCL), where she is Founding Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation & Public Purpose (IIPP). She received her BA from Tufts University and her MA and PhD from the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research. Her previous posts include the RM Phillips Professorial Chair at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at Sussex University. She is a selected fellow of the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) and of the Italian National Science Academy (Lincei).

She is winner of international prizes including the Grande Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana in 2021, Italy’s highest civilian honour, the 2020 John von Neumann Award, the 2019 All European Academies Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values, and the 2018 Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. She was named as one of the ‘3 most important thinkers about innovation‘ by The New Republic, one of the 50 most creative people in business in 2020 by Fast Company, and one of the 25 leaders shaping the future of capitalism by WIRED. Most recently, Pope Francis appointed her to the Pontifical Academy for Life for bringing “more humanity” to the world.

She is the author of four highly acclaimed books: The Entrepreneurial State: debunking public vs. private sector myths (2013) which investigates the critical role the state plays in driving growth; The Value of Everything: making and taking in the global economy (2018) which looks at how value creation needs to be rewarded over value extraction; Mission Economy: a moonshot guide to changing capitalism (2021) rethinks the capacity and role of government within the economy and society; and most recently The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens our Businesses, Infantilizes our Governments and Warps our Economies (2023).

She advises policymakers around the world on innovation-led inclusive and sustainable growth. Her current roles include being Chair of the World Health Organization’s Council on the Economics of Health for All, Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, Co-Chair on the Council on Urban Initiatives, member of the South African President’s Economic Advisory Council, the UN High Level Advisory Board for Economic and Social Affairs, the European Space Agency’s High-Level Advisory Group on Human and Robotic Space Exploration for Europe, Argentina’s Economic and Social Council and Vinnova’s Advisory Panel in Sweden and the OECD High-Level Advisory Panel on Climate and Economic Resilience. Previously, through her role as Special Advisor for the EC Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation (2017-2019), she authored the high-impact report on Mission-Oriented Research and Innovation in the European Union, turning 'missions' into a crucial new instrument in the European Commission’s Horizon innovation programme, and more recently, authored a report with the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on Transformational Change in Latin America and the Caribbean: A mission-oriented approach. More about Professor Mariana Mazzucato

Nai Lee Kalema

PhD Candidate at UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

Nai Kalema
Nai Lee Kalema is a PhD Candidate in Innovation and Public Policy at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (UCL IIPP). Nai’s research is supervised by Professor Rainer Kattel, Professor of Innovation and Public Governance, and Dr Kate Roll, Associate Professor in Innovation, Development and Purpose. At UCL IIPP, Nai serves as a PGTA for the UCL IIPP’s Digital Transformation module led by Dave Eaves, Associate Professor in Digital Government, and Mike Bracken, Visiting Professor of Practice and founding executive director of the UK Government Digital Service (GDS).

Priorly, Nai was a PGTA for the UCL IIPP’s Transformation by Design module led by Rowen Conway, Visiting Professor of Strategic Design, and Dan Hill, Professor of Design and Director of Strategic Design for Vinnova (The Swedish Government’s innovation and research agency) (fmr). Finally, Nai served as an RA for the UCL Urban Lab with Ben Campkin, Professor of Urbanism and Urban History.

More about Nai Lee Kalema

Dr David Eaves

Co-Deputy Director and Associate Professor in Digital Government at UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

Previously a lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), where he taught and wrote on digital era public administration, digital transformation and the governance of digital public infrastructure, David has also co-founded Teaching Public Service in a Digital Age, which has sought to bring together faculty from around the world to co-design and share an open licensed curriculum to teach the minimum needed digital competences for future public leaders. These materials are now used by dozens of faculty members in over 20 universities around the world. David has partnered with Public Digital to co-host an annual convening of digital government leaders from around the world. He has taught policy analysis in the MPP core curriculum and ran a highly successful Executive Education programme on Digital Transformation.

In addition to his work at HKS, David co-founded and served as CEO of a civictech start up that successfully grew to serve over 400 governments across North America. He has advised on governance and collaboration strategies for open source communities such as OpenMRS, Drupal and Mozilla, and provided training to almost every cohort of Code for America fellows, White House Presidential Innovation Fellows and Code for Canada fellows.

David is also proud of his work as a negotiation adviser to numerous tech organisations, governments and environmental groups. He served as negotiation advisor to a coalition of Canadian environmental government organisations during two years of negotiations with the Forestry Products Association of Canada (FPAC) which helped cement the groundbreaking Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.

More about Dr David Eaves