This paper explores how and why the next government will need to be innovative in seeking to renew government for the 2020s.

Successive government in previous decades – especially the Labour Party in 1997 – have radically reformed Whitehall. These changes have included the introduction of the comprehensive spending reviews, public service agreements (more recently in the form of outcome delivery plans) and the creation of delivery units in Cabinet Office (and in departments) to push forward reform. In addition, governments have pursued radical devolution from Whitehall to the nations and regions, and mechanisms to open up decision-making such as freedom of information.

The next government will need to be just as innovative in seeking to renew government for the 2020s. Any incoming government will inherit a profound set of challenges including low and unequal growth, a cost-of-living crisis, and failing public services. Within government, civil service morale is low, trust in politics has been eroded and delivery chains have proven ineffective. In addition, the more activist approach to government increasingly pursued (such as industrial strategy or levelling up) will require the civil service to build up new and different capabilities which have not been drawn on as much by recent governments.

This should focus on the creation of mission-driven government. These missions should not just be about what government wants to achieve but how it seeks to do this. This paper aims to establish what this means in practise based on an extensive literature review and interviews with over 30 leading experts.