Can tiny Guernsey, an island nation state, solve mental health?
One recurring innovation challenge is finding the right location to test out ideas, interventions, new technology and social change. The ideal space is accessible, well regulated, international and ring-fenced. Could public- and private-sector innovation be accelerated by the co-ordinated use of “smart specialisation” by smaller countries? Nesta has pointed previously to the advantages of smaller scale in national innovation capacity.
Guernsey is an autonomous jurisdiction located geographically and culturally between Europe and the UK. We are fortunate to have an outstanding public-sector service, including a high-quality health service with good coverage and excellent schools. We have a culture of innovation, flexibility and rapid change. With the right values, a good idea can become law within two years.
With a population of 65k, Guernsey is large enough for a nationwide experiment, but small and smart enough to fail fast and iterate without too much sunk cost. The exact same process seems to be at work in the new ascendancy of the city as “innovation engine”, however cities lack the boundaries and “joined-up” thinking and control found in smaller nation states.
Advantages of innovation in our small testbed nation
Guernsey’s government has the ambitious aim of becoming the happiest, healthiest nation on Earth by 2026. We are based in a community that is open for business, keen to innovate and diversify the economy, and interested in research to address the world’s biggest challenges. We are big enough to be meaningful, yet small enough to demonstrate impact at lower cost. The advantages of investing in small nation innovation are given below.
Guernsey as a test-bed nation:
- Capacity to rapidly develop own legislation and policy;
- Ability to solve big issues in small-scale meetings;
- Highly transparent and resistant to corporate lobbying;
- Ability to transform cross-cutting policy areas like Education, Employment, Health, etc;
- Focused: single hospital with ring-fenced dataset and patient set;
- Stable, representative, population;
- Infrastructure: high rates of population capture into services;
- Good travel links and international relationships;
- World-class IT, data and regulatory frameworks;
- Vibrant digital, creative and charity sectors with active representative groups;
- Strong business links with the City of London, and membership of the UK’s Innovate Finance, through Guernsey Finance.
We are based in a community that is open for business, keen to innovate and diversify the economy, and interested in research to address the world’s biggest challenges.
We at the Thrive Foundation believe that a democratic nation-state that can set its own laws, decide how its resources are used, and that has set the explicit intention of solving mental health, can achieve this big audacious goal.