Heywood Foundation seeks ideas to transform public services post-Covid

Up to £25,000 up for grabs in Heywood Foundation Public Policy Prize
The late Lord Heywood was cabinet secretary from 2012 to 2018. Photo: : DPA/PA Images

The foundation set up in memory of the late cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood is offering £25,000 for the best idea to tackle challenges posed by coronavirus.

The inaugural Heywood Foundation Public Policy Prize, launched this week, is inviting people to identify the greatest challenges and opportunities posed by coronavirus, and put forward their ideas to tackle them.

The prize is in the spirit of the UK’s former top civil servant, who after stepping down was named Lord Heywood of Whitehall, and was “extremely open to new ideas, and actively sought out alternative perspectives”, the foundation said. The charity was set up in November 2018 to promote diversity and innovation in the civil service and the wider public sector in Lord Heywood’s memory.

“He was much more interested in the quality of the idea than the rank or seniority of the person who proposed it,” the foundation said in its announcement of the prize.

Prizes will be awarded for responses to two questions. The first – “What is a key challenge or opportunity presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences?” – comes with a top prize of £5,000.

Entrants are invited to submit answers of up to 300 words, with the £5,000 sum going to the “most innovative, surprising, or incisive identification of a challenge or opportunity created by the current crisis”.

“Your answer might capture a seemingly simple detail of public or private sector practice that you think doesn’t make sense or could be made much better. Or it could describe a big change in how we could live – or are living – our lives, or how our economy or society works,” according to the foundation. 

10 runners up will receive £500 apiece for their entries.

The second prize question calls for applicants to delve deeper, asking: “In the case of a problem, how might we fix it? In the case of an opportunity, how do we capitalise on it?”

The most impressive answer will win £25,000, with a second prize of £10,000. The third prizewinner will get £5,000 and 15 runners-up will receive £1,000 apiece.

“Credit will be given for the originality, practicality, and impact of ideas. Perhaps even more importantly, the winning submissions will put on the desks of leading policymakers, will attract wider debate, and perhaps will be enacted to make the world a better place,” the Heywood Foundation said.

A judging panel of senior politicians, policy experts and ex-senior civil servants will weigh up the answers.

It includes Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who promised entries would be judged "with a completely open mind with the intention of turning the best ideas into reality".

The closing date for the competition has yet to be announced, but is likely to be in March, the foundation said. The foundation said it may later use and publish some of the answers anonymously “for the purpose of stimulating further thought and discussion about challenges or opportunities that the current situation may present”.

For more details and to enter, click here.

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