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Development of Public Sector Innovation Observatory

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - OPSI (Development of Public Sector Innovation Observatory)

Reporting period: 2017-07-15 to 2019-01-14

The social and economic challenges societies are confronted with today (e.g. climate change, obesity, radicalisation, income inequality and poverty) threat the sustainable development of societies and require action from governments. Complexity has become a core feature of most policy issues today - increasing automation of jobs creates new challenges for both the education and welfare system. Ensuring a high-quality, active life for an ageing population puts pressure on the labour market, but also requires new ways of providing medical and social care. Innovation is becoming an imperative for governments to stay ahead of the curve and to meet the fast changing needs of society. The project aimed to foster a better understanding of the role of public sector innovation in strengthening government capacity to respond to these challenges. In particular the project focused on how innovative approaches and governance model can improve the performance of the public sector and hence its capacity to support economic growth and social well-being. It seeked to identify innovative forms of program and service delivery which improve their access, efficiency, effectiveness, and inclusiveness.
The project conducted important set of work and achieved the following results:

1. Fostering theoretical and practical learning on innovative approaches in government administrations – The project completed work to explore the theory and practice of systems approaches applied to public sector problems, and developed a conceptual framework and a set of three in depth case studies. The report was discussed by about 100 government and non-government experts at a dissemination workshop event. The project has completed an examination of systemic approaches to city transformation and developed a set of five in depth case studies . The project has also completed the analysis of the innovation lifecycle with sever reports that looked at how ideas are sourced, developed and implemented, and how lessons are diffused. The findings of the city level work were well-received by decision-makers and expert communities in a number of instances such as in seminar in October 2017 in Brussels and January 2018 in Espoo.

2. Enhancing the sharing of ideas and co-creation of innovative solutions – The project has set up an expanded OPSI network of innovation practitioners working in gov admin and provided them with a space to interact, discuss and share through an enhanced online platform (https://oecd-opsi.org/). Network and platform functionalities were developed in close collaboration with the innovators community reflecting their needs and interests. A profile page and interactivity functions of the network have been prototyped internally and with the OPSI National Contact Points. As a result, the Observatory online platform has increased its user base (platform has been accessed over 113K times by nearly 70K users with 300,000 page views from 191 countries around the world since its re-launch under H2020. OPSI developed a Toolkit Navigator (https://oecd-opsi.org/toolkit-navigator/) to support innovators in identifying what tools and methods can best respond to the challenges they are facing. The Toolkit Navigator contains over 150 free innovation resources, all of which touch on subjects relevant to innovation in the public sector, including participatory budgeting, behavioral economics, human-centred design, design thinking, prototyping, and co-creation, amongst others.

3. . Building innovative capacities - The project has successfully delivered a beta inventory of skills for public sector innovations in collaboration with Nesta, and a report which profiles those organisations which have invested in developing and nurturing innovation skills . The skills framework includes analysis of both the challenges of building the innovation skills of government officials as well as a detailed exploration of the skills of innovation specialists brought into government from outside. The research led to the development of eight “skills profiles” that help identify what competencies are associated to different innovation roles within the public sector, thus being directly relevant for any public sector organisations who are working to update their competency frameworks to account for innovation. The model has been well received by HR and policy experts, and started to be applied in public sector skills development frameworks of OECD member countries (e.g. Chile). The project has also successfully developed and piloted a learning-oriented workshop (In Belgium and Ireland) with multiple governments to better understand, frame and develop innovative organizations and systems. The training framework helped baseline participants, discuss the pace of digital innovation, and looked at interventions at the individual, organisational, and system level.
The project has achieved the following impacts:

1. OPSI has helped bring the subject of public sector innovation out of the academic context and – through the cases and practices disseminated – it brought it into the government context, providing a safe environment (within the OPSI NCP Network) to share ideas and discuss practices, solutions developed in gov context. The result of the system work generated a significant debate among policy makers in OECD capitals, in particular on the challenge of applying systems approaches to solving national challenges. This work has led to further demand for applied work in member countries - also in collaboration with other OECD Directorates - on addressing specific systemic problems (e.g. addressing public procurement system in Slovenia, but also specific workshops in Scotland, Finland, Estonia and Wales).

2. The Skills for Innovation beta model and other applications (e.g. toolkits) have been well received by HR managers in the OECD networks. The model has been integrated into a wider framework for Public Sector Skills in the government of Chile. In other capitals, the framework has generated interest in relation to its potential applicability to guide the development of competency framework for civil servants. The training framework has been successfully piloted in two countries (Ireland and Belgium) and generated further interest among NCP countries for continued testing and development. The Observatory has been present in a number of Public Sector Innovation Weeks organized in the national contexts, celebrating innovation achievements and promoting it towards the general public (for example during the Innovation week of France – Nov 2016 and 2018, Brazil Sept 2016 and Nov 2018, and Canada, June 2017).

The work on public sector skills have served as a platform for engagement with social innovators and academics during ad-hoc review processes in Canada and in Brazil. The two end-of-year conferences were instrumental in developing a fresh view of the public sector among government officials and the public at large. The program - which has been delivered in innovative ways (prototypes, engagement with networks) - has been instrumental in promoting an intensified dialogue between government officials and political leaders on how to make innovation core business in government administrations, which resulted in increased political interest leading to the development of international principles on public sector innovation (OECD Declaration on Public Sector Innovation).
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