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Making innovation a consistent, reliable and strategic resource for governments

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OPSI19 (Making innovation a consistent, reliable and strategic resource for governments)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2020-12-31

Governments are operating in an environment of unprecedented changes (technological, demographic, environmental, etc.) and yet how they operate is still tied to structures and processes originating from earlier centuries. While much has been learnt, and governments have been experimenting and implementing new approaches, much more must be done if the public sector is to live up to the evolving expectations of citizens. This project is premised on an understanding that the future of government is, and must be, unlike its past. It is one where innovation is embedded, so that governments can be agile in how they respond and have a fundamental appreciation of citizen needs and values.

For this level of transformation to happen, governments need to dramatically expand their learning networks and capacity building. This will only happen if innovation is clearly demonstrated as a core part of how to deliver on core priorities, rather than being seen as an optional extra. The projects supports governments in making their own innovation journey and build the conceptual frameworks (21st century model of innovative government) (WP2) and capabilities and capacities needed to accelerate learning and navigate uncertainty and high level of risks (WP3). These processes are supported by working with direct demonstration projects inside governments to show that systemic change is possible (WP4).
During the first reporting period, the project has made substantive progress in achieving its objectives:

-Building an action-oriented innovation theory and empirical evidence supporting innovation in the public sector (WP 2). The work conducted during the first reporting period focused on laying out the foundation of a new action-oriented theory. Based on the observations of country activities and interventions, OPSI has designed and developed a Portfolio Exploration Tool as an empirically-led sense-making tool to inform the foundational elements of the theory. The tool provides an online self-assessment that helps policy-makers determine their team’s or organisation’s innovation portfolio. It is rooted in the OECD’s Innovation Facets Model which recognises that different challenges require different types of innovation activity. The PET has been codesigned with the help of more than XX internal and external stakeholders, including an International Advisory Group. It has also been initially tested with a few public sector organisations and governments to assess the status of their current innovation portfolio, and whether they would be able to meaningfully draw upon diverse innovation capabilities in the face of another crisis.

-Developing a learning programme based on peer-to-peer exchange and capacity building on public sector innovation (WP 3). Currently, individual innovation champions in government are the driving engine behind public sector innovation. The effectiveness of their action can be enhanced by stronger connections to peer and other expert networks that can empower new, additional innovation champions to act. The objective of the work under WP3 is to further reinforce the capacity for innovation through strengthening peer-to-peer exchange and learning among government innovators. The work conducted through the first reporting period focused on allowing fast learning and replication of the use of the Innovation Facet Model. This consisted in developing a Train the Trainer Guidebook which was adapted to ensure that workshops could be run virtually, responding to the transition to teleworking that many governments made as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. It also featured an intense program with six webinars scheduled throughout the year on specific topics related to public sector innovation.

-Accelerating and legitimising change through (inter-governmental) collaborative incubation projects (WP 4). The objective of this working package is to set up a mechanisms to ensure that 1) benefits of learning from innovation are not confined to a small circle of invested people but reach out to a larger ecosystem of actors, and the international community; and 2) transformative projects get exposed to larger set of expertise that may provide useful insights or validate the need for change or help project scale. The action under the first reporting period set up an innovation incubator model that allows governments to support and accelerate learning by bringing together governments with similar interest and/or facing similar challenges. This will involve on-the-job peer exchange and connection with networks of peers who share the same problems or have knowledge and expertise that is needed, while innovation projects mature. The activities focused on the co-design of the model with a range of international stakeholders, identification of pilot projects (Romania, Denmark and Portugal) and launch of initial activities/dialogues.
The actions set out in the proposal are well on track to contribute to the following results:

-Development of a 21st century model of innovative governance and government: taking into account the different purposes and roles of innovation (WP2) in government contexts. The models will provide a common language for public sector innovation actors to articulate and therefore share knowledge about public sector innovation phenomena.

-Support better and more informed decision-making and public policy making, and the ability to use innovation effectively to respond to public sector challenges: an action oriented innovation theory will not deliver on its promise if it is not embedded into strategic decision making. particular attention will be given to monitoring the degree or extent to which theory is successfully incorporated in government processes and advisory services.

-Embed transformative capacity within governments – the project will make more accessible and easy-to-use existing tools and resources OPSI has created for not only individual, but systemic change, as well as accompanying innovators in their learning journey, from webinars to training programs.

-Foster collaboration between innovators on common challenges and deliver (inter-governmental) demonstration projects – the project will act as an incubator bringing project owners with solution providers to exchange knowledge and expertise and collaboratively work together. It will demonstrate the possibility for transformative change in government and create legitimacy for the former. Intense collaboration over identified issues will generate a strong sense of common purpose, a shared ownership across innovators and governments, and social capital across different OECD and EU governments. OPSI will determine the impact of this activity via the number of connections made.

-Significantly growing the body of practical experience and knowledge – the project will generate a wide range of knowledge on innovative approaches and methods (WP2-4) which will be systematically captured and integrated into the Observatory database for the users.