November 25, 2021

Fostering Innovation in the Public Sector

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

Innovation is a word one has heard multiple times in the last few years but mostly relating to private sector. As governments must continually adapt to address new and ever more complex challenges facing societies, how can innovation become a part of their toolkit?

Governments need to not only be innovative but also to create the right conditions for innovation within and across systems. This entails being able to identify problems and translate ideas into projects that can be piloted on a small scale and then implemented and diffused to effect system-wide change. It also means recognizing the processes and structures that can support and accelerate innovation.

This report explores how the different aspects of public sector governance can support such innovation at all stages of its lifecycle, from identifying problems to generating ideas, developing proposals, implementing and evaluating projects, and diffusing them more widely throughout the organisation. It also looks at how governments can create an environment that supports rather than hinders innovation. Indeed, some of the government management processes can hinder or push innovation. Public sector innovation is about finding new and better means to achieve public ends. To meet the innovation challenge, the report suggests that governments need to address four areas:

  • People matter: invest in civil servants as the catalysts of innovation. This involves building the culture, incentives and norms to facilitate new ways of working.
  • Knowledge is power: facilitate the free flow of information, data and knowledge across the public sector and use it to respond creatively to new challenges and opportunities.
  • Working together: promote new organisational structures and partnerships to improve approaches and tools, share risks, and harness the information and resources available for innovation.
  • Rules and processes to support not hinder: ensure that internal rules and processes balance their capacity to mitigate risks with protecting resources and enabling innovation.

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