It’s hard to dispute that the public sector is facing a range of challenges the like of which it has probably never faced before. To tackle these complex challenges and meet the ever increasing desires of society requires an innovative response.
Alas, this kind of innovation is not something that the public sector traditionally does very well. Indeed, some may argue that the very culture of the public sector is geared to be anything but agile and innovative.
For the past few years the OECD have been monitoring the public sector around the world as they hunt for innovative practices. Their Observatory of Public Sector Innovation’s collection has highlighted interesting works from across the world, and they are now compiling the lessons they’ve observed into a new report.
How to create a government where innovation is encouraged
The report identifies a number of things that need to change to foster innovation within the public sector.
Many of these are well trodden in any discussion around innovation, whether they’re having a healthier attitude towards risk or transparent with the flow of information.
It argues for the values of agility both in trying out new things and in stopping that which is shown to no longer work. The merits of co-creation are lauded, before then suggesting four areas for governments to address if they wish to become more innovative:
- People – here they suggest that governments should invest more in the innovative capacity of their staff.
- Knowledge – the state should facilitate a free flow of information, data and knowledge throughout the public sector to allow for informed and creative responses.
- Collaboration – complex problems require new ways of working that integrate the perspectives of citizens, civil society, academia and business. Institutions should become as adept at collaborating inside as they are outside of government.
- Rules and processes – rules can often stifle innovation, so thought should be given as to how they can be altered to support innovation whilst retaining accountability.
It’s hard to argue with any of the insights or recommendations that appear in the report. I suspect however that much of this is known within the public sector already, and that the challenge will be moving from knowing to doing.
Hopefully the report will help that process along however. You can access it for free here.