Government is perhaps not renowned for being particularly innovative, but a recent report from the OECD sets out to showcase some innovative government policies from around the world in recent years.
The report is the result of the work conducted by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), which was created in 2014 to identify the key issues for innovation in government.
The report provides a number of fascinating case studies of innovative government from around the world, including The Wellbeing Project, which aims to use data to provide more personalized services in California, the use of blockchain to allow Colombian expats to vote in elections and Virtual Warsaw, a virtual smart city to help the blind navigate Warsaw.
Innovation isn’t something that comes naturally or easily to any organization, but especially not to governments, so the report set out to explore some of the issues these case studies faced, and what lessons can be learned from them.
Trends in government innovation
The report highlights six core trends that underpin many of the innovations they see around the world:
- pairing human knowledge with innovative tools
- scaling government, and especially innovative new solutions
- a redefining of citizen-government barriers, and an appreciation that good ideas can come from anywhere
- personalized services tailored to the specific needs of citizens
- an experimental approach to government that factors in the rapid pace of change
- bucking the norm, especially in areas of HR and financial resource management
Barriers to innovation
As it examined innovation around the world under these six core themes, a number of key barriers emerged that had to be overcome if governments are to innovate successfully.
It identifies four key factors that unlock innovation in government:
- the overcoming of bureaucracy, and especially the internal regulations, procedures and structures that tend to inhibit innovation in the public sector
- the harnessing of citizens’ ideas, and the opening up of ones mind to the world of ideas and insights outside of government
- the construction of open and trust-based relationships with citizens that are conducted in a transparent manner
- the creation of a culture that supports innovation
Whilst these all sound fairly obvious, and indeed are the kind of things that are commonly said about encouraging innovation within companies as well as governments, the report goes on to say that no government currently operates without at least one of these barriers in place.
The road to innovation
As such, it provides a number of recommendations for governments wishing to improve their innovation capabilities.
- Signal that innovation is a priority
- Enable connections both within government and beyond
- Promote trust through transparency and responsiveness
- Forge partnerships with all relevant players
“The power and potential of innovation in government is immense, and grows daily as societies become more connected and the challenges they face grow more complex. Governments and civil servant around the world are transforming the way they work to ensure this potential is met, by solving problems using novel and impactful approaches that provide lessons about what may work and what may not,” the report says.
There are a number of key challenges to be overcome however if this vision is to be realized, but by identifying what these challenges are, the report provides a good first step in helping governments overcome them.