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Created by the Public Governance Directorate

This website was created by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), part of the OECD Public Governance Directorate (GOV).

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Validation that this is an official OECD website can be found on the Innovative Government page of the corporate OECD website.

Access expertise or advice

New approaches and methodologies open up possibilities for the public sector to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.

However, just because you have a toolkit or a process does not mean that innovation will happen. As with many other things, you also need to apply human skills and competencies to bring about a change. Expertise navigating novel situations and managing innovation often only comes with practice. Additionally, acquiring and managing expertise looks very different at the scale of the individual, the team, the organisation, and the system.

What are the strategies to obtain this expertise for your organisation, team, or yourself? Let us break down some common considerations when assessing the need for innovative skills within an organisation.

Build versus Buy the skills

Public sector managers must to make critical decisions about how to invest their resources. When should the public sector build and use innovation skills to solve problems and when should they consider the private sector, whether through recruitment or procurement, to support innovation efforts? How can the public sector better use the opportunity of working with the private sector to build innovation skills?

When considering buying the skills, consider:

  • Deadlines: Do you have a very tight deadline and you need a capability that you don’t currently have? This may be the right time to bring in outside expertise. Building skills and expertise takes time and is a long-term commitment that cannot be accelerated just because of a deadline.
  • Short-Term Surge/Limited Needs: Sometimes you need additional resources or a specific skill for a limited length of time or as an experiment. In this case, it may not be worth hiring additional full-time staff. If you only need a skill or greater capacity in the short-term, a contract or partnership with the private sector may be the best path. After the surge, reflect on whether building longer-term expertise will help with your overall innovation strategy.
  • Can’t Recruit: People with innovation expertise are in high demand and therefore, it is a very competitive marketplace. You may have a hard time recruiting individuals with certain skills and need to tap into the private sector to access the individuals with those talents.
  • Build a learning element into private sector partnerships: Regardless of why you partner with the private sector, you are missing an opportunity to build your own staff expertise if you do not make internal “learning” an explicit outcome of the partnership. If these terms are not included in the scope of the contract, it does not usually occur. Look for partners who will build your capabilities while delivering on the primary objectives.

Build the skill

Investing in and developing people leads to long term capabilities in your team or organisation. Since the need for skills and expertise changes as the work of the public sector changes, make investments that will help you respond and deliver now as well as anticipate future challenges.

When considering building the skills, consider:

  • Types of skills – Check out the OECD’s 6 Core Skills of Public Sector Innovation
  • The latest practice – Many public sector innovators start their journey by reading stories about various innovation topics and examples and cases from others. Numerous blogs, newsletters, and social media sites exist. To get started, check out LinkedIn and Medium articles and groups with tags such as Innovation, Social Innovation, Social Impact, and Design Thinking. On twitter, look for tweets with the hashtags servicedesign, PSILabs, designthinking, opengov, and cx. To see how other governments are using new innovation skills and capabilities, take a look at our Case Study Library.
  • Connecting – Connecting with others, building community, and learning together is a great way to build skills and expertise. OPSI has a community platform where people can discuss public sector innovations and share learning opportunities.
  • Training – Some public sector innovators build their skills through formal classroom training. Today, many national and sub-national governments have their own internal innovation training programmes such as those in the United States, United Kingdom, Chile, and Argentina. Many discipline-specific trainings (i.e. design thinking, etc.) and workshops exist in-person and online. Look for trainings that offer a practicum component so you can build practical expertise in addition to knowledge.
  • Learn by Doing – One way to build your practice is to just get started. Look for communities of practice in your organisation or community that can help you get started. Some toolkits offer more comprehensive instruction—including techniques, tactics, and tips—designed specifically by the publishers for those who want to know “the why” as well as a detailed version of “the how” of an innovation process.

Related toolkits and resources

Individual or team skill building

See toolkits with associated learning curriculum

See toolkits good for practising innovation skills

See toolkits that include “learning by doing” techniques


Team building and lab practice

See toolkits related to organisational design and innovation labs

See toolkits good for building a team or lab

See toolkits related to group skills or behaviours

Examples of labs in governments (old platform)

Examples of labs in governments (new platform)


Partner to bring in expertise

See toolkits related to:

Reach out and learn more

Join an OPSI discussion group about skills

See OPSI blogs related to skills

See what governments are doing to build skills and capacity

Request a webinar on this topic – top-requested topics will be prioritised

Still searching? Contact OPSI and one of us will help you find what you need.

Contact other experts in this area

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See how other governments are doing this work

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