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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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Management Accountability Framework – Innovation Area of Management

A new Area of Management (AoM) on Innovation has been integrated into the Management Accountability Framework (MAF). This is a tool used to promote management excellence in innovation for Canadians by assessing an organization’s ability to plan, generate and use rigorous evidence to inform decision-making on high-impact innovations. This is innovative in that it provides a clear roadmap to building thriving, innovative organizations and outlines a distinct role for executives in the process.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The Government of Canada has a long history of innovation and evidence-informed policymaking. The focus of the Innovation Area of Management is on further strengthening this culture of innovation by ensuring there is a strong link between problem-solving, evidence generation and management decision-making. Rigorously testing our innovations in real-world settings ensures we continue to achieve value for money, while improving social, environmental, and economic outcomes for Canadians and public servants.

The objectives of this innovation are to Incentivize departments and agencies to:

  • Commit resources to innovation and rigorous testing.
  • Generate reliable evidence through the rigorous testing of innovation.
  • Use rigorous evidence to inform decisions on high impact innovations.

The Committing Resources theme encourages organizations to foster a culture of innovation and measurement by funding plans to test new approaches and learn what works. Organizations increase their ability to rigorously compare solutions and generate evidence on departmental and government-wide priorities when they are supported through senior leadership approval and funding. The theme enables Deputy Heads and TBS to determine to what extent evidence-driven innovation has been embedded into an organization’s management practices.

The Generating Rigorous Evidence theme encourages organizations to use rigorous methods of comparison to support innovation across a diversity of organizational functions and where there is a potential for high impact for Canadians or public servants. By generating rigorous evidence on what works, we can de-risk innovations, support sound fiscal management, and achieve better results for Canadians. The theme enables Deputy Heads and TBS to monitor the extent to which organizations are testing their innovations and measuring outcomes in real-world settings.

The Evidence-Informed Decisions theme encourages organizations to use the results of rigorous comparisons to inform timely decision-making. An evidence-driven decision-making process ensures new ideas are sufficiently tested before implementation and existing programs and services are course corrected as needed. The theme enables Deputy Heads and TBS to determine to what extent organizations are making timely decisions at executive-level governance bodies and instilling a culture of innovation and measurement.

This innovative reporting mechanism benefits departments as they build or expand their organizational innovation capacity. By conducting an evidence intake and assessment, the MAF allows for close monitoring of innovation activities across government, builds incentives for deputy heads and executives to promote, support and implement innovation within their respective organisations and disseminates best practices across the federal public service.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

The Innovation Area of Management is innovative because it shifts the dialogue on public sector innovation from the periphery to the mainstream, by focusing on the following elements:

  • Innovation management excellence: Innovation can take place spontaneously and at a small scale, but a mature innovation function requires organizational capacity (e.g., resources, executive buy-in, embedding innovation in core processes).
  • High-impact innovations: Instead of focusing on the innovation itself or testing, the framework considers the potential impact of the innovation in terms of improvements to the public service or to services to Canadians. Irrespective of results, innovations need to be designed with the potential to solve significant problems.
  • High-quality monitoring information: The framework improves the data collection capacity on what is taking place across the system. This allows progress monitoring and sharing innovation management best practices across organizations.

What is the current status of your innovation?

The Innovation Area of Management has been implemented for the 2022-2023 Management Accountability Framework reporting cycle.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

The Management Accountability Framework (MAF) is a process managed by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. A directorate is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the process. As part of the development of the Area of Management, extensive consultations and engagement sessions were led with federal departments and agencies who must submit evidence through the MAF process.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Federal departments and agencies are the primary users of the Innovation Area of Management. The new framework pushes users to collaborate with more groups and processes within their department. This helps to breakdown silos and ensure innovation isn’t just happening in one isolated or peripheral part of a department. The framework also helps to increase the incentives for executives to support innovation within the Government of Canada which ultimately benefits the Canadian public.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

The Innovation Area of Management is helping to shape the dialogue on innovation both across and within federal departments. Through our consultation work with users, we have already started to see the benefits of this renewed dialogue (e.g., renewed enthusiasm for the Management Accountability Framework, relationships formed with new stakeholders, strategic long-term planning, etc.).

Because our innovation is inherently a model for measuring progress, we will have a strong capacity to measure results. The assessment questions are designed to capture when departments have reached high performance in innovation management. In the first year of assessment, we do not expect departments to reach the top of our scale as we are pushing for growth over the coming years.

We expect the following trends to emerge over time:

  • More resources committed to innovation and rigorous testing.
  • More high-impact projects.
  • More decisions informed by rigorous evidence.
  • More innovation embedded into core planning and government.

Challenges and Failures

A previous MAF framework saw departments reaching the top of the scale, therefore limiting their incentive to expand their capacity to innovate. Further, in the past, the distinction between innovation and experimentation was a struggle. Our new framing better incentivizes the use of rigorous methodologies by placing them within the broader context of innovation management.

Testing innovations is not new within government, especially within science departments. Our goal is not to create unnecessary oversight of science departments doing science. Instead, we needed to figure out how to distinguish policy experiments from science experiments so that we support innovation across the board: from human resources to program implementation to digital services.

We have also faced the challenge of how to best promote experimental methods. In sensitive contexts (e.g., Indigenous contexts), employing these methods or using particular terminology may not be appropriate.

Conditions for Success

The Innovation Area of Management requires federal department heads to pay attention to their organization’s innovation maturity and be willing to adjust the organization’s culture in response to standards embedded in the framework. It further requires organizations to put in place various components to build their innovation maturity, such as resources, expertise, governance structures, etc.


The Innovation Area of Management is part of a yearly reporting cycle, meaning that results will be compared year over year. By replicating the process every year, the Framework maintains an expectation that departments should continue to build their innovation organizational maturity and continue to explore new ways support innovation across the organization.

Lessons Learned

The Innovation Area of Management is a novel framework designed to encourage federal departments and agencies to pursue innovation and rigorous testing and in turn transform their organisational structure where needed. The framework has been developed by a central agency team following consultations with users from a range of departments. This co-development process was essential to consider various perspectives, validate terminology, and ensure that the approach was in line with how departments operate. Engaging with departmental users has been a key part of the process and generated valuable insights.

To ensure that innovation is not done in isolation or in peripheral parts of organizations, the Innovation AoM conveys an expectation that innovation and rigorous testing take place through core government processes. Mainstreaming innovation by tying it to existing processes is key to making sure testing, learning, iterating and improving become part of the common ways of working.


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

17 November 2022

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