An official shadows an entrepreneur
We often hear stories about the interpretations of laws and attitudes of public institutions. This year in Latvia for the first time the initiative “An Official Shadows an Entrepreneur” was launched, allowing for the public servant to broaden his view and “step into entrepreneur's shoes” to evaluate how the regulation is applied in practice and what requires further improvements. The initiative promotes a dialogue between the state and the business to reduce the administrative burden.
In order to respond effectively to the administrative burden reduction measures, the #GovLabLatvia Public Administration Innovation Lab created by the State Chancellery developed the “An Official Shadows an Entrepreneur” initiative. In the public space, we often hear stories about the interpretations of laws and attitudes of public institutions.
During the initiative, the entrepreneur had the opportunity to receive advice from a government as well as get feedback on how to solve the problem. The entrepreneur was also able to encourage the necessary improvements in regulation, thus becoming involved in the process of drafting and improving Latvian and European Union legislation.
Officials, on the other hand, had the opportunity to evaluate the performance of the regulation created directly with the end user, thus improving the outcome of their work. It was an opportunity to gain new experience, broaden horizons, "step into the shoes of an entrepreneur" and evaluate how the framework is being applied in practice and whether it needs further development. It will also further strengthen the application of the "Consult first" principle, which has been introduced in Latvia since 2017, to facilitate a dialogue between the state and the entrepreneur to reduce the administrative burden.
For communication with the public, a website was set up to cover all the details of the initiative and how to apply. In the application forms, the entrepreneurs indicated the specific area they wish to address, thus also indicating the public authority or official they wish to welcome at their facilities. The entrepreneur indicated in the questionnaire the urgent problem that needs to be addressed in order to improve the business environment, as well as the good practices implemented in the company, which he or she would recommend to implement for the improvement of the public administration processes.
The initiative happened on the September 16, 2019, with 35 entrepreneurs and 99 officials from 30 public administrations.
This initiative is an event that allows an official to look around himself and to conclude that each job has its own side and hard comings, both entrepreneurs and public officials have similar needs, only the point of view is different. The “An Official Shadows an Entrepreneur” initiative is a great opportunity to look at what the institution has done right: what works, helps and is useful to the entrepreneur on daily basis. It also shows where we are not as effective or what we could do better. An open dialogue between public administration and entrepreneurs is the key to a more successful business environment. The “An Official Shadows an Entrepreneur” initiative has opened the door to a wider range of contacts and feedback from entrepreneurs on various public administration decisions and day-to-day activities. This initiative will be continuously implemented also in 2020, possibly expanding it in the future, in order to live in the business culture environment and serve as a good example for cooperation of public administration and entrepreneurs also outside Latvia.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The Ministry of Economics is the leader of positive changes in Latvian economy and public administration. With the participation of the State Chancellery in the Public Administration Innovation Lab for Reducing Administrative Burdens #GovLabLatvia, an initiative “An Official Shadows an Entrepreneur” was developed. So far, officials have met in workshops, conferences, and other major events, both individually and with entrepreneurs, and this initiative is another format for dialogue between the state, the civil servant, the business community and society as a whole.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The pilot project of the initiative has been realised during the year of 2019. Ministry of Economics is now at the stage of assessing the initiative outcomes. An initiative assessment questionnaire has been developed for both entrepreneurs and public officials to effectively assess the effectiveness of the initiative and, if necessary, to improve it.
The initiative also has led to some additional work, where during the preparation phase it was decided that a public storage of the challenges and proposals submitted by business operators has to be developed, so that national public authorities can track and solve entrepreneurial issues and take over the good practices. The initiative is an excellent basis for improving the entrepreneurship environment in Latvia.
Collaborations & Partnerships
In the Public Administration Innovation #GovLabLatvia set up by the State Chancellery initiative “An Official Shadows an Entrepreneur” has been developed. The Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Latvian Employers Confederation are business representative organizations that have successfully attracted and engaged entrepreneurs in the Initiative. In addition, the Junior Achievement Latvia Foundation supported the Initiative with several public events and the involvement businesses.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
35 entrepreneurs applied for participation within the Initiative, with a total of 99 public officials from 30 institutions.
The winners were both the entrepreneurs and government employees. The entrepreneurs had the opportunity to find out in person the issues they were interested in and to use the experience and knowledge of the public official. In turn, the official had the opportunity to validate the results of his work and gain new experience.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The Initiative was followed by an evaluation through questionnaires to verify the initiative's success and to hear further proposals. 30 entrepreneurs and 57 officials completed the evaluation questionnaires. The results show that the idea of the initiative was successful. This is one way of bringing public administrations closer to business, promoting mutual understanding and cooperation, as well as having the opportunity to learn about problems and try to work towards reducing administrative burden. Entrepreneurs found the initiative very useful, especially as it offered to welcome officials from different institutions at the same time, which helps to solve problems faster.
From now on, the concept of the initiative will be strengthened as an annual event to improve the business environment. In 2020, broader PR activity will be developed, therefore, it is planned to attract more entrepreneurs who will invite public administration employees.
Challenges and Failures
Entrepreneurs are often afraid of public administrations, especially supervisors, so initially there was a concern that not enough entrepreneurs would apply, but with good PR everything was resolved.
Given that the Initiative only came to life in 2019, there is no system in place for addressing officials, selected by entrepreneurs and then communication between the entrepreneur and the official. As a result, the Initiative's employee sent e-mails manually, which significantly extended the duration of the communication.
Conditions for Success
Most important part was the support of the senior management of the Ministry of Economics to ensure a successful implementation of the Initiative`s pilot project. It is very important that the management addressed other public institutions, presenting the concept of the initiative and thus motivating public officials to become more open and cooperative. The Initiative collaborators and partners were also actively involved in developing the Initiative's website, application form and PR activities.
The concept of the Initiative is inheritable, by fully taking over or adapting to the needs of other countries. It can also be taken over by municipalities, with their employees shadowing local entrepreneurs. With a slight reduction, the initiative can be turned the other way around - the entrepreneur goes and shadows a public official. Similarly, by reducing the concept of the Initiative, it is possible for one public institution to shadow the work and public officials of another public institution to improve co-operation and facilitate faster flow of documents.
As one of the factors that strongly stimulates economic activity and the competitiveness of the Latvian entrepreneurships is the business environment, which leads to the fact, that the focus has to be aimed towards the improvement of such. One of the main success of the initiative is the fact that its goals remain up to date within the national framework. The initiative provides high added value, because mutual communication can create trust, which is so necessary for the productive cooperation. The state needs innovation and knowledge-driven entrepreneurs, where the state's priority is to create an understandable and motivating business environment.
As the result of this initiative, various stakeholders have already gained a valuable information for the further use as well as have changed their mind about the functioning of the regulatory authorities and became more open towards the further collaboration.