Officina is a lab for innovation in the public sector whose main objective is to catalyse the energy of young talents by offering them a transformative training programme. Officina was developed to address a triple urgency: future decision makers not perceiving the public sector as an attractive workplace; the public sector having high average age workforce and lack of innovative approaches; society at large needing a more modern and appealing public sector in this key historical moment.
Officine Italia felt the responsibility to train resilient and competent leaders able to face today and tomorrow’s challenges. There are many universities, institutions and NGOs offering programmes and training courses focused on topics like public policy, entrepreneurship and leadership, and the closest one we were inspired by is Tech4Germany, the federal fellowship program for user-centric software development. Officina, however, has the ambition to provide a 360° experience to train young talents through an interdisciplinary approach and an innovative and transformative programme.
In fact, Officina is both an innovation lab, a hands-on working experience and a learning journey that allows young talents to experience a professional and personal development opportunity within some of the key Italian Ministries acting for the recovery of Italy and the implementation of the National Resilience and Recovery Plan (NRRP). Considering the incredible opportunity of the Next Generation EU, the Public Administration is today one of the key enablers to change the outlook of our country and the right place to launch the first edition of the Officina and start our transformative change.
By July 2022, 15 young talents with diverse and complementary backgrounds (e.g., social sciences, economics and engineering) were selected as participants in the first edition of Officina. In October 2022, the programme started with a 2-weeks intense training Bootcamp. From October 2022 to January 2023, the 15 participants will work in teams on strategic projects and dossiers (e.g. evidence-based and data-driven policymaking, capacity building, multilevel governance projects) defined by department and offices of the Italian Ministries involved together with Officine Italia and other key partners. The three Ministries that have partnered with us for this first edition of Officina, all key in the NRRP context, are:
- Ministry of Education, Universities and Research
- Ministry of Sustainable Infrastructures and Mobility
- Ministry of Ecological Transition
Officina has the ambition to train the future class of Italian leaders, people able to bring the transformative change that our country needs and to improve individual and collective well-being through collaboration and co-creation processes. In particular, we are training Policy Innovation Analysts (PIA), professionals able to leverage on a strong base of shared values and a toolbox made of hard skills, soft skills, methodologies, and attitudes, enabling them to create value not only in the public or private sector, but also in the academic and non-profit world. The PIA is equipped with a civic entrepreneurship attitude to create value in the public sector through new ideas and a creative, dynamic and entrepreneurial approach. Likewise, they are able to stay at the forefront of innovations, to design ground-breaking solutions that can improve processes and services in the public sector and beyond, while adopting an analytical approach to assess the effectiveness of public policies and solve complex problems through quantitative and qualitative analysis.
The training programme of Officina is inspired by the OECD Learning Compass 2030 framework, a cutting-edge learning plan developed within the context of the OECD project Future of Education and Skills 2030. The Learning Compass 2030 aims at defining a learning journey able to train young talents by embracing the multidimensional definition of sustainable well-being based on the integrated framework of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda. This aim is particularly aligned with the values of Officine Italia and our ambition to transform the young participants of the Officina into the leaders of tomorrow, transformative change makers able to use their skills for the common good and the well-being of the community. The three main areas of expertise that our training programme aims at developing to train new PIAs are: Public Entrepreneurship, Innovation Management and Policy Analysis.
Through the Officina, we want to train young leaders and invest in the human capital represented by younger generations, bringing new resources within the Public Administration (PA) which we recognize as a key driving force for the recovery of the country. Our pilot will be easily scalable in the future, by involving more Ministries, different public sector institutions (including regional and local level ones) and more fellows. At the same time, we will be able to guarantee a concrete and measurable impact on the cultural, economic, and social development of the country already from the first edition. In order to monitor the achievement of our objectives, we designed a Theory of Change and evaluation model based on Key Performance Indicators related to the three project’s stakeholders, whose outcomes will be mutually influenced: the Participants, the PA and the Society/Country.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Officine Italia has always tried to engage young people within crowd-engagement events. These have aimed at gathering young people’s demands, synthesizing them and bringing them to the key institutional decision-makers. Officina, however has embarked in a different approach: here the paradigm has been reversed as the project aims at bringing young people at the very center of the places where decisions are made: the Italian Ministries. The idea behind the Officina is to try to influence young people not to be part of the process but directly the decision-makers. This is done through an innovative high-level training and on-the-job learning program. Looking towards the long-term impacts, the goals of Officina are to modernize, rejuvenate and bring fresher perspective to the public sector, thanks to talented and trained young people who will become the next leadership class of the country.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The Officina has been just launched. A pool of selected candidates have kicked off the first edition which, following an MVP implementation approach, is a pilot for future editions. This will allow us to collect and monitor data in order to run an impact evaluation exercise. Currently, the project is at the Bootcamp phase: the selected candidates are going throw two training weeks, which are the outset of the four-month program route.
These bootcamp days include Workshops, Case Studies and Collaborative works, training, Keynote speeches and Networking events. The training activities include different sessions spanning from Public Management, Collaborative Leadership, Government Right, System Thinking, Agile Project Management, Value Assessment and Communication. Following the bootcamp, the fellows will join one of the three Ministries with which we have a signed agreement and will start working on key challenges to be co-designed with key members of the Ministry.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Officina has partnered with stakeholders across the public-private spectrum.
- Government bodies: 3 Ministries and the National School of Administration. core enablers of the initiative;
- Companies: Accenture Italian Foundation, Talent Garden, Dikton, Scuola Holden, WILL Media, The Factory and more providing different services.
- Universities (Politecnico Milan, Sapienza Rome, Bari University) supporting the bootcamp;
- Citizens: the 15 fellows and other individuals contributing to the program.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
- Fellows: through a life-changing experience acquire the skills, knowledge and attitude to create value in the public-private sectors, academia and non-profits;
- Government bodies: get fresher perspectives from young, diverse and talented fellows, innovate in the recruitment approach and have dedicated units to focus on long-term challenges;
- Civil society organisations: benefit from having access to the fellows’ profiles and civil society benefits from the innovations brought about by Officina.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Since Officina is still an MVP, we have observed several qualitative results: all the administration and public bodies we contacted have demonstrated a deep engagement and true intrinsic motivation to help us with the project; we collected 124 spontaneous applications for the project's 15 vacant places.
From a more technical point of view, an impact evaluation will run through the whole program. We will longitudinally measure the satisfaction level, the competence acquisition, and the level of development of the fellows during their experience in the ministries.
Challenges and Failures
Being the project extremely innovative, the initial challenge was to translate its value into the phase of searching for institutional partners. The main challenges were to be considered accountable by the institutions being actors who usually operate externally to the institutions. Moreover, the political and administrative fragmentation of the Italian system forced us to search for different channels of communication simultaneously.
We searched for funding from Public and Private Foundations, but their timing was not aligned with our timeline, and their scope often focused more on local activities and initiatives.
Our main failures were:
- We lost two out of the five partnerships with the Ministries we considered at the beginning of the project; given the project's level of innovation, it was too riskier for them.
- We couldn’t raise enough funding to allow our Fellow to have a monthly allowance of 2000 euros as we considered in the design phase of our project.
Conditions for Success
The success of our program, as well as the possibility to propose a second edition, is heavily linked to two main factors.
- First, as we work in close relationship with the government and in particular the different ministries, the political buy-in is essential. Especially in a country such Italy, where the government has been changing rapidly and periodically for the last 20 years, we face the need of having a formal commitment from the underlying institutions and the government that sit on those to continue collaborating with us.
- Second, our program can’t be considered successful and truly impactful unless the participants have a return in terms of work opportunities or career development. The fellows enrolled in the Officina are young professionals who paused their own careers hoping to get the chance to make their own home country a better place, we believe that the benefits for them need to extend beyond the 3 months dedicated to the program.
Officina’s scope is composed by multiple elements that show a some-what straight forward scale up and replication model:
- The number of strategic projects and dossier made available for the fellows in each institution can increase à increase in the number of fellows per institutions;
- More institutions can be involved, ranging from regional bodies to other national non-ministerial bodies. INPS, public entity in charge of Italian welfare, has expressed interest in the initiative;
- It can be set up as a continuous process, with new intakes of people every semester, and its length per intake can increase;
- The format doesn’t need to be hosted by Officine Italia - it can be replicated and adapted by other organizations, in the same or in different countries/regions, and different partners can chip-in to contribute.
The main challenge is the lack of economies of scales: replication requires budget and people, which in turn creates the necessity of a full buy-in from the major stakeholders.
Being still in the implementation phase, we have learned from the need of planning well in advance with public sector partners, to manage risks by having back-up plans and build a resilient approach to obstacles even if the most unpredictable events take place (e.g., in our case, a change of government right during the planning of Officina).
In order to scientifically measure our impact on both fellows and government officials, they have completed a pre-program survey, will complete a post-program one to quantify the improvements in both knowledge, skills, network and ambition, and will also participate in a mid-program qualitative focus group.
Our training programme is inspired by the OECD Learning Compass. Our goal is to receive the patronage of OECD and the Directorate for Education and Skills on our pilot project before launching the second edition of the Officina.
Adopting a new framework powered by the OECD would guarantee sound reliability of the training program and allow Officine Italia to define some elements of the training program together with OECD analysts and experts. For the OECD this could be an opportunity to endorse a case study providing guidance for the design of an innovative pilot project as well as evaluate the results of our training program adapted to a curriculum designed for fresh graduate and young professionals.
We already took action to be officially associated with the OECD E2030 project: we have participated to one Focus Group’s meeting, and submitted a short paper (framework alignment paper) to illustrate how our programme and framework is aligned with the OECD learning compass concepts.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
23 January 2023