The Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) is leading the development of country reviews to help governments better understand how they can foster public sector innovation systems that help them meet their goals. OPSI is currently undertaking reviews of the innovation systems of the federal public sectors of Canada and of Brazil.
A public sector innovation system is effectively all of the things that contribute to (and hinder) the appetite for innovation and the ability to deliver innovative outcomes. A public sector innovation system will look different between different contexts, as each country will have different traditions and structures in place. Every country has a public sector innovation system, however not every country will have an explicit or deliberate system where innovation is seen as a necessary focus or a primary intent. A public sector innovation system can be understood by looking at the relevant structures, actors and processes and their relationships. It also requires understanding the ‘lived experience’ of those within the system, as innovation is very much a contextual thing, and therefore can only be understood in context.
Why do public sector innovation systems matter? Governments have always innovated and continue to do so. However, are governments innovating enough to achieve collective societal ambitions? Governments are now operating in an environment of continual change, which means that continuing to rely on existing processes and well-established practices can be risky, as what worked once may not any longer. Currently however, most governments would not describe themselves as having effectively integrated innovation practice into their core business.
A continually evolving operating environment requires moving from innovation as a sporadic activity, to a situation where innovation is systemic and can be viewed as a reliable resource. The reasons for this include that:
- Changing functions – in an environment of change, governments must also change how they operate
- Running to stay in place – in an evolving economy, governments have to change policy settings just in order to maintain the same outcomes
- No room for spectators – in order to be effective decision-makers, governments have to have experiential knowledge of innovation; they cannot wait for the answers to be given to them
- People want more – many politicians, citizens and public servants want, and expect, things to change
- Risk of a mismatch – a government that does not innovate is one that is at risk of always being behind, always reacting, yet forever disappointing
- Innovation as a core competency – the need for innovation can strike anywhere, therefore everyone must be ready and able to play their part.
Given this need for a systemic approach, OPSI is currently working to develop an explicit model for public sector innovation systems that can be applied to different country contexts.
Questions about the Public Sector Innovation Country Reviews can be directed to [email protected].