Why do we need it?
How to achieve a new vision by creating and implementing innovation in the public sector?
Natasha Metodijeva, Fellow from the EFB Fellowship at the Austrian Parliament 2019/2020
Special Advisor at the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia
A new vision for the public sector is inevitable. A vision created on solid foundations and real efforts for efficient implementation of innovation within the public sector. One would ask why. Why do we need modernisation and new perception in the public sector?
Below is the answer.
During the last few decades, the Balkans have been facing serious challenges. Continuous progress is missing in all areas, and the public sector is facing constant challenges. The connection between the new trends of the modern world on the one hand and the stereotypes and Balkan mentality on the other, is still present. The process of creating a new vision for the public sector will inevitably include undertaking decisive actions, changing public awareness and stereotypes, taking controlled risks and determination for changes, transformations, deleting old dysfunctional parts of the public administration while introducing new, applicable and efficient ones, also by creating new and strengthening existing capacities. This all requires political will and support above everything else. We have a lot of challenges ahead. One of the most difficult ‘battles’ will be to overcome prejudices and leave stereotypes in the past. We must start somewhere, and we can start by giving priority to the intangible nature of innovation. An important issue in bringing and managing innovation is the explanation of its necessity and motivation for the same. We all feel the need for innovation. It is becoming more evident by the day and this is often felt by policy makers, legislators, executive government as well as public policies end-users.
However, before facing the barriers in the process of creating and implementing innovation in the public sector, we need a planned and controlled approach to the entire process. We need to first measure, check, and evaluate what is present and what this area needs to improve the situation in order to deliver results to the citizenship. Innovation can provide diverse benefits: greater openness and transparency of institutions, contribution to many democratic processes, improvement of inclusiveness in adopting qualitative public policies that are easily applicable and accessible, modernisation of working conditions in the public sector, improving its public image, while at the same time protecting the state budget from unnecessary fiscal implications, thus reducing budget costs.
Measuring innovation in the public sector is a difficult operation - we have witnessed it while working on the same in the Austrian Parliament. Certain situations are difficult to measure, but with the right methodological approach we can reach results to be used as a starting point for creating a new vision and delivering innovation and real changes in the sector. The summary on the close connection between the private and the public sector indicates their interdependence and necessary partnership. One can easily note the advantages the private sector innovations has compared to the public sector, which of course must change. Both the public and private sectors need to move in the same line with innovation processes and their alignment. Innovation in the public sector will be reflected upon the private sector and when applying new positive practices in the work, processes and procedures, it will be easy to feel the mutual benefit in a two-way connection.
If we are willing to take risks, we will be able to talk about creating a new vision in the public sector through innovation. The creation of ideas inevitably implies full involvement of all factors in the society. We live in times with numerous benefits that can make the innovation process much easier. In addition, key factors should be jointly involved through mutual cohesion. Governing bodies together with legislative and executive authorities, civil society and civil initiatives, knowledge and relevant data translated and transmitted in the relevant field of competence, as well as through individual initiatives, all of this should be common effort. The public sector is a large and bulky system in a clear need of reform, growth, and intensive capacity building. Due to its large size, we need to develop a strong innovation strategy to better present and explain the idea of creating a new vision in the public sector, since innovation is more than IT and technology. Innovation is a set of different processes, procedures, methods, programs, public services, ways of working, etc. We have to start somewhere. Experts and competent staff need to scrutinise every area evaluating current conditions. The State must invest in innovation on the long run because any hasty improvement in technology, processes or procedures, or in adopting public policies, may result in a failed improvisation. Based on my significant experience in the public sector holding various positions, including working on many online platforms designed to create and adopt regulations, strategies, operational plans, action plans for creation and harmonisation of public policies by the Government and Parliament, as well as services for the citizens, I can freely say that innovation is a necessity for our public sector. With innovation, we can save time, money, provide a faster and better service, procedure, or a process.
The unexpected Covid-19 pandemic only confirmed the need for an accelerated process of innovation in the public sector, now covering so many areas of our lives - health, social policy, education, judiciary, safety etc.