Crafting & Implementing a Participatory National Innovation Strategy

The Paraguayan government has designed and is executing its first National Innovation Strategy using a participatory approach. The intention is to co-design an Innovation Strategy by unifying different government sectors, the civil society, academia, and the private sector. This interactive process employs new and innovative strategies to include the community into the policymaking and agenda-setting process.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

In August 2019, President Mario Benítez passed the National Decree 2314, calling for a yearlong “National Innovation Strategy” or ENI (Estrategia Nacional de Innovación). This strategy is the first nation-wide strategy specifically for innovation. The ENI is reshaping how policymaking is done in Paraguay, which has generally been very bureaucratic and lacking coordination. Instead, this strategy is more efficient, implemented in record time, and utilising best practices for community participation at both the community and governmental level.

The ENI has two general mandates, as outlined in the national decree. The first is to identify national challenges and develop programs to address these issues. The second is to design a new innovation unit for the national government that will be adopted by the President during the 1st semester of 2020. To achieve both of these objectives, the team has integrated extensive community input into the development process.

To make the Strategy ‘bottom-up,’ the operations team from the government has gone to the community to understand the major challenges they faced. Instead of having the national government decide itself on which thematic areas the country will focus, Paraguay will select these topics based on input from the community. To do so, the team has run workshops around the country—both in major cities and in smaller ones—with local leaders to understand the daily challenges faced by people in these communities. At the same time, the team is actively deploying online workshops to reach a larger audience. These workshops emphasise that the Strategy is everyone’s national innovation strategy, and each workshop ends with an open invitation for community members to participate and stay involved with the strategy moving forward.

Importantly, the Strategy is not just concerned with challenges, but also focuses on the capacities the country possesses to address these issues. These two inputs are being used to develop a mapping of Opportunities to Innovate. This framing is important because working on the selected initiatives will increase the innovation capacity of the country. It will do so by bringing together different actors in society to work together in a new way and with a common goal. This process will become institutionalised and scaled once the new innovation unit is created, which will be responsible for the execution as well as the replication of this process in the future.

Additionally, since the goal is to be community-driven, the ultimate decision about the Strategy, such as selecting the challenges as well as the formation of the new governance unit, will be decided by a ‘Driving Team’ as well as 7 ministers from the government. The decision-making authority therefore rests with the public as well as the broader government, rather than just the operating team running the Strategy.

The concept behind the Driving Team is similar to the private sector, in which companies have Executive Boards. Eighteen individuals were selected from civil society, the private sector, and the academic and scientific community through an open application process. This also marks the first time that entities from all of these sectors have come together to discuss national-level challenges. Providing space for community representatives to participate in the government’s decision-making process is an important step for the government. In the past, people have been looking for more ways to get involved with the government’s decisions, and therefore people are eager for such opportunities.

Working closely with the different ministries is also an intentional effort to ensure that the Strategy is co-created by all parts of the government. Gaining the support of the different ministries is important for the success of the initiative and the new innovation unit. This will have a broad and long-reaching impact for the development of the country as these groups will be more likely to support the national Strategy and be willing to have their ministry collaborate with the new innovation unit.

The operation team within the National Innovation Strategy has been taking advantage of this opportunity also to unify key stakeholders in the country. In Paraguay, there are several resources earmarked for innovation within the different ministries and groups. However, the challenge is that these projects are often done in isolation in a more siloed manner, confined to a specific ministry or organisation. This means that it is harder to collaborate and share lessons between different entities, sometimes leading to duplicate or ineffective projects. However, a more cohesive and organised national strategy will ensure that lessons learned can be more easily shared. The community will also benefit from having greater and more efficient investment in innovation.

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Year: 2019
Level of government: National/Federal government


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