First public service-wide Innovation Week in Ireland

The first public service-wide Innovation Week in Ireland was held in December 2019 where public service bodies collectively developed over 200 events and activities across the country to spotlight innovation. Teams had an opportunity to explore the meaning of innovation in order to create a common language, participate in engaging and creative sessions and collaborate with colleagues from across other areas of the public service and beyond.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

We are living in a period of fast-paced global change and with an ever increasing succession of complex challenges facing Ireland and the Public Service. It is therefore crucial that our Public Service continues to prioritise innovation and that we enable our public servants across all sectors to effectively respond to these challenges.

In 2018, the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service examined Ireland’s Public Service innovation maturity level. This assessment indicated that innovation in Ireland’s Public Service was patchy and, while there are excellent ‘pockets’ of innovation in areas of the public service, a more systemic and strategic approach to innovation was required if Ireland is to become a world-leader in public service innovation.

In consultation with a wide public service stakeholder group, a variety of initiatives were developed and delivered to deepen an innovation culture in the Irish Public Service including the creation of the first Public Service-wide Innovation Week.

The first ever public service-wide innovation week in Ireland took place from the 9-13th December 2019. With a mix of organisations and diversity of experience, it was an important aim of the project team to develop an overarching brand and key messages to create a common understanding of what innovation is and why it is important for every public servant.

With any major change agenda, communications is key. To communicate so that the audience understands it is said that one must convey the message 6-8 times and in different ways. Innovation Week provided an opportunity to communicate the innovation agenda and the imperative to innovate in many diverse and accessible ways.

Each public service organisation was asked to put a spotlight on innovation and develop their own programme of activity resulting in over 200 events and activities designed by the people who knew best how to mobilise their teams. With guidance, common branding and messaging provided by the central Public Service Innovation Team, a network of innovation representatives created an impactful and engaging set of activities.

Key to the success of Innovation Week was the creation of a network of Innovation representatives. These representatives, had been appointed with formal responsibility to champion the innovation agenda and disseminate funding and upskilling opportunities within their organisations and to take part in the newly-established Public Service Innovation Network. This network of people were in prime position to access and activate teams on the ground which was crucial to the success of the initiative and an impossibility from the far away position of a central government ministry.

Some highlight events and activitie included:

• Collaboration with Libraries Ireland – innovation books available for free on a libraries app called borrowbox
• Air Corps Hackathon
• Military Hackathon
• Science Foundation Ireland Public Service Fellowship Programme
• Innovation Lunchtime talks
• Defence Forces Chief of Staff Awards
• Job Shadowing
• Health Service Executive Digital Academy events
• National College of Art and Design collaboration with the Mater Hospital
• Innovation recognition events
• Signing Innovation Declaration events
• Poster Campaigns
• Intranet takeovers
• Showcase of innovation in music teaching
• Artist studio
• Brainstorming sessions
• Data Exchange Network
• Innovation table quizzes
• Teaching Council consultation event with teachers, parents and children.

Many organisations used the opportunity of Innovation Week to sign up to the recently developed Declaration on Public Service Innovation thereby signalling to their staff of the imperative to innovate but also that they commit to equipping teams with innovation skills and supporting their pilot innovations.

The main event of the week was the Innovation Conference where over 600 public service leaders and innovators descended on Dublin Castle to explore various aspects and experiences of innovation from 20 Irish and international speakers, including a showcase of leading examples of public service innovation. In addition, the Public Service Team developed a new programme of innovation workshops called 'Faster Classes' across the country. Over 500 public servants engaged in innovation-related topics such as user-centrality, behavioural economics, design-thinking, empathy, collaboration and innovation capacity-building.

There was significant enagagement at events, online and through social media. The community of practice in the Irish Public Service has grown during and since Innovation Week and we are now witnessing local organisational networks pop up thereby demonstrating the interest in this important agenda.

The dates for Innovation Week 2020 have been set and will take place from 19-23rd October and there is significant support at senior public service leadership levels who wish to see the continuation of the enthusiasm into 2020.

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  • Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
  • Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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