‘Bring humbleness and creativity’: five minutes with Spain’s Israel Pastor Sainz-Pardo

By on 04/03/2024 | Updated on 04/03/2024

Israel Pastor Sainz-Pardo, director of the Learning Department at Spain’s National Institute of Public Administration, discusses his career in the civil service, projects that inspire him and advice for the next generation of public servants.

This is part of a ‘Five minutes’ series featuring speakers from the forthcoming Global Government Forum Innovation conference (London, 19-20 March).

What drew you to a career in the civil service? 

It was really a strong public service vocation. And it still drives me to this day.

What more do you want to achieve before you retire?  

I would love to see the people of my generation hand down a civil service that is fitter for their time and more capable to serve their society. Also, a society that better appreciates our work.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the civil service? 

Two pieces of advice: one, because of the way we recruit the younger senior civil servants, some sense of hubris can be instilled. I would recommend humbleness to learn.

Second, bring your creativity with you – help really change things!

What do you like most about working in the civil service? 

It gives me new opportunities every day to try and improve what we do. There is so much to do but I feel that my work really matters and has an impact on people, organisations and output. And I get to know great people from inside and outside the civil service.

Co-hosted by the UK Government, UK Civil Service and the Cabinet Office, Innovation is a unique exhibition and conference that brings together government leaders from across the globe responsible for the transformation and acceleration of their public sector organisations and services. It is free to attend for civil servants. Register here.

Which country’s civil service or which government department or agency are you most inspired by and why? 

I have always felt a deep connection with the UK so I tend to look at it with special interest. I think it’s a good model to look at and try to learn from.

Are there any projects or innovations in your country that might be valuable to your peers overseas?  

I think the Spanish civil service stands out for its sound preparation from the recruitment, combined with a strong public service vocation, but the project to update its careers – somewhat inspired by the UK’s functions and professions – could be striking a right balance between our traditional model and a more modern one.

If you weren’t a civil servant, what would you be?  

No doubt, a rock musician endlessly touring the US in a van.

What is your most treasured possession?  

A pick that belonged to Taylor Goldsmith, leader of the Californian band Dawes.

What is your favourite book?  

Always the next one. But there’s one that changed my life at 16 by the Spanish 19th/early 20th-century author Pío Baroja: The Science Tree.

Who is your hero?

Justin Currie (Del Amitri), for he’s written a lot of my favourite songs that I sing and play on the guitar, like This side of the morning or The first rule of love. I actually met him in the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade in 2018.

Listen again: Leading Questions podcast with the Spanish government’s Israel Pastor Sainz-Pardo

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