Making innovation routine: creating more inventive civil services

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September 7, 2021

To meet the public’s needs, civil services need to innovate – adapting to emerging threats and finding new ways to tackle old problems. But leaders acting on this agenda face major cultural and structural obstacles. Civil service processes designed to minimise risk and protect value for money can stifle experimentation. Hierarchical, organisational and professional boundaries hamper collaboration and the flow of ideas. Political and media pressures tend to reward the cautious over the adventurous.

To become more innovative, civil services must act on many fronts. Recruitment and promotion, for example, can be reformed to reward intelligent risk-taking. ‘Sandboxes’ and hackathons can provide safe spaces for experimentation. New communications platforms can gather in ideas from specialist and frontline staff. Government-wide assurance processes can be streamlined and made more flexible. At this webinar, civil service leaders and external experts will discuss how civil service leaders can make full use of their workforce’s expertise and enthusiasm – creating more responsive and inventive organisations.


USA/Canada Eastern Time (EST): 09:30 – 10:45
British Summer Time (BST): 14:30 – 15:45
Central European Summer Time (CEST): 15:30 – 16:45
Eastern European Summer Time (EEST): 16:30 – 17:45
Singapore Time (SGT): 21:30 – 22:45
Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST): 23:30 – 00:45

Public servants can register here for free to attend this webinar


Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, former UK senior civil servant

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.

Dr Vik Pant, Chief Scientist and Chief Science Advisor, Natural Resources Canada

Vik is responsible for providing strategic direction to build capacity within NRCan’s scientific community, promoting a departmental vision for S&T and assessment of future needs. This involves leadership in developing and advancing S&T priorities, providing strategic policy advice on horizontal science issues and opportunities to ensure strong linkages between science and policy communities, and promoting effective engagement of S&T activities. Vik is responsible for accelerating the creative application of innovative digital technologies including Artificial Intelligence, to enhance NRCan’s ability to conduct research and analysis, as well as provide evidence-based policy advice that is supported by advanced analytical techniques. Vik works with counterparts from other science-based organizations to ensure that the management of federal policy and research activities support and align with Government of Canada priorities.

Vik earned a doctorate from the Faculty of Information (iSchool) in the University of Toronto, a master’s degree in business administration with distinction from the University of London, and a master’s degree in information technology from Harvard University, where he received the Dean’s List Academic Achievement Award. His research, featured in numerous peer-reviewed journals and refereed international conferences, focuses on the conceptual modelling of strategic coopetition in complex multi-agent systems.

Vik joined NRCan from the MaRS Discovery District, a technology start-up accelerator in Toronto, where he was a Senior Technical Advisor of Applied Artificial Intelligence. Prior to that, he held progressively strategic positions in leading software enterprises including Oracle, SAP and Open Text.

Susan Acland-Hood, Permanent Secretary, Department for Education, United Kingdom

Susan Acland-Hood has been the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education (DfE) since September 2020. Prior to taking on the role at DfE, Susan was Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service. From 2015 to 2016 she was Director of Enterprise and Growth at HM Treasury, responsible for policies on growth, energy, the environment, business, infrastructure, exports, competition and markets. She was Director of the Education and Funding Group at DfE from 2013 to 2015, and before that held a range of posts covering education and justice policy, including in the Prime Minister’s Office in No.10, the Home Office, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and the Social Exclusion Unit. Her civil service career began in the then Department for Education and Employment in 1999. Susan has both a BA and MPhil from the University of Cambridge in Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought.

Vesa Lipponen, Chief Information Officer, Ministry of Finance, Finland

Vesa Lipponen is CIO of the Ministry of Finance in Finland. He has worked in the Ministry of Finance from 2017 on development projects and finance. Vesa has experience also from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and its offices.

His work history covers strategy, development and financing in the field of digitalization of government services. He has several years of experience of Cross-departmental development. He has worked ubiquitous even before the large-scale remote working during the pandemic. And is genuinely excited about the bigger picture and the vision of public services.

“Digitalization is a key factor when it comes to creating customer-centred public services. And the same can be said about the government’s own staff and processes. We had the tools before 2020, but we did not utilize them nearly enough. Now we have made some real progress both at a strategic level and in practice.”

Silvano Tocchi, Digital Transformation Officer, Canada Revenue Agency

As of summer 2020, Silvano started his role as the Assistant Commissioner responsible for leading the Digital Transformation of the CRA – no small feat! The goal of the Digital Transformation team is not only to enhance the services that are delivered to Canadians, but also the mindsets, tools and business processes that support these services.

Silvano joined the Agency in the fall of 2014, having spent the previous decade and a half at ESDC. During this time, he led the Digital Services Directorate – the team responsible for managing the Agency’s digital services. This includes everything from helping Canadians get their digital ID, to enabling correspondence within the digital portals, to delivering on a series of relief measures during the COVID-19 crisis. If you have not set up your CRA My Account yet, you should – it will improve your day immeasurably.

Silvano (likes to think he) embraces new ideas, thrives on the collaboration required to turn them into real change and enjoys talking bragging about the CRA’s digital capabilities, and where they might go next. These days, Silvano is adapting to working virtually – juggling his senior management duties between the mountains of Legos that seem to multiply before his very eyes.