Innovation 2023 five minutes with… Peter Pogačar, director general of Slovenia’s Ministry of Public Administration

By on 14/03/2023 | Updated on 14/03/2023

In this sister series to our ‘Five minutes with’ interviews, we share insights from the civil and public service leaders that will be speaking at our free Innovation conference. Taking place in London on 21 March 2023, and available to stream on demand, during the event officials from all over the world will promote and develop new approaches to policymaking and service delivery.

In this interview, Slovenia’s Peter Pogačar – who will join the conference session on innovation in leadership – tells GGF about preventing political influence over the civil service, his country’s effort to get public servants to work in the private sector and vice versa, and his love of cooking.

Click here to register for Innovation 2023

What drew you to a career in the civil service? 

As a law student, I never imagined that I would be working in the civil service (I never imagined I would study law either), because as every law student, I dreamed about being a “court drama” lawyer, fighting for the human rights of deprivileged people. However, just before the end of law school, a professor asked me about my plans for my career and proposed the civil service to me. I was a bit sceptical since the perception of working in the civil service at that time was not attractive, but somehow that professor persuaded me, and I thought to myself that I’d just give it a try for a year or so. That year then prolonged into the next 24 years.

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

You have a chance of an exciting career ahead of you, but (there is always a word “but” in civil service), be patient. It takes time to achieve results, which will not always depend solely on you. But if you succeed, the feeling of satisfaction you get from achieving something that can have a positive impact on building a better society and better living will be amazing. Most importantly, you need to be proactive, persistent, and patient.   

If you could introduce one civil service reform, what would it be?

It would be a reform that would strengthen the trust of politics towards the civil service as being a complementary part of government and being there to help implement the policy of the government. Consequently, that would increase the independence of the civil service and decrease the desire of every politician to have a political influence on it.  

How might the civil service be different in 25 years’ time?  

If I could have a crystal ball to answer that, I would. Nobody has a clue about how different the world will be in 25 years’ time. The future cannot be planned, it has to be anticipated.

Can you name one lesson or idea from abroad that has helped you and your colleagues?  

We try to monitor projects and developments in civil services abroad all the time and try to have as many case studies as possible before implementing changes at home. But if I was to name one in particular, it would be a recruitment process for the civil service in Portugal that was introduced a couple of years ago.

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

Eight years ago at the Ministry of Public Administration, we established the Partnership for Change – it is a national platform of cooperation between employees in the Slovenian public and private sectors. In those eight years, we have already exchanged more than 370 employees between the public administration and companies in the private sector. It is an exceptional opportunity for employees from both spheres to get to know different work processes and ways of thinking directly in the field, connect, and most importantly to better understand each other. They can transfer good practices to their environment and thus provide a better service to the economy and citizens.

What attributes do you most value in people? 

That they are trustworthy. And it must go in both directions because it is impossible to lead people who don’t trust you. After all, in the civil service, as in any other organisation, it is all about the people.

Is there something about you that people find surprising? 

Ask my co-workers that, maybe even I would be surprised – but I remember that our chief analyst once said he was surprised by my capacity for solving mathematical issues, considering that I am a lawyer. Truly, I have never had any problems with math in school. 

What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?  

Well, since I am a devoted runner (I have done a marathon), I would say running of course, but what I adore doing at the weekend is cooking. I think of myself as quite a good chef.

What is your dream holiday destination? 

 New Zealand with its nature and especially its people.

More from this series: Innovation 2023 five minutes with… 10 Downing Street chief analyst Laura Gilbert

Want to write for GGF? We are always looking to hear from public and civil servants on the latest developments in their organisation – please get in touch below or email [email protected]

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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