New toolkit navigator aims to stimulate innovation

By on 29/11/2018
Angela Hanson: toolkit navigator will help officials to identify the right tool for the job (Image courtesy: OECD).

A new ‘Toolkit Navigator’ has been launched by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with the goal of helping public servants to identify innovative techniques and technologies for use in public policymaking, organisational change and service delivery.

In recent years, many organisations and governments have developed toolkits to help people adopt new approaches to public policy problems. But the sheer number of these toolkits has presented officials with a confusing array of options: the Toolkit Navigator, which has been developed by the OECD’s Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), aims to provide a path through the jungle.

Visitors to the site can select from a range of topics and tasks, searching out toolkits that will help them tackle their specific problem. The topics include fields such as organisational design, public policy and behavioural insights; whilst the tasks include ‘design a new strategy’ and ‘improve, create, or redesign something’. The site’s materials include case studies, briefing notes and educational materials, and people can also get in touch with officials overseas who’ve worked on similar issues.

The right tool for the job

At the launch of the navigator in Paris on November 20, OPSI innovation specialist Angela Hanson argued that the proliferation of public-sector toolkits often induces a sense of “learned helplessness” among their users. The navigator, she explained, seeks to empower civil servants in such a position.

OPSI research for the project found that there was an overreliance within the public sector on toolkits which had worked in the past, with staff applying them in circumstances where a different approach would have been more effective. There was also a reluctance to look further afield for new solutions, and officials tended to use their own organisation’s toolkit rather than look for ideas from elsewhere.

“Toolkits are like toothbrushes,” said Andrea Siodmok of the UK Cabinet Office Policy Lab at the launch. “Everyone has one, but no-one wants to share someone else’s.”

Siodmok described one of the Policy Lab’s aims as being to take each UK government department “fractionally out of their comfort zone,” adding that she’s confident that the OPSI navigator will help with this.

A toolkit of toolkits

Early government contributions to the project include guides to digitalisation and digital design from the UK and Finland; a public sector innovation toolkit from Australia; and a framework for ensuring policy quality from New Zealand. The package was tested with a group of United States mayors from the US Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting, and with participants at the European Commission’s Future in the Making conference.

Kris Broekaert, government engagement lead at the World Economic Forum, pointed out that the toolkit will enable public servants working on similar challenges to get in touch with one another. And he’d like its reach to extend beyond public servants, helping citizens to understand policy-making processes and find new ways to interact with government.

OPSI is still seeking technological and content partners to shape the future of the project. The project can be found online at https://oecd-opsi.org/toolkit-navigator/

About David Whitehouse

David Whitehouse, a freelance writer in Paris, is the author of a book on France's role in the Rwandan genocide and the French trials of Rwandan suspects which began in Paris in 2014. He also co-authored the autobiography of Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy published in 2013.

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