The Innovation System of the Public Service of Canada

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Governments today are confronted with a complex array of interconnected problems, increased citizen expectations, and fiscal constraints. Furthermore, they must operate in a context of fast-paced technological, geopolitical, economic, social, and environmental change. Existing policies and programmes may not be suitable for tackling the challenges of today, let alone those of tomorrow. Governments therefore require a systemic approach to public sector innovation to develop and deliver novel solutions that meet the existing and emergent needs of citizens. This report looks at the experience and context of the Public Service of Canada, where significant emphasis has been placed on innovation, and proposes a new public sector innovation system model to assist Canada and other countries.

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Canada's historical innovation journey

In order to understand the innovation choices facing Canada in the future, it is necessary to examine the past. This chapter explores the innovation journey of the Public Service of Canada over the past 30 years – a period covering the effective living memory of the system. However, any attempt to develop a single narrative for an inherently ambiguous concept such as innovation presents difficulties. The historical innovation journey is thus viewed in terms of a chronology of relevant developments and through a thematic analysis of observed patterns and trends. The chapter also considers the indicative roles of some of the key actors involved. It concludes by drawing out some of the implications of this historical journey and exploring their meaning for the journey yet to come.

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