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Annex A. Draft OECD-DAC self-assessment tool on innovation capabilities

Innovation for development has many dimensions that Development Assistance Committee members need to understand and explore.

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Figure A.1. Innovation capabilities framework: The building blocks of innovation for development and humanitarian work
Figure A.1. Innovation capabilities framework: The building blocks of innovation for development and humanitarian work

For each of these capabilities, three broad stages of development are articulated to enable reflection and self-assessment:

  • Initial application: a general understanding of what the specific innovation capability is about and how it applies in a development and humanitarian context.

  • Emerging capability: skills applied in an occasional fashion or in a “low-intensity” manner, that allows staff to experiment with using them in a safe and/or controlled fashion.

  • Established practice: skill applied in a deep systematic way across a range of areas and is part of “how things are done”.

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Table A.1. Self-assessment tool on innovation capabilities

Innovation capability

Specific organisational practices

Key questions

Level of progress

Narrative description

Strategy, management and culture

Strategy, leadership and management

Is there an innovation strategy? How is it linked to the overall corporate strategy?

How well are innovation goals articulated in relation to development ambitions?

Do innovation goals allow space for creativity and contextualised approaches?

What is the role of senior leaders and managers in driving and encouraging innovation across the department?

Who takes responsibility for innovation across the department?

Is there explicit attention to how existing modalities, procedures and processes might inhibit innovation, and efforts underway to address or mitigate these issues?

Initial application

There are ongoing discussions about developing an innovation for development strategy. Innovation is viewed as the responsibility of a specific role or roles, either within dedicated teams or specific technical areas (e.g. health). Some managers give people the time to innovate, but there is not always consistent support from the top. Some leaders talk the talk, but do not always walk the walk. Organisational processes sometimes enable, sometimes inhibit, innovation efforts.

Emerging capability

An innovation strategy exists but is not well integrated with overall development or departmental goals. Attention is being paid to innovation at the front line of development and humanitarian work and how to best foster and facilitate it. Leaders and managers increasingly ask for and exhibit innovation approaches and acknowledge staff and partners for using such approaches. There is growing attention to the need to adapt organisational processes and procedures to better enable innovation, and reforms are underway.

Established practice

Innovation is established within the overall corporate strategy and viewed as essential for achieving long- and short-term development and humanitarian goals. Leaders and managers recognise and reinforce the link between innovation and development effectiveness. Managers regularly apply relevant tools and techniques, and act as innovation role models. Leaders demonstrate they are more interested in learning from failure than in punishing it. Organisational processes have taken into account the needs of the innovation agenda, and key barriers have been addressed in a systematic fashion.

Culture, capacity and mindset

How does the department deal with risk taking in the context of innovation?

Is there a culture of rewarding and supporting innovation?

How well do human resources practices support and enable a culture of innovation?

What efforts are made to build staff capacity in innovation?

Initial application

There is emerging recognition of the need for new ways of tackling development and humanitarian goals. The approach to risk taking is ad hoc and varies from team to team and office to office. Key job descriptions and appraisals make reference to innovation and creativity as an important capability. Partners are assessed on the basis of their innovative capabilities. Staff learning on innovation is informal and primarily driven by individual motivation.

Emerging capability

There is a widely accepted view that the department needs to explore new ways of tackling development challenges. There is an emerging framework for understanding and managing risk associated with novelty – new ideas are not rejected prematurely. There are rewards and incentives for innovation for staff and partners alike. There is investment for innovation capacities for select staff dedicated to innovation.

Established practice

The department is seen as fostering and supporting innovative ideas and approaches from diverse sources, inside and outside. Staff and partners across policy, technical and operational roles feel able to try out new ideas. There is a systematic approach to assessing and managing risk. Innovation capacities are considered a core staff capacity, with commensurate investment in formal and informal learning approaches.

Identification of problems

Observing and listening

How are innovation-related problems, needs and opportunities identified?

Who is involved and in what ways?

How are end users and national/local actors involved in determining needs and opportunities?

What is the role of research, learning and consultation processes in determining innovation needs, opportunities and priorities?

How does the department expand its understanding and capabilities in different technologies (e.g. digital, frontier technologies, etc.)?

Initial application

Efforts are underway within the innovation for development initiative to consult with internal colleagues and existing stakeholders and partners about potential opportunities for improvement as well as seeking out ideas for where innovation is most needed.

Emerging capability

The innovation for development programme proactively seeks out feedback about opportunities and challenges from a wide range of stakeholders, with a growing focus on end users and other actors in developing countries, and systematically analyses that feedback for ideas. Research plays an important role in learning about problems and challenges. There are technology-specific learning efforts underway, although it is accepted that technology alone is insufficient to enable change.

Established practice

The innovation effort has well-established evidence-based and creative processes to discover and explore new ideas and approaches. Novel methods and technologies such as immersions, crowdsourcing and text mining are used to gain insight. Strong emphasis is placed on using research to understand the experiences of end users, to unpack long-standing development challenges to explore the potential of new ideas, processes and technologies, and as a way of catalysing novel thinking.

Questioning and challenging

How well does the department support questioning of and suggested alternatives to standard operating procedures, within and outside the organisational boundaries? (demand for novelty)

How are staff, partners and wider stakeholders encouraged to learn and go beyond existing ideas and approaches? (supply of novelty)

In what ways can and have the status quo of existing practices been changed as a result of the innovation for development effort?

Initial application

There is growing understanding that there are potentially viable alternatives to current ways of working and effort to understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of each.

Emerging capability

The department encourages staff to assess the limitations of their own knowledge and practice and find opportunities to learn more. There is recognition of the value of “unlearning” previously acquired knowledge, practices and ways of thinking that are no longer applicable or relevant in different contexts or for new and emerging challenges and problems.

Established practice

The department and relevant partners, both through the innovation for development effort and more broadly, routinely reflect on what lessons have been learnt from ongoing efforts, and use this reflection to question assumptions and current practices. Staff in the department and key innovation partners are supported to be open to new ideas and thinking no matter where they come from, and to actively consider the possibilities and opportunities new ideas present for programmes, policies and procedures. Questioning the status quo in productive and constructive ways is increasingly encouraged and supported.

Generation of ideas and development of proposals

Exploring and scanning for ideas and solutions

How does the department seek out new ideas and solutions to development challenges?

How does the department identify innovators and innovations inside and outside the department?

What resources are used for exploring and scanning for solutions?

How does the department engage with national and local actors in identifying new ideas and proposals?

Initial application

The innovation for development effort, the department as a whole and relevant partners are starting to understand that other organisations and sectors can have different, but relevant, approaches for tackling development and humanitarian challenges.

Emerging capability

There is ongoing effort to engage with individuals and teams internally and externally who are undertaking innovative work and investing time in finding out what they do and how they do it, identifying what is different about their approach and what can be learnt for more general application.

Established practice

The department and partners use networks, research and other resources to identify and prioritise both the most important challenges as well as to scan for potential solutions and approaches. There is active investment in bringing in individuals and teams from different organisations, sectors, locations/countries who can be a source of innovative ideas, who can identify alternative options based on their practice, and who can support innovation efforts.

Crafting new proposed approaches

How does the department and its partners make use of prototyping, design thinking, human-centred design, user-driven design, etc. to develop and test new ideas in development and humanitarian contexts?

Who is involved in processes to develop new approaches, and in what ways?

How do development processes engage with end users and stakeholders in developing countries?

Initial application

Staff and partners within the innovation for development effort and more widely understand how crafting processes and approaches can be used to bring new ideas to life and to explore how new ideas might work in practice.

Emerging capability

The department increasingly uses design and innovation management processes that help internal and external stakeholders visualise a product or service, to identify potential opportunities and challenges. These are used to explain or test out approaches with colleagues, partners and users. Prototyping is actively undertaken in development and humanitarian contexts.

Established practice

Prototyping is undertaken routinely with a wide constellation of stakeholders, including internal staff, end users and developing country partners, as a means of developing new products, services and business processes and to gather feedback on feasibility, relevance and potential value. Staff and partners understand how to refine and improve prototypes to address emerging issues and to improve the potential for impact and scale.

Implementation and evaluation of projects and processes

Piloting and experimenting

How are new ideas applied and tested in the context of innovation programmes?

What innovation management methods and tools are used?

How is innovation managed as an end-to-end process?

Initial application

The department understands the process of managing innovations in development and humanitarian work. There are different kinds of stage-gate approaches being used in innovation efforts. There is understanding of the importance of starting small and systematically learning to demonstrate potential value.

Emerging capability

There is understanding of the different skills, processes, partners and resources needed for distinct stages of the innovation piloting and experimentation process. There is acceptance that pilots need to be designed with a focus on both visibility and winning hearts and minds. Failure is not automatically seen as the death of an idea, but as a catalyst for sustained efforts.

Established practice

Piloting processes are focused on assessing the broader viability and longer term sustainability of new ideas. The department supports the use of flexible financing and adaptive programming approaches to navigate valleys of death. Piloting is seen as an essential component of the wider culture of experimentation.

Test, evaluate and learn

How does evaluation, research and learning feature in the innovation process?

What kinds of research and learning tools and methods are used across the innovation cycle to demonstrate the evidence base for new innovative solutions?

In what ways is evidence used to make the case for sustained investment and to justify scaling of successful innovations?

Initial application

There is growing understanding about how tests and experiments can examine what works and what does not. There is awareness that this has resource implications, and initial efforts are being made to invest in monitoring, evaluation and learning alongside innovation investments.

Emerging capability

The department ensures innovation programmes and projects include sufficient time, resources and an appropriate mix of methodologies for testing and evaluation, across different stages of a project’s or service’s lifecycle. It is widely accepted that pilots work best when coupled with a continuous assessment of impacts and the ability to adjust and correct on the fly.

Established practice

The department actively promotes the use of large-scale assessments and evaluative thinking as a core innovation capability. There is evidence of use of a mix of methods (including A/B testing, randomised control trials, user feedback and systems thinking) to gain evidence about what works, why and in what circumstances. Innovation is underpinned by an approach of continuous improvement.

Diffusion, adoption and scale of approaches

Communication and advocacy

How are the results of new innovations communicated and championed in the department?

Are there well-established processes and approaches for communicating innovation successes and failures?

How do technical and operational cadres and teams engage with the results of innovation efforts?

What is the role of senior leaders and champions in ensuring institutional attention and related learning?

Initial application

Efforts are made to communicate innovation results beyond pilot teams and early adopters. There is proactive exploration of the possibility of applying specific innovations in new relevant contexts. However, whether a particular innovation is accepted comes largely down to personal networks and chance.

Emerging capability

Work is underway to develop coalitions of the willing testers to share experiences and catalyse further applications and results. Efforts are communicated to potential supporters and champions, who become actively engaged in making the case for greater investment and change. Quick wins are identified thanks to evidence and learning processes.

Established practice

The department is committed to using the outputs of innovation processes. There are accepted mechanisms and processes for assessing the viability of particular innovations. Well-specified processes exist for submitting and assessing particular innovations and approving their wider use. There are established events and processes for promoting awareness of specific innovations and innovation in general.

Adoption, application and systems change

How does the department support and invest in innovation scaling?

What models and tools are used by staff and partners to ensure scaling?

How are the skills and capacities for scaling and adoption supported and strengthened?

Initial application

The department is experimenting with a range of relevant approaches that can be used to take a particular innovation to scale. Innovators are asked to consider adoption and scale from the outset of an innovation process. This includes initial consideration of how approaches can be integrated into departmental programming.

Emerging capability

The department is aware of the implications of adoption and scaling for existing practices and processes and actively explores ways of enabling adoption and scale from the outset of innovation processes. Programming efforts actively seek to use innovative approaches.

Established practice

Specific scaling mechanisms and business models are established and accepted by the department, and necessary skills, capacities and relationships are in place to facilitate their application. There are established processes for making and communicating the business case for widespread adoption of specific tested innovations. Innovation is a key consideration throughout the programme cycle.

Organisation and collaboration for innovation

Innovation portfolio management and learning

How is the overall innovation portfolio considered and managed?

How are different types and levels of innovation considered (e.g. incremental to radical, etc.)?

How strategic and coherent is the portfolio, and how is the overall alignment managed?

How does cross-portfolio learning work, and with what outcomes?

Initial application

There is recognition of the need to look across the overall innovation portfolio to determine progress and priorities. Some initial cross-portfolio work is happening. Active learning is happening across sectors, themes and goals.

Emerging capability

There are regular cross-portfolio review and reflection sessions to review and learn from ongoing efforts, and share good practices and lessons across projects.

Established practice

There are strategic planning, design and refresh processes focused on the overall innovation portfolio strategy. Work is underway to define priorities, align outcomes and allocate resources for new funding cycles and opportunities. There is effort to rationalise, combine and integrate efforts across the innovation work of the department. Work is underway to align performance indicators and aggregate monitoring data across the portfolio through a shared management information and system.

Networking, collaboration and partnership

How does collaboration for innovation work across the department?

Which actors are involved in innovation programmes and in what ways?

What is the specific role of end users and national/local actors?

How are goals and objectives of innovation collaborations co-created, and with what benefits?

What efforts are being made in open innovation across existing development and humanitarian stakeholders?

How do implementing partner arrangements enable and incentivise innovation?

How are innovation partnerships conceptualised, designed and implemented?

Initial application

There is recognition that collaboration internally and with others can improve the chances for success and provide a safe space to explore ideas and ask questions. There is initial engagement on innovation issues across different organisational silos as well as with other donors, traditional development players and new actors. For the most part, the networking used to achieve goals in based on individual trust rather than organisational arrangements.

Emerging capability

Staff and partners are using multi-stakeholder networks and working groups to get results. Peers are helping peers across organisational boundaries. Formal collaboration mechanisms are being created and recognised, including partnership agreements. Open innovation is increasingly recognised as vital to the innovation effort, and the department works to foster this across its partners, grantees and with other donors. It is seen as important to develop a vision, narrative and message that all stakeholders involved in innovation efforts share and jointly own, and some efforts are working toward this.

Established practice

Collaboration is a defining principle across the department. A range of internal and external collaboration mechanisms operate, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities in terms of the organisational goals. Some develop collaboration capability within the department while others have a clear focus. It is common to share people and resources to enable joint ownership and delivery of innovation initiatives, programmes or projects. There are well-established protocols for negotiating and establishing multi-stakeholder partnerships for innovation.

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