5. Appraising the progress to date

This chapter appraises current activity within the Public Service of Brazil as to how it contributes to or detracts from a sense of clarity, parity, suitability, normality and stewardship of the public sector innovation system. It explores whether the necessary ingredients for innovation are already in place, or whether additional action may be required to achieve the level of sophistication necessary to meet the needs of the Public Service of Brazil and the government and the citizens that it serves.


The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

As the previous chapters have demonstrated:

  • There are a range of agendas or issues where Brazil would either benefit from or requires greater innovation (Chapter 1).

  • The historical innovation journey of the Public Service of Brazil demonstrates progress across a range of agendas, but highlights repeating concerns with certain core issues suggesting limitations with previous change efforts (Chapter 2).

  • A more systemic approach to innovation is thus required, involving active consideration of the fundamental determinants of innovation, the mix of innovation activity taking place and stewardship of the public sector innovation system (Chapter 3).

  • However, the reality on the ground is that innovation is led primarily by individuals or organisations, rather than existing as an integrated component of the system. This implies a number of possibilities for improvement if innovation in the Public Service of Brazil is to be consistently relied upon to achieve better outcomes (Chapter 4).

Yet this is not say that the Public Service of Brazil has remained static when it comes to innovation. Greater attention and effort has been paid to enabling, encouraging and supporting innovation, especially in recent years. How, then, are the various initiatives and interventions placed to address the underlying determinants of innovation at a systemic level? Does anything further need to be done or are these elements sufficient to address the gaps that exist within the system?

This chapter provides a brief appraisal of activity being undertaken today across the public sector innovation system through the lenses of the public sector innovation determinants model. It considers existing measures and stewardship, and whether any gaps or areas are likely to require further support to be effective. Specific examples from other national governments are provided to help illustrate what such support might look like (although caution should be exercised in attempting to directly translate such approaches from one country context to another given the differing specifics).

This exercise is by no means exhaustive. The Public Service of Brazil is a large, diverse and dispersed entity with extensive activity occurring in many different areas involving a variety of actors. It is not possible to consider every single initiative that may have a bearing or relevance on innovation. Similarly, the intent of the appraisal is not to be prescriptive or to measure progress against any identified benchmark, which would be inappropriate given the uncertainty still associated with public sector innovation and the variance in country contexts and ambitions. Rather, the intent is to provide a sense of how some of the most significant initiatives are contributing to the functioning of the system, and to provide a template for system actors to appraise system performance on an ongoing basis.

Five lenses for appraising existing initiatives

Building on the theoretical models for understanding public sector innovation, five lenses are used to appraise the contribution of existing initiatives:

  1. 1. Clarity. Are existing initiatives helping to provide a clear signal for system actors with regard to innovation and how it fits with other priorities?

  2. 2. Parity. Are existing initiatives helping to ensure that system actors give equal weight to innovative options as they do to existing or traditional courses of action?

  3. 3. Suitability. Are existing initiatives contributing to ongoing renewal and investment such that core government capabilities, systems and infrastructure are suitable for emerging options and opportunities?

  4. 4. Normality. Are existing initiatives helping to ensure that innovation is seen as an integral part of the identity and activity of the Public Service of Brazil?

  5. 5. Stewardship. Are existing initiatives contributing to the development of stewardship of the public sector innovation system?

Lens 1: To what extent do existing initiatives contribute to clarity about innovation?

Is a clear signal being sent to system actors about innovation and how it fits with other priorities?

A clear signal can be aided by efforts to help:

  • actors understand what innovation means

  • actors understand innovation in relation to other priorities and agendas

  • actors understand the roles played in the innovation system

  • actors see how innovation fits with the shared history and context.

Actors understand what innovation means

A number of initiatives currently underway are likely to assist public servants better understand the concept of public sector innovation, including training being offered by ENAP (Box 5.1) and informal and formal networking (e.g. iNights and Innovation Week (Box 5.16). The various innovation labs that have arisen are also likely to help a growing number of practitioners gain practical as well as theoretical knowledge about public sector innovation. Innovation awards also provide a ready resource to help illustrate what innovation looks like in practice, although knowledge of award winners (as opposed to the awards themselves) or the implications of the activities being recognised seems patchy.

Box 5.1. Innovation training offered by ENAP

ENAP has a number of structured trainings on innovation-related competencies. The following are some of the courses relevant for public servants:

  • Innovation, Leadership and Digital Governance

  • Agile Project Thinking

  • Agile Method for Creating and Testing Innovative Solutions

  • Ethnographic Design Applied to Public Policy

  • Speculative Futures

  • Open Government

  • Innovation Cases

  • Data Science

  • Public Sector Risk Management (online)

  • Behavioural Economics Applied to Public Policy

  • Construction of Prospective Scenarios.

In addition, ENAP has worked with SGD to establish a digital transformation capacity-building programme focused on developing technology skills for a wide range of civil servants (including senior leaders, IT managers, and others).

Source: ENAP

Actors understand innovation in relation to other priorities and agendas

As observed, there has been an increasing emphasis on innovation within the Public Service of Brazil, through legislation and activities. The formation of InovaGov has been an important milestone in formalising innovation as a key element for many important players. This included the development of a “Public Sector Innovation Manifesto” (Box 5.2), which outlined some key principles underpinning the shared attitude towards innovation.

Box 5.2. InovaGov Public Sector Innovation Manifesto

“We are a group of innovators from diverse sectors of society (public, private, academic and third sector) that works for the continuous improvement of public services. We have the following principles to guide our actions:

  1. 1. Impact: we innovate to improve people's lives and positively impact society.

  2. 2. Focus on people: the users and beneficiaries of services are key to building and redesigning policies, programs and services, based on their wants and needs.

  3. 3. Connection: We encourage the building of partnerships and the co-creation of solutions by agents from different sectors. We believe that innovation must happen in a network.

  4. 4. Agility: We understand that small short-term deliveries add value and valuable learning to new steps.

  5. 5. Experimentation: We value prototyping, experimentation and measurement of results. We recognize our right to fail and the obligation to learn from our mistakes.

  6. 6. Collaboration: We share our experiences of successes and failures to learn together. We will seek to share people, tools, systems and other ways to solve public challenges.

  7. 7. Finally ... we believe that innovation only exists if our ideas and intentions are transformed into action and results for citizens!”

Source: InovaGov, http://inova.gov.br/quem-somos.

However, as also noted, innovation efforts are somewhat fragile, as the innovation agenda is often likely to come second to other agendas that are more tangible or definitive. When or if innovation comes into tension with other agendas, it is likely to lose out. Greater clarity about why innovation is needed and what it is for would likely assist in giving greater prominence to innovation. This should be explicit, rather than potentially relying on other agendas that will be generally complementary with innovation (e.g. digital transformation), as such agendas are likely to favour particular facets of innovative activity.

Given this, a more explicit innovation agenda (e.g. see Box 5.3), in addition to any necessary and relevant legislation or decrees, may be advantageous in helping to cement innovation as something that matters.

Box 5.3. French manifesto for public sector innovation

Articulating why innovation matters

“The quest for new solutions has now become a necessity for the French public sector. It is a financial necessity: the situation of public accounts puts pressure on our public administrations to innovate. It is a social necessity: between millennials and seniors, the diversity of social needs calls for a range of policy responses. It is a moral necessity: public institutions must regain the full trust of citizens. It is a democratic necessity: citizens increasingly aspire to having a say in public decision-making. It is a structural necessity: as for all living things, evolution is the prerequisite to survival for public sector organisations.”

The “French manifesto for public sector innovation” (2017) provides a formal and high-level clarion call to public servants: one that says innovation matters, that it is needed, and that it is expected.

The manifesto outlines seven principles for embedding innovation as part of the culture of the French public administration:

  • User first: define practices based on user needs and habits.

  • Openness: break silos within organisations and between methods.

  • Co-construction: involve stakeholders in creating real solutions.

  • Action: focus on “doing”.

  • Agility: move quickly to the prototype stage.

  • Experimentation: recognise the right to fail.

  • Impact: innovate for a purpose.

Source: Interviews, Government of France, https://www.modernisation.gouv.fr/sites/default/files/french_manifesto_for_public_sector_innovation.pdf.

Actors understand the roles played in the innovation system

Given the inevitable difficulties faced in trying to introduce new ideas and approaches, especially in a highly legalistic environment, innovation activity will be limited unless people understand their own role in regard to it. Some will understandably ask why they should do something perceived as risky if it is not even clear that they are expected to do it or that others want them to do it.

A range of initiatives are likely to assist on this front over time:

  • Innovation training helps people realise what they are capable of.

  • Innovation awards help to demonstrate that innovation is sought and respected.

  • Innovation Week helps to highlight the realm of the possible.

  • Various innovation labs showcase different ways to engage with innovation.

However, it is questionable whether these and other relevant initiatives will be sufficient to help a critical mass of public servants comprehend the role they should or need to play. There is also a potential lack of clear signals being sent to actors external to government about the roles they can play in enabling and supporting innovation in the public sector, and how they can contribute.

Actors see how innovation fits with the shared history and context

The longstanding public sector innovation awards in Brazil provide a powerful illustration of how innovation is, and has been, an ongoing part of the Public Service of Brazil. However, as demonstrated in Chapters 2 and 4, it would be generous to say that innovation is currently seen as a natural and integral part of the Public Service narrative. While innovation is starting to receive greater attention – and it can be expected that the narrative will start to shift over time to reflect this – additional support would likely be beneficial. A key absence in this regard is the lack of a coherent story about how innovation matters, and specific interventions likely to contribute to such a story.


The Public Service of Brazil operates in an environment with a relatively high-level of background ambiguity and competing signals for public servants. The legalistic setting provides a multi-layered context where it is not always easy to understand how overlapping laws and decrees complement or conflict with each other.

Given what has been observed of initiatives most likely to relate to clarity about innovation within the public sector, it is questionable whether enough is being done to produce a rigorous and ubiquitous sense of why innovation matters, what is expected of public servants (or others) when it comes to public sector innovation, and how innovation is a core part of the identity of Brazilian public servants.

Lens 2: To what extent do existing initiatives contribute to parity of innovation?

Does innovation have equal standing with other considerations when it comes to proposed courses of action?

Parity between innovation and existing courses of action can be aided by ensuring that:

  • processes are open to challenge

  • information and decision-making bottlenecks can be circumvented

  • it is easy to find and build a coalition of the willing around shared issues

  • different types of risk can be distinguished, and the difference between risk and uncertainty is appreciated.

Processes are open to challenge

The legalistic nature of Brazil’s public sector means has created in-built difficulties for challenging existing processes – or at least a higher bar – as many processes or steps are outlined in laws or decrees as opposed to “soft” policy or procedures. Nevertheless, there have been attempts to provide mechanisms of challenge Box 5.4). Perhaps due to the legalistic nature of the system, numerous reform agendas also provide windows of opportunity to challenge and change processes that may be unnecessarily constraining.

Box 5.4. Simplifique

A platform for challenging bureaucratic processes

Launched in 2018, Simplifique is an open digital platform that allows any member of the public to lodge complaints about bureaucratic processes and to request that the government take action to simplify them. The same tool can be used to make requests regarding any services provided by the executive branch of the federal government. The government receives requests centrally and then relays them to the appropriate agency to evaluate and make decisions. Upon receipt of a request, the federal agency has a deadline of 30 days to formally respond, with the possibility of extending the deadline for an additional 30 days. As a result, requesters generally receive a reply within 60 days explaining the simplification actions the government intends to take in response to the request. All complaints are published publicly, and complainants can track the progress of their complaint. Simplifique requests have already resulted in improvements to government operations. For example, documentation requirements for passport applications have been significantly reduced by better linking information systems.

The impetus for developing Simplifique was a series of studies from international institutions that found the Brazilian federal government to be overly bureaucratic. In fact, the rules regarding de-bureaucratisation themselves were fragmented, with about seven different legal instruments enacted since the 1970s. To address this, government leaders sought to reduce barriers to the Brazilian economy and passed a decree (No. 9 094, 17 July 2017) to harmonise existing rules, mandate the development of Simplifique and establish rules stipulating how the programme would be administrated (e.g. deadlines, roles and responsibilities, etc.).

The decree also states that any public servant failing to comply with the provisions of the decree will be subject to penalties (e.g. fines, suspensions, loss of position). It charges the Ministry of Transparency and CGU with developing accountability measures for public servants and their supervisors who fail to adequately achieve the provisions of the decree.

As a one-stop-shop for citizens and residents to request simplification, Simplifique is an innovative tool to promote a more efficient and effective government that is more responsive to the public’s needs. However, the issue of personal liability for individual civil servants may prove challenging. For the most part, challenges related to overly bureaucratic processes, which programmes need the involvement of numerous stakeholders from multiple offices and even agencies to overcome. Holding individual civil servant liable for lack of progress could have the unintended effects of de-motivating staff and minimising innovation. In addition, by focusing on the individual level, the rules may be missing opportunities to promote innovation from the individual level to the organisational level, which would facilitate a systems-wide transformation.

Source: Interviews, Government of Brazil.

It may be advantageous to explore a more structured and consistent approach to challenging processes. For instance, Canada’s Experimentation Direction (Box 5.5) an example of a structural driver that focuses on the question “Is what we’re doing the best we could be doing?” By providing a structured prompt for experimentation, the direction some consideration of different ways of doing things, of which some will likely clash with existing processes. This provides a spur for discussing whether the processes in place are still the most appropriate. Such a mechanism can provide a driving force for serious questioning, rather than expecting those who wish to challenge the processes to make a case for change.

Box 5.5. Canada’s Experimentation Direction

Fostering a structural driver, and appetite, for innovation

In December 2016, the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Privy Council Office issued a directive reinforcing the government’s commitment to devote a fixed percentage of programme funds to experimenting with new approaches to existing problems and measuring the impact of their programmes. This directive also provided context and directions for the Deputy Heads of agencies on how to implement the commitment.

Under the directive:

  • Deputy Heads are expected to identify a percentage of programme funds that their organization is currently devoting or plans to devote to experimenting with new approaches and to report on their experimentation efforts.

  • Departmental managers are expected to foster work environments that are conducive to experimentation, innovation and intelligent risk-taking so that public servants try new approaches and are not reprimanded for well-managed risks that fail to produce improvements, so long as lessons are captured and reflected in subsequent plans.

  • Departments are expected to share the results of their experiments, positive, negative or neutral/null, as broadly as possible, with a strong default to public release.

  • Deputy Heads are expected to establish evaluation and impact measurement strategies to strengthen the experimentation evidence base.

  • Central agencies and enabling departments are responsible for establishing or providing access to experimentation training and resources for public servants.

  • Departmental managers should consider establishing clear processes that will allow them to systematically integrate the lessons from experiments into their programs and course-correct on an ongoing basis.

  • Central agencies will work to help create the conditions for implementing rigorous experimentation approaches into the core business of departments and agencies. This includes working with departments to that the enabling authorities (e.g. rules, procedures, reporting) are in place to support experimentation, helping to build capacity, providing practical tools and resources, and leveraging existing platforms and reporting structures to enable departments to track and share experiences and showcase success.

An interdepartmental committee on experimentation consisting of senior leaders (Assistant Deputy Ministers) supports the directive and the work that falls under it.

Source: Interviews, OECD 2018a, Government of Canada

Bottlenecks can be circumvented

What is being done to enable those with ideas or issues to pursue them? The innovation process will often involve hurdles and bottlenecks, and the value of innovative activity is hard to quantify, whereas established activity is easier to understand and to prioritise. Empowering people and providing mechanisms to circumvent bottlenecks can help in this regard.

In this spirit, the InovaGov network (Box 5.13) is a useful platform for flagging issues that might be acting (intentionally or otherwise) as bottlenecks. It may be useful to explore slightly more formalised mechanisms through which cross-cutting ideas can be flagged and discussed by the InovaGov network, with a view to identifying shared priorities for change.

Simplifique also serves as a possible model for circumventing bottlenecks, albeit for actors external to the system rather than those internal to government.

A possible model for consideration is that of Canada’s GC Platforms (Box 5.6). Such government-wide discussion platforms provide an alternate mechanism to more formal channels for issues to be flagged and discussed.

Box 5.6. Canada’s GC Platforms

Shared platforms

The Public Service of Canada has established a number of platforms for internal information sharing and collaboration. These include GCconnex and GCcollab.

GCconnex is an internal government platform for networking, sharing information, collaboration and a range of functional matters. GCcollab is an outwards-facing version of the platform that provides a forum for sharing, connecting and collaborating with external stakeholders.

Source: OECD (2018a)

Allies can be found

The InovaGov network also offers an important channel for those in the Public Service to find like-minded allies who share issues or interests and are keen on pursuing common objectives. Events such as Innovation Week also serve to help in this regard.

However, much of the current ability to locate allies seems to be limited to informal (and personal) networks. While this may have sufficed in the past, this is unlikely to be the case now, particularly for those working with issues on the “edge” where innovative responses may be required but the ability to draw attention to them is sometimes limited.

One area offering a potential platform for finding allies is digital transformation. The community of practice is growing along with a shared understanding of possibilities across ministries. This work may provide a useful avenue to explore ways to facilitate informal collaboration, enabling those who have uncovered potential problems or opportunities to locate each other more easily.

The potential may also exist for more formal collaborative “architecture” and infrastructure. Such structures enable collaboration around innovative initiatives to occur in a more routine fashion, without the need to establish a case every time. An emerging example of such collaboration architecture and infrastructure is the London Office of Technology and Innovation (see Box 5.7).

Box 5.7. London Office of Technology and Innovation

The London Office of Technology and Innovation is a collaboration between the different boroughs of London, whose mission it is to foster radical and effective ideas for the benefit of citizens, communities and businesses. Initial projects launched by the Office include:

  • Digital apprenticeships. This project scales the digital apprenticeships model pioneered by Hackney Council, which recruits local residents into apprenticeships focused on digital work.

  • Pipeline adoption. This project speeds up opportunities for collaboration and through the adoption of the LocalGov Digital platform, Pipeline, which provides a single online source for all council projects, enabling the market to understand council needs.

  • Information sharing framework. This project promotes the innovative use of data to tackle major social and public services challenges, by developing a framework for safe, ethical and secure data sharing between London boroughs.

  • Developing the London Data Store. This project improves trust, transparency and greater collaboration with citizens, public agencies and the private sector through the development of the London Data Store.

The Office provides a structure and process that can underpin collaboration between the different systems actors.

Source: https://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/who-we-are/london-office-technology-and-innovation-loti/press-release.

Risk and uncertainty can be navigated

As noted in Chapter 4, the risk environment of the Public Service of Brazil is relatively severe, with potentially significant (personal) costs to the incorrect assessment of risk.

The TCU is conscious of this issue and is working to provide solutions, as evidenced by its partnership in the InovaGov network and its establishment of the Colab-i innovation lab (Box 5.8). In addition, the TCU has made some significant investments and has applied more innovative methods internally, including in its strategic planning (see OECD, 2017: 24-25).

Box 5.8. TCU’s Colab-i innovation lab

The aim of the Colab-i lab is to promote innovation across the TCU’s external control/audit functions, for the benefit of society, through research, communication, networking, training, challenge design/problem framing and prototyping.

The lab partners with others across the system to investigate how new technologies can be used in the process of audit. It learns from testing and prototyping new technologies before exploring how they can be scaled more widely.

The lab also seeks to:

  • encourage the use of data and collaboration with experts

  • use challenges and hackathons to tackle agency-wide issues

  • conduct training on the use of new technologies of potential relevance

  • seek to build public engagement with the work of the TCU.

The lab serves not only as a way for the TCU to engage with innovative approaches, but also as a means to demonstrate to the rest of the system that the TCU believes in the promise and necessity of innovation.

Source: Interviews, Government of Brazil

There may be opportunities for the TCU to provide more explicit guidance on innovation in regard to audit activity. While the TCU has frameworks in place for audit teams on cross-cutting subjects (OECD, 2017: 34), further work may be wise given the particular nature of innovative projects (e.g. they tend to have poorer performance in the initial stages as learning occurs, before it can be consolidated and leveraged). Indeed, an explicit focus on innovation within audits may be advantageous, as projects without innovative elements are likely to carry a higher risk as they are unlikely to be suited to their context.

The Office of the General Comptroller of the Union (CGU) (Controladoria-Geral da União) also plays an important role in shaping the risk environment of the Public Service of Brazil. The CGU supports the President and the Executive Branch in regard to internal control activities, anti-corruption and public audits. Part of the function of this internal control role concerns “Verifying the lawfulness and evaluating the results, as to effectiveness and efficiency, of the budgetary, financial and property management in the agencies and entities of the federal administration, as well as the use of public funds by private legal entities” (OECD, 2017: 95).

In accordance with the internal control standards published by the Ministry of Planning (now the Ministry of Economy) and CGU, each ministry should have a Governance, Risk and Internal Committee, which assists with “institutionalising the internal control system, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, setting policies, supervising risk assessment activities and making recommendations to improve internal control and risk assessment” (OECD, 2017: 95). This contributes to a clearly articulated risk focus, which may be in tension with innovation efforts, especially where there is a high degree of uncertainty and where new risks may present themselves, or old ones manifest in new ways.

A new law (13.655/18, which modified decree-law 4.657/42) has been introduced to help ameliorate the risk environment for public decision-makers, allowing personal responsibility for public servants only in situations where negligence or wilful misconduct is demonstrated. In addition, the law requires audit agencies to consider the contexts in which decisions were taken as well as the risk and consequences of not taking action. Although it is too early to observe any evidence of impact, the law and the associated decree (9830/19), which defines the rules of application, seem to reflect a shift in the risk environment to one that allows responsible risk-taking.

Given the particular nature of the risk environment surrounding and within the Public Service of Brazil, this area will likely need ongoing attention. It may be advisable for the TCU and CGU to continue exploring ways to promote accountability and good management, while also enabling innovative initiatives that may initially be administratively “messy” and conflict with traditional risk assessments, strict processes and precise reporting.

More structural interventions, above and beyond laws and decrees, may also be necessary to help ensure that the risk and uncertainty of “the new” are counterbalanced by attention to the risks and uncertainty of remaining with the status quo.


There are a number of structural and default settings in any public service that provide a degree of inertia for existing initiatives and practices and a degree of inbuilt resistance to innovative approaches. This makes it hard for innovation to get an “equal seat at the table” when it comes to decision-making, prioritisation, and resourcing.

In the context of the Public Service of Brazil, it is clear that there is ongoing action that will help to address this. However, it is less certain that this action is sufficiently structured, formalised, or embedded to counter the inertia within the system.

Lens 3: To what extent do current initiatives contribute to suitability for innovation?

Are the capabilities, systems and infrastructure appropriate and sufficient for the available options?

Suitability can be influenced by the extent to which:

  • learning occurs from areas that are already matching the external rate of change

  • technologies and their implications are socialised in government

  • new operational models are engaged with and tested and tried in government

  • changing expectations are understood, and any trends and signals that existing capabilities are insufficient are identified.

Learning from those keeping pace with external change

The digital transformation agenda is one of the strongest cases of where the Public Service of Brazil is positioned to learn from those keeping pace with external change. By helping agencies connect and learn about new practices related to the digitisation of services, the transformation will provide a useful spur for system-wide learning.

There has also been significant efforts to improve procurement processes, including attempts to make it easier to engage with start-ups, which could also assist in government agencies learning from the external world at a faster rate.

However, all agencies across the system will need to consider whether they are either keeping pace with external change, or whether they have identified peers, partners, stakeholders or suppliers from which they can learn. Each agency has a responsibility to consider whether it is learning fast enough to stay attuned to its individual operating environment.

One opportunity from an overarching perspective may be to examine how the work of InovAtiva (see Box 5.9) could be leveraged to help government learn from cutting edge practices in industry.

Box 5.9. InovAtiva

During 2010-11, the Government of Brazil observed a number of challenges in sparking economic development among start-ups and other small businesses. The first challenge was that the government was funding the equivalent of billions of US dollars in science and technology research at public universities, but the results were doing little to kickstart entrepreneurship and economic development in the private sector and broader economy. A second challenge was that Brazilian venture capital (VC) firms had significant funds at their disposal, but were struggling to find good ideas, products and talent at the national level in which to invest. The government believed that there was a disconnect between these groups and sought to address it by creating an innovative initiative: InovAtiva.

InovAtiva is a public sector accelerator and mentorship programme launched in 2013 for private sector start-ups in Brazil. As part of the design process, programme leaders travelled to a number of countries to meet with incubators and accelerators in order to learn about their success factors. Their findings were embedded into the design of InovAtiva; however, the programme leaders also noted the lack of organisations seeking to bridge the gap between the public and private sectors. This observation drove the decision to create an entirely new type of entity.

Creating something entirely new is always challenging, and the InovAtiva team faced a number of hurdles along the way. First among these was the reluctance of senior leadership to create a new entity that had no precedent. This exposed InovAtiva to greater potential risk and the team had to work harder to secure buy-in from others in government. A second key challenge was the lack of programme resources with only three staff members and a budget of USD 300 000 – a challenging budget for what they wanted to achieve.

The InovAtiva team had to be very creative and entrepreneurial to overcome these challenges. They developed a pitch deck and travelled between government offices seeking additional partners; however, none of those approached agreed to collaborate due to the unproven nature of the concept. The team used the same approach for businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), this time acquiring a key international NGO partner, able to contribute technical skills and knowledge. Their assistance enabled InovAtiva to design and test a beta version with a website, training course videos and a mentorship programme. The team then sought start-ups to test and validate the beta programme. Interest was much higher than they expected, with 2 000 start-ups volunteering to test and validate the programme – an early indication of success.

Through testing and validation, the InovAtiva team determined that the beta version was too complex, and that the programme needed to be streamlined. A large, global consulting firm offered free advice on the next iteration after being convinced of the uniqueness of the programme and how it could be applied in other contexts.

Finally, to scale the retooled programme beyond a beta version, InovAtiva found willing partners in a major university in the United States who offered to assist by providing an online platform to house the InovAtiva components, and a Silicon Valley start-up capable of developing the mentoring network. Both offered to work at a significantly reduced rate because of the future potential of InovAtiva. However, the team encountered challenges here as well, as Brazilian procurement law prevented them from entering into an agreement with these organisations. Thinking creatively once again, InovAtiva negotiated with a large international intergovernmental organisation to broker the agreement and process the payments.

Although the programme has enjoyed significant successes, staff generally characterise these as occurring in spite of current the innovation system of Brazil, not because of it. They describe the innovation system as unstructured and note that, in general, only pockets of innovation exist, often with low budgets and few staff, hindering their innovative ideas and processes from permeating other parts of government.

In spite of these challenges, the team’s efforts have paid off. InovAtiva is now the largest start-up accelerator in Latin America, and recently received an award for the best business accelerator, facing fierce competition from some of the world’s largest companies. Over 2 000 start-ups have now passed through the InovAtiva accelerator (out of 10 000 applicants) impacting over 30 000 entrepreneurs, who have consistently given InovAtiva excellent satisfaction scores. The success rate of InovAtiva start-ups is 80% better than the average Brazilian start-up. These impressive results continue to spur increasing interest in InovAtiva, and in 2017, a spin-off programme was launched: Inovativa de Impacto (Impact Inovativa) focuses on accelerating start-ups that generate positive social or environmental impact.

While the results and successes are clear, InovAtiva best represents successful innovation at the individual level, and from there maturing to the organisational level. Without the relentless drive of a handful of individuals, InovAtiva would likely have succumbed to the challenges and roadblocks that constitute features of the broader innovation system of Brazil. Innovation at a large scale is thus possible within the Brazilian Public Service, but InovAtiva remains an outlier in achieving this goal.

Source: Interviews, Government of Brazil.

Socialising technologies (and their implications)

The digital transformation agenda is working to promote greater take-up of digitisation, and therefore is likely to help familiarise people, including leaders, with some of the newer capabilities on offer. In addition, a number of projects are experimenting or engaging with novel technologies and new possibilities. The training courses offered by ENAP are also a likely source of help with socialising technologies and their implications.

Historically, however, there has been a lack of formalised socialisation of technologies with senior leaders on a consistent basis, or in a manner likely to lead to a shared understanding of the potential consequences of these technologies for the Public Service of Brazil and more broadly. ENAP has recently launched a new programme entitled “Frontiers and Trends” (Fronteiras e Tendências) which may provide assistance in this regard; however, more time is needed to evaluate its sufficiency. The course provides a series of interactive conversations with high-level specialists, focused on senior leaders, in order to promote discussion on current and relevant government topics, including: geopolitical trends, new technologies, innovation, public entrepreneurship, effective communication, behavioural insights, compliance and change management, among others.

While there is reportedly some foresight activity going on in specific ministries or agencies, this appears to be fairly contained and has not yet permeated the broader discourse across the Public Service. As part of its role, the TCU provides insight and foresight to help anticipate vulnerabilities, challenges and opportunities for the Brazilian government, so as to address integrity risks and systemic vulnerabilities (OECD, 2017: 92). There may be a further role for TCU to strengthen this agenda and to work with other agencies to have a more systemic approach to understanding the implications of what may be coming.

This would appear to be an area ripe for additional attention and effort, perhaps building on some of the existing infrastructure (e.g. InovaGov network, ENAP course offerings, and the digital transformation agenda) to provide senior leaders with more opportunities to become familiar with the changing technological landscape.

Exploring new operational models

“Although Brazil should prioritise keeping its digital government legal and regulatory framework updated, the government should also complement the observed legalistic culture with the promotion of a more innovative, piloting and agile-oriented policy mindset, allowing the public sector to better address the digital transformation without permanently considering legal and regulatory actions as the first steps to be taken. An innovative and action-oriented culture, sustained by the permanent involvement of the ecosystem of stakeholders to ensure synergies and joint ownership, is critical to seize the benefits of a transformational context where public sectors and permanently challenged to adapt, manage and lead change.” (OECD, 2018b: 116)

The creation of innovation labs across the Public Service has provided a valuable opportunity to explore different ways of working and different ways of collaborating with stakeholders, both external and internal. The example of GNova (Box 5.10) for instance, shows how labs are enabling cross-agency, multidisciplinary approaches. Work in the digital transformation domain has also helped to explore what digitisation means for the Public Service, including how it operates and what it offers.

Box 5.10. GNova innovation lab

GNova was one of the first public sector innovation labs to be created in the Brazilian federal government. The lab is the result of a partnership in 2016 between the National School of Public Administration (ENAP), the then Ministry of Planning, Development and Management (MP) and the Danish government to create a space for developing solutions with less bureaucracy and more efficiency for public services.

The lab promotes a vision of innovation as a systemic and transformative practice in the public sector. Its mission is to develop innovative solutions with federal government institutions to enable the Public Service to respond more effectively to the demands of citizens.

The lab’s strategy includes exploring new technologies, trends and methods for public sector innovation; experimenting with those methods through projects with other government institutions; and registering, organising and disseminating the knowledge generated through exploration and experimentation. Accordingly, lab has consolidated guidebooks and toolkits adapted to the Brazilian public sector reality on topics such as design thinking, behavioural insights and ethnographic design applied to public policies.

GNova also plays a role in bringing an experimental, citizen-centred approach to the course offerings of ENAP, as well as making use of ENAP’s key position in the Brazilian federal Public Service to “spread the word” about the lab’s innovative experiences.

Source: Interviews and http://gnova.enap.gov.br/sobre/quem-somos

While there are many innovative initiatives that can be pointed to in the public service, it is less evident that there are many initiatives examining fundamental shifts in how the public sector may need to operate. For the projects (e.g. ‘Coursera for government’, Box 4.1) of relevance that are happening, these appear to be often driven by specific contextual needs.

The risk environment and procurement processes of the Public Service also constrain the ability for radical experimentation or investigation of truly new models for how government might operate. The ability to engage with external actors to test new approaches, and thus reduce the risk of running experiments within government, appears to be fairly limited. While there have been alterations to the procurement framework (e.g. the amendments to the Innovation (R&D) Legislation in 2016) to allow for technology risks in commissioning new technology, the possibility of testing entirely new ways of thinking underpinned by new technologies will likely require further changes. Additionally, while certain functions of government are likely to have more freedom to experiment (e.g. regulatory agencies), these are not necessarily well placed to function as test-beds for the rest of government, given the differing operating parameters.

Even with action to mitigate the extremes of the risk environment, the conditions do not appear to be present for more significant experimentation with new operational models for government. In the current environment, the answer to “where might the development of entirely new delivery or policy models come from, if needed?” is unclear. It may, then, be advantageous to give consideration to alternate arrangements, such as a separate structure, to undertake such experiments and investigations (e.g. see JDC Israel, Box 5.11). This may be difficult to achieve given existing budgetary constraints, so there may also be a need for creative thinking to establish how such an arrangement might work within the current Brazilian context.

Box 5.11. JDC Israel (Joint Distribution Committee)

Partnering to test new innovations for the public sector

JDC Israel is a not-for-profit philanthropic organisation that partners with the government in working to be a leading incubator of social innovation in Israel.

Through this collaboration, JDC Israel develops innovative solutions to national social challenges, such as chronic unemployment and the working poor, child poverty, the exclusion of people with disabilities and elder care. It also develops new ways to serve vulnerable populations from all sectors of Israeli society, and runs pilots of research-backed social experiments in key locations to test and optimise the initiatives.

Once the pilot programmes have been deemed successful, they are handed over to the Government of Israel for scaling-up and broader delivery, which may then run them nationwide.

Through its Leadership and Governance Institute, JDC Israel also works to understand and develop solutions for any systemic failures across the social policy and service offerings of the Israeli public sector. Its current focus includes the following issues:

  • digitalisation of public services

  • cross-sector collaboration

  • accessing funds and regionalism

  • quality assurance of public services.

The Institute then works to provide a cross-sectoral, multi-ministry platform to examine and enact possible solutions to the identified systemic failures.

JDC Israel helps to lower risk for Israeli government ministries by providing a streamlined and agreed platform for the exploration of identified social problems, where innovative initiatives that might fail can be appropriately tested. Such a partnership helps to remove some of the risks for government agencies that come with experimentation with novel approaches.

Source: JDC https://www.jdc.org/our-work/empowering-all-israelis/ and interviews

Keeping track of changing expectations

As expectations of government change, so too will the Public Service of Brazil need to change in order to maintain trust and legitimacy. It is therefore important for the Public Service to know how expectations are evolving or shifting.

The government’s work in the digital transformation domain will assist greatly in this regard, by providing a rich source of intelligence and real-time data about the use of government services by citizens. Additionally, platforms such as Participa Brazil, an online consultation and engagement platform, can help provide insights into the perspectives of citizens who choose to participate. Other participatory mechanisms, whether it be things such as the National Conferences that have previously been used, can provide valuable ‘thick’ data that may not be picked up in the more quantitative data that digital platforms will naturally collect. Digital infrastructure allows new possibilities for real-time intelligence about what citizens think or what their views are (see Box 5.12).

Box 5.12. Carrot Rewards

Building a richer real-time picture of citizens

The Carrot Rewards app was an “AI-driven public engagement platform that leverages behavioural economics and nudge theory to motivate Canadians to make better everyday lifestyle choices.” The app was a public-private collaboration run by the private sector company Carrot Insights.

Carrot Rewards users earned points from popular loyalty reward programmes by completing activities such as walking a designated number of steps or filling out quizzes or surveys. The original focus was to encourage and reward healthy living; however, over time it expanded to include topics such as financial literacy and energy usage, thereby promoting a more holistic and interconnected understanding of healthy living.

By rewarding users for engaging with awareness-raising content, surveys and quizzes, the app became a platform for governments to obtain real-time insights into citizen knowledge and understanding about issues. Such data about current trends and what works or resonates with people could then inform policy and service design.

While Carrot Rewards announced its closure in June 2019, it nonetheless serves as a powerful illustration of the possibilities for government arising from digital technologies and business models.

Source: Interviews; OECD (2019a).

This represents an area of opportunity to consider how the Public Service of Brazil can better understand and engage with shifts in citizen expectations.


If the Public Service of Brazil is going to take advantage of new opportunities and be prepared for shifts in how it might need to operate, then it will need to build on work already underway to gain better information about how its services are being used. A number of opportunities are open to the Public Service of Brazil to engage with the changing world, to learn about what might be possible and what this might mean, and to prepare to take advantage of new options.

Lens 4: To what extent do current initiatives contribute to normality around innovation?

Is innovation seen as integral, rather than as an occasionally accepted deviation from the norm?

Normality around innovation can be assisted by:

  • identifying the behaviours to support innovation

  • reinforcing the links between innovation and regular business

  • socialising innovation

  • upholding innovation.

Behaviours to support innovation

At present there does not appear to be an explicit and agreed set of behaviours around innovation. This situation will evolve over time assisted by elements such as ENAP’s training curricula and actions being undertaken in regard to skills and leadership for innovation (see OECD, 2019b). InovaGov (see Box 5.13) will also help in this regard as a community for public servants (and stakeholders) interested in how the Public Service of Brazil can be more sophisticated in applying new approaches for public value.

Box 5.13. InovaGov

Brazil’s public sector innovation network and collaborative forum

InovaGov is a Brazilian public sector innovation network and collaborative forum launched in 2015 as part of preparations for the inaugural Public Sector Innovation Week. It now has the official support of over 100 public sector, private sector, third sector and academic organisations. The shared aim is to stimulate and support innovation in the public sector.

“We want to revolutionize the way the public sector conducts its projects and offers services. We seek to stimulate the generation of creative ideas and solutions, promote more human and user-centered approaches, integrate and articulate the efforts of different sectors that result in improvement of processes and services and promote in a systemic way a culture of innovation in the public sector.”

InovaGov’s website and newsletter provide members with relevant information, news and events. The network also acts as a forum for collaboration on identified priority areas and projects. One such initiative is IPEA LabGov, an online platform for disseminating experiences and sharing knowledge and information on innovation in the public sector.

Source: Interviews, Government of Brazil.

There may be value in each ministry and agency considering its expectations of leaders in regard to innovation, and thus what behaviours should be modelled for others. This could be supported by the TCU and CGU being more explicit about their expectations of public servants in terms of innovative activity, and how (or if) innovation in the long-term can support better management, accountability and performance, despite short-term tensions. In the absence of deliberate intervention, it is likely that general behaviours will continue to reflect beliefs or attitudes that risk avoidance is better than engaging with innovation.

Linking innovation and regular business

Unless innovation feels like a part of normal practice, it will remain unusual and therefore relatively uncommon.

Innovation awards are a helpful way of contributing to this sense of normalcy around innovation, as they help to demonstrate that innovation is a regular and celebrated part of business. However, awards may inadvertently contribute to a sense of “specialness” around innovation, segregating it from regular, day-to-day business.

Innovation labs can help to demonstrate how innovation contributes to uncovering new ways of looking at problems and developing new solutions. Again, though, they can contribute to a sense that innovation is something separate from normal business, with the lab being perceived as something different or unusual, although this perception may change over time.

Laws and decrees may be helpful in cementing a connection between innovation and regular business, as can important work related to the digital transformation agenda, where there is a clear link between results and doing things in new and different ways.

However, it may be necessary and advisable to actively consider ways to help public servants feel like innovation is a part of their day-to-day business, rather than something exceptional. An as example, Canada’s “Experimentation Works” (see Box 5.14) provides an illustration of an initiative working to build comfort and familiarity with innovation as a core part of delivering on the agenda of the government. An alternative model is that of Finland (see Box 5.15). These contrasting approaches highlight the need for a contextual approach that is tailored to the setting and expectations.

Box 5.14. Experimentation Works, Canada

Integrating experimentation into government – “Getting better at getting better”

The Innovation and Experimentation team within the Government of Canada’s Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and the Impact and Innovation Unit within the Government of Canada’s Privy Council Office support the implementation of the Experimentation Direction (Box 5.5). Experimentation is seen as a means to:

  • Enable innovation, by de-risking the unknown

  • Allow government to improve, by data-enabled testing

  • Enhance evaluation, by using data and measurement and new approaches to know what is working and what is not.

In 2018 the Innovation and Experimentation team established Experimentation Works, a whole-of-government initiative designed to build public servants’ capacity in experimentation skills and practice through a learning-by- doing approach, with a view to supporting and showcasing small-scale experiments. The initiative sought to generate practical examples of federal experiments and ensure open access to related learning materials, progress updates and results for broad impact.

It aimed to do this by:

  • building public servants’ capacity in experimentation by showcasing three to five small-scale experiments, and providing a cohort to build learning and relationships across the experimentation ecosystem

  • documenting and sharing experimentation development, deployment, results and initial impacts (if any)

  • focusing on a variety of methodologies and policy areas (policy design, delivery, and back office experimentation).

Projects included in the first cohort included efforts to:

  • increase reporting of product safety issues under a consumer product safety programme

  • better understand how to improve energy efficient behaviours

  • establish the effectiveness and broader potential of a new type of micro-grant in the area of multiculturalism.

The initiative led to significant learning about how to best support and foster experimentation across government departments. Lessons included the importance of ensuring that projects are “experimentation-ready”, that the right experts are matched to the right project, and thinking about how to use the insights from these lessons to establish generalised lessons or principles for the broader public sector.

Source: Interviews, Government of Canada.

Box 5.15. Finland’s Experimentation Platform

Building an experimentation culture across different strategic policy levels

At the beginning of the decade, the Finnish government was looking to introduce new ways of doing policy systematically within the public sector and speed up feedback loops between policy evaluation and policy design. As part of this effort, the Ministry of Finance and the Government Office, in partnership with SITRA (the fund for innovation operating directly under the Finnish Parliament), launched a new project on the Government of the Future. The project was designed to discover new ways to undertake significant reforms of state administration. In parallel, the government also initiated the OHRA Project (2014), a steering framework to prepare recommendations for the next parliamentary term after the elections in the first quarter of 2015, with a view to improving the impact and effectiveness of government actions. These initiatives led to the development of a new framework for experimental policy design.

The Government Office of Finland employed a combined systems and design thinking approach in order to develop the new policy framework, which aimed to carry out experiments in government. Experimentation was incorporated into the strategic government programme (“Finland, a land of Solutions”) in May 2015 and an experimental policy design programme was set up. The Government Office then assembled the Experimental Finland Team to support the programme.

The new approach to policy design allowed both broad “strategic experiments” (formalised policy trials) – for example, the basic income experiment – and grassroots experiments designed to build up an “experimental culture” in the public sector in Finland. It also involved pilot pools/partnerships (regionally relevant or sector-specific experiments).

The different types of experiments increased the government’s understanding of the many levels of experiments and their respective value within the experimental “ecosystem”. Six large-scale strategic experiments were undertaken by the previous government and numerous pilots and grassroots experiments followed across the public sector.

To support the process, the Finnish government launched a digital platform called Kokeilun Paikka (Place to Experiment) in 2017. The platform is designed to promote useful initiatives and new practices by supporting small trials initiated by citizens. The project relies on semantic web technologies, which use an algorithm to gathering information about experiments (in Finnish and English) from the Web. The platform enables users to obtain evidence on how initiatives work in practice and helps to disseminate their benefits more effectively. It functions as a toolbox, an evidence base and as a crowdfunding tool for experimentation.

The Experimental Finland Team operated with a de facto “sunset clause” – they had until the end of the next government term to carry out their activities and plant seeds for further experimentation in government. Thus, by design, they had to disseminate as much of the knowledge they gathered on experimentation as possible within ministries and other public sector organisations. They worked to achieve this goal by creating networks of experiment enthusiasts in government (including “Kokeilukummit”, the “godparents of experimentation”) and building co-operation projects with other parties. They also assembled a guide for experiments in the public sector (How to support Experiments?) to codify some of their learning. Their approach describes a strong top-down push for experimental culture with a specific focus on how experimentation fits in with the broader policy-making system.

Source: OECD (2017b) and interviews, Government of Finland,



Socialising innovation

The Public Service of Brazil, through its public sector innovation awards, has long socialised specific cases of innovation. This has helped not only to ensure an awareness that the Public Service can and does innovate, but also provides a significant resource that can be studied for insights into the innovation process.

Innovation Week (see Box 5.16) is also an important means by which the Government of Brazil helps to socialise innovation. Not only does it help to attract attention to innovation cases, it also brings together practitioners and experts who share experiences and lessons about the practice of innovation and how it can add value to the work of the public sector.

Box 5.16. Brazil’s Public Sector Innovation Week (Semana de Inovação)

Building and validating a community of innovation practitioners and supporters

The first Public Sector Innovation Week (Semana de Inovação) was held in 2015. Since then, it has grown to become a large and high-profile collection of events that bring together public servants, academics, international experts and practitioners, stakeholders and partners.

In 2018, the theme was “A Public Service for the Future”. Over 1 500 participants took part in 80 events with over 100 speakers during the week. These included workshops on public sector innovation, and leadership and skills for innovation.

The annual event provides an important forum to showcase and share innovative initiatives taking place within the Public Service of Brazil, as well as to connect practitioners from different levels of government and different nations.

Source: Interviews

Innovation labs and the work of ENAP, InovaGov and the Secretariat of Management also contribute in important ways to ensuring that public sector innovation is showcased and introduced to public servants, stakeholders, partners and citizens.

Upholding innovation

If, or more likely when, an innovative government initiative goes awry, will the Public Service of Brazil still uphold and defend innovation?

While the Public Service’s control functions (the TCU and CGU) have undertaken important work, and public sector innovation is growing in practice and visibility (through innovation awards, InovaGov, innovation labs, Innovation Week and so on), it is an open question as to whether these bodies will act to defend innovation in the face of displeasure or ridicule when an activity perceived as innovative does not perform as hoped.

Given the strong perception that the control bodies lack tolerance for innovation, more might be done to distinguish between “blameworthy failure” and “praiseworthy failure” (Edmondson, 2011).

The key players involved with the innovation agenda could also undertake low-key war-gaming to prepare for situations where a legitimate and justifiable attempt at innovation, or innovative activity, is held up for critique. Such approaches may prompt consideration about how to maintain the broader narrative of public sector innovation when a specific innovation is accused, fairly or unfairly, of being in the wrong (e.g. labelled as corruption).


Considerable activity is taking place to help ensure innovation is seen as a more normal part of the operations of the Public Service of Brazil, underlining the importance of the “normality” determinant in the Brazilian context. However, further work is likely to be needed to help innovation feel “normal”.

Lens 5: To what extent do current initiatives contribute to stewardship of the innovation system?

Brazil’s bureaucratic nature of public administration, and diffused power, promotes siloes and provides little incentives for entities to co-ordinate with one another. (OECD, 2017: 47)  

As the review of the historical journey of innovation (Chapter 2) showed, recent years have seen no shortage of reform agendas and efforts in the Public Service of Brazil. Innovation as an agenda is somewhat different in that it cannot be simply dictated or directed, even more so than other agendas. As Chapter 3 outlined, innovation relies on contextual factors and capabilities that are more important than whether innovation is simply required or demanded. A mix of support and push, direction and guidance is needed, and stewardship is required.

Many of the relevant actors within the ecosystem of the Public Service of Brazil have already started to work together to examine how they can each contribute to a more sophisticated and mature approach to public sector innovation. The InovaGov network and partnership is a key manifestation of such efforts.

Nonetheless, it would appear that much of the stewardship occurring at the moment is relatively implicit, without any explicit roles or formal understanding of how different players work together to help shepherd the system.

As the practice of innovation within the Public Service of Brazil matures, and more innovation occurs with potentially greater impact, the importance of ensuring stewardship will correspondingly increase.

What a formalised sense of stewardship should look like, and how it might operate, is something that will need to be decided upon by the relevant actors (e.g. the Ministry of Economy, ENAP, TCU, CGU, the Brazilian Presidency, CJF) in the light of their respective strengths and capabilities. Given the specifics of the context, and the early stages of stewardship of public sector innovation systems globally, there are no prescriptions for what stewardship should look like. However, an example from the United Kingdom (see Box 5.17) helps to illustrate some of what might be involved in oversight and stewardship of a public sector innovation system.

Box 5.17. Public sector innovation in the United Kingdom

A distributed approach to oversight and stewardship

Instead of a single body providing central oversight for public sector innovation, the UK government employs a distributed approach with loose co-ordination between the different components. The Cabinet Office, the UK ministry at the centre of government, is responsible for co-ordinating the work of government. As a result, it often acts in areas where there are gaps between traditional organisational boundaries. Consequently, it plays a crucial role in identifying emergent policy concerns and rallying stakeholders from across the system to take action. This includes incubating new approaches and promoting the development of new capabilities within line ministries and their agencies.

Some of the key components of relevance to oversight and stewardship of the public sector innovation system include the following:

  • Policy Lab. The Policy Lab team uses design, data and digital tools to act as a testing ground for policy innovation. The Lab can undertake projects from anywhere across government, often focusing on complex, systemic policy problems. This approach allows it to help build capability across the public service, and to feed the learning and insights from projects back into the central oversight function of the Cabinet Office in which it is located.

  • Open Innovation Team. This team acts as a broker between academic expertise and policy makers. It helps policy makers connect and collaborate with academics and academic institutions, whether for research purposes or developing policy proposals. This enables the team to gain insights into capability issues and ways to best enable effective cross-sectoral collaboration for the development of new, potentially innovative, responses.

  • What Works Network. This initiative aims to improve the ways in which government and other organisations create, share and use (or “generate, translate and adopt”) high-quality evidence for decision-making. Seven What Works Centres and three affiliates cover areas such as health, education, economic growth and wellbeing. The initiative helps to test and evaluate new and existing interventions, and urges the cessation of approaches that do not work. The network also builds capability within the civil service to create and effectively use evidence, which supports the innovation process by allowing for a more sophisticated understanding of what and when to measure.

  • Horizon Scanning Programme Team. This team co-ordinates horizon scanning work across departments and with external experts. It helps to identify and socialise emerging issues with senior management, and can also undertake exploration of areas of interest. This work feeds into a committee of senior officials chaired by the Cabinet Secretary to help with system-wide consideration of potential implications for policies and to explore possible future threats or scenarios.

  • Future Policy Network. The Network is a cross-government group of teams that focus on innovative approaches to delivery and policy making. It aims to unite innovation teams, encourage cross-team collaboration and establish a common purpose. Under the Network, teams collaborate on major policy and service design problems. The Network offers a forum for bringing together the insights of different components of the UK public sector innovation system, allowing for better consideration and reflection of the implications for the functioning and needs of the public sector.

  • Government Digital Service (GDS). GDS works on the digital transformation of government. It aims to be a centre of excellence in digital, technology and data, and collaborates with departments to help them with their own transformation. GDS works with other government agencies to build platforms, standards and digital, and acts as the central body for digital technology within the civil service. It is therefore well positioned to identify, assess and advise on capability issues, investment needs, and the adoption of new approaches across government and by service users and citizens.

Source: UK Government.


The Public Service of Brazil should be recognised for the progress it has made in its efforts to ensure the application of a more sophisticated and mature approach to innovation, in aid of delivering better results and outcomes.

Nevertheless, given the clear need for a more deliberate, strategic and reliable public sector innovation system, as outlined in Chapter 1, it is not yet clear from the interventions already put in place that enough is being done to achieve what is wanted and needed. While existing interventions will likely continue to develop and settle over time, there would appear to be some missing gaps where supplementary efforts are required.

The functioning of a dynamic system can only truly be appreciated over time

As the history of the public sector innovation system highlighted, the system is never static. There will always be new interventions or developments that will to shape the innovation system, even if they are not specifically related to innovation. In addition, many of the interventions that have taken place are relatively recent, and their full impact will take time to assess.

It is therefore difficult to state exactly what might be needed, given that the system will continue to evolve and change. In order to advise on what should happen next, it is necessary to have an appreciation of the system dynamics – not just how the system has evolved up until now, and the actions taking place today, but also how the system may change over time. In order to decide what should be done now, assumptions about the future, and the system dynamics need to be tested.

The next chapter employs different scenarios to illustrate how these system dynamics might play out under different settings.


Edmondson, A.C. (2011), “Strategies for learning from failure”, Harvard Business Review, April, https://hbr.org/2011/04/strategies-for-learning-from-failure

OECD (2019a), Embracing Innovation in Government: Global Trends 2019, OECD Publishing, Paris.

OECD (2019b), Innovation skills and leadership in Brazil’s public sector: Towards a Senior Civil Service System, OECD Publishing, Paris.

OECD (2018a), The Innovation System of the Public Service of Canada, OECD Publishing, Paris. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264307735-en.

OECD (2018b), Digital Government Review of Brazil: Towards the Digital Transformation of the Public Sector, OECD Digital Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264307636-en.

OECD (2017a), Brazil's Federal Court of Accounts: Insight and Foresight for Better Governance, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264279247-en.

OECD (2017b), Systems Approaches to Public Sector Challenges: Working with Change, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264279865-en.

5. Appraising the progress to date