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Mentoring and training civil servants in innovation methods

What it does. The Public Innovators Program provides national level public servants with training, mentoring, and practice of R&D + innovation methods and tools, applied to public policy and service challenges they identify in their own institutions. The Agile Public Innovation toolkit is used, a toolkit that was co-designed between national institutions in Paraguay and the Government Laboratory of Chile, with support from UNDP’s AccLab in Paraguay.

Value proposition for the government/other partner. Through this program, our partners in government are receiving an influx of new capacities that will benefit their innovation culture, allowing them to achieve the goals of designing, developing and testing new policies and services to improve how they achieve their mission. This is a Governance Signature Solution that contributes towards achieving SDG 16.

Why and when to use it. The Public Innovators Program is most useful when participants are committed public servants, who also happen to have higher levels of security and stability in their positions (for example, career public servants better than consultants or short-terms contractors), and who are part of teams that come from institutions with clear missions and goals.

Known issues and troubleshooting. Like many public sector initiatives, this programme needs to solve the problem of continuity across political cycles, as its owners within the government may leave to take on positions elsewhere. On a more operational level, when participants are appointed but do not have commitment, the teamwork suffers. This suggests an opt-in approach to recruiting participants.

Context. The programme emerged from previous initiatives and policies of the National Innovation Strategy (ENI) – a public-private initiative led by the Presidential Delivery Unit – and the National Science and Technology Council (CONACYT). UNDP Paraguay has been part of ENI since its onset, supporting its coordinating team in organizing and facilitating participatory workshops to identify national innovation challenges, supporting and funding the mapping and articulation of citizen-led initiatives during the pandemic, and both coordinating and funding learning cycles as public innovation processes in focalized challenges that emerged from the work done during the pandemic.

With CONACYT, the UNDP Paraguay Accelerator lab has collaborated with mentoring and training during several editions of its Social Innovation Challenge, funded by CONACYT under one of its flagship programs to invest directly in applied R&D for innovation. The combined history of collaboration in these engagements by the end of 2021 to the design and further launch of the Public Innovators Program, which we have described briefly in this document.

Cost. The training program cost around $30k, and that included a team of 2-3 instructors who developed the program in 2 months consisting of 8 modules, along with some international mentors who accompanied the teams on a weekly basis. Then, 2 pilots were funded, each with $15k, for 2 teams (out of the 10 participants). Throughout the program, we hired an R&D methodology specialist for $10k and an articulator to facilitate the emergence of a network of public innovators for another $10k.

People. At least 2-3 hours per week from 2 of the Lab heads, plus a similar number of hours from our associate researcher for program monitoring, which could also be monetized. And finally, there is the ENI team, consisting of 2 individuals plus 1 focal point at Conacyt.

Focal point. Cristhian Parra and Mónica Ríos

Country, year, and language. Paraguay 2022, Spanish