Today’s civil servants are addressing problems of unprecedented complexity in societies that are more pluralistic and demanding than ever. At the same time, the systems and tools of governance are increasingly digital, open and networked. Civil servants need the right skills to keep pace.
To assess changes in the skills needed in today’s civil services, the OECD has developed a framework that identifies four areas, each representing specific tasks and skills required in the relationship between the civil service and the society it serves:
- Policy advice and analysis: Civil servants work with elected officials to inform policy development. However, new technologies, a growing body of policy-relevant research, and a diversity of citizen perspectives, demand new skills for effective and timely policy advice.
- Service delivery and citizen engagement: Civil servants work directly with citizens and users of government services. New skills are required for civil servants to effectively engage citizens, crowdsource ideas and co-create better services.
- Commissioning and contracting: Not all public services are delivered directly by public servants. Governments throughout the OECD are increasingly engaging third parties for the delivery of services. This requires skills in designing, overseeing and managing contractual arrangements with other organisations.
- Managing networks: Civil servants and governments are required to work across organisational boundaries to address complex challenges. This demands skills to convene, collaborate and develop shared understanding through communication, trust and mutual commitment.
Why is citizen engagement important in delivering public services?
In doing so, we will prepare Governments to engage with citizens at various stages of policy and service development. Input from citizens can help to design better and more cost-effective policies, as well as build the community ownership for policy and service solutions required to ensure sustainable impact over a long term. While service delivery, communication, consultation, and engagement have long been part of the government toolkit, three trends are changing the skills required:
- increasingly complex service delivery landscapes. The complexity of public service delivery has grown in most countries as the channels for service delivery increase and services are increasingly delivered by networks of agents who may or may not be directly employed by the government. This requires detailed knowledge and awareness of the community and the government, and a need for high-level communication skills, empathy, and reflection, as well as a level of discretion and empowerment to resolve issues.
- technological change which results in new channels and tools for engagement. The digital transformation in governments is resulting in an ever-increasing number of ways in which civil servants can interact with citizens to identify problems and design better policy and service solutions. Social media can allow governments to crowdsource ideas from citizens and can provide platforms for policy discussions and debates to overcome geographical and time-related barriers.
- the expectation to incorporate more meaningful input and participation at a greater number of stages of the policy/service design process. User centricity is also a recognised ingredient of public sector innovation. Human-centred design principles emphasise how people interact with systems and processes, while behavioural science can help to analyse the way people think and respond to different situations. To develop effective user-centred services and policies, officials must adopt participative approaches that involve users throughout the life of the project.
What is the contribution of Interlink?
Within Interlink we are building the Next Generation of PAs, supporting the co-production of new public services. In order to achieve this goal, we:
- Analyse the different types of public services that can be the focus of co-production;
- Identify the groups of people that could participate in the work and understand their motivations;
- Understand the phases of the co-production process: what decisions should be taken by whom at what stage; identify typical bottlenecks and challenges at each stage;
- Ensure sustainability of the services after they have been (re-)designed and implemented;
- Create the Interlink platform and Iinterlinker tools to support co-production.
One of the most innovative results of INTERLINK is the creation of Interlinkers, a set of open-source Building Blocks that will offer basic capabilities to facilitate the co-production of digital public services This asset is of tremendous value not only for creating new services but in general for enhancing the transparency and accessibility of the public sector. Interlinkers will be released as a public domain resource co-designed by citizens, professionals, and civic servants, and will be used to attract an ecosystem of citizens, TSOs, and enterprises that exploit in different ways the value of this resource to participate in public service co-production and enable the creation of new public-civic-partnerships.