Looking back into last years, our reality could be described as a dense concentration of disruptive events with high impact in our societies and economies, thus affecting enormously the context in which public sector organisations operate. Today, we live in a world which is rather characterised by uncertainty and high complexity, questioning the current norms, values and traditions, and triggering a deep transformational impact in our societal structures.
In this context, traditional analytical tools and problem-solving methods may result to have limited capacity when applied to address complex problems. In the same way, current public sector methods in different countries and administrative levels reflect organisational fragmentation and weak stakeholder engagement. There is a need of new approaches – such as whole-of-government – that look to enable collective power to deliver solutions to concrete challenges Thus, the question we need to explore is: what type of approaches are needed to face and govern this complex reality?
Reshaping existing structures to govern complex and uncertain contexts
At EFIS Centre, we are pushing towards a systemic change through our portfolio of projects, by creating the right conditions for exploration, collaboration and action. While there are many potential approaches emerging, we reflect on four specific and interconnected shifts to rethink the way new governance approaches should include:
- from institutional fragmentation towards collaborative action –public sector should work outside the usual siloes, promoting purposeful collaboration across ministries, departments and local government bodies. Public sector agencies should also act as drivers of symbiotic partnerships between public and private sector. For instance, EFIS Centre is part of the S3 Community of Practice project, a collaborative action aimed to strengthen collaboration between multiple sectors and stakeholders who will work on thematic working groups such as innovation diffusion, industrial transition, and inter-regional EFIS Centre is not only coordinating the working groups but also facilitating the exchange of experiences among regional and national practitioners that will seek to foster and guide policy experimentation in these domains.
- from linear planning towards adaptive learning – uncertainty is an inherent characteristic of innovation. Thus, it is unwise to rely on pre-established practices that used to work in the past or to aim to fit innovation into pre-determined structures – isolated, single-point, time-framed interventions. Instead, there is a need to develop an ability to broaden the organisational capacity of new path and possibilities beyond the current practices by creating a space for sensemaking as a tool to develop new knowledge and skills. For instance, EFIS Centre contributed to a recent study about Finland Green Innovation (in cooperation with 4Front and awarded by the Finnish Ministry of Labor and Economic Affairs) aimed to produce information and tools for the development of new approaches to innovation policy to effectively support the green transition. EFIS Centre explored selected examples at national level of countries that have introduced green transition policies and highlighted useful elements that can contribute to accelerate the transition and reach the targets set by the Finnish government.
- from traditional towards experimentation – to effectively address today’s world complexity, there is a need for continuous, non-linear and systemic change – which is cultural, economic, social political and technological– leading towards legitime transformation. Such transitions could be pushed forward towards an open and participatory processes of experimentation that open the ground for learning, testing and adapting contemporary approaches for transformational change. In this direction, EFIS Centre is coordinating the FUTURESILIENCE Horizon Europe funded project (Creating future societal resilience through innovative, science-based co-creation labs). The project will contribute to strengthen European economic and social resilience through an enhanced ability to quickly respond to future crises. This will be accomplished through 10 pilot cases in which multiple stakeholders will discuss and test evidence-based strategies to foster resilience tailored to their specific context and matching their local needs.
- from sporadic towards integrated – to reinforce this learning-oriented approach, interventions should be part of a well-integrated and holistic process of implementation. Central to this practice is a portfolio approach, where the multiple efforts and initiatives are steered through a dynamic sense-making and decision-making process which involves regular reviews and ensures a fair distribution of resources among projects and activities. Additionally, collaboration is key to foster integrated approaches. For instance, the mission-oriented approach is an opportunity to build collaborative dynamics among decision-makers and multi-levels actors giving a sense of directionality while harnessing the collective power of a diverse group of actors. Currently, EFIS Centre is leading a study to provide insights and an evidence-based early assessment of the progress of the five areas of the EU Missions to date.
While the shift on each area is still a work in progress, we understand the need of robust governance models that enhance collaboration, systemic changes, experimentation and adaptation approaches to be better prepare for a changing world. At EFIS Centre, we are always keen to exchange experiences, to learn from others and to continue the discussion – please do not hesitate to reach out to our team.