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Opening remarks at roundtable on public sector innovation funding mechanism by Mr Walid Badawi, UNDP Country Director
23 November 2018, Pretoria
Deputy Minister for Public Service and Administration, Dr. Chana Pilane-Majake,
Acting Executive Director of the Center for Public Service Innovation of South Africa, Ms. Qinisile Delwa,
Distinguished delegates, government representatives from National Treasury and other key departments, and officials from the national system of innovation,
Our research team led by Dr. Madikizela,
World Bank, CPSI and UNDP colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All protocols observed,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here at this Roundtable on funding public service innovation on behalf of the UNDP South Africa Country Office. We are grateful for the invitation to participate in this important session on which the UNDP is honored to partner with the CPSI. This is evidence that our valued 4 year partnership with the CPSI is growing from strength to strength and is now clearly yielding some very fruitful results, with our Roundtable today being a case in point.
UNDP’s interest in supporting this event stems from its commitment to promoting innovative public administration practices, as part of our programme priorities in South Africa, namely that to strengthen governance and service delivery.
Over the past four years we have worked closely with the CPSI to mainstream and build the capacity for innovation in the SA public sector and the region as whole. The purpose of this partnership is also to entrench innovation in the implementation of the National Development Plan.
In this regard, building institutional capacity for public sector innovation in South Africa and the region remains key. Some of the expected results under this partnership, which will run until 2019, are to:
- Expand institutional capacity of the CPSI to nurture and mainstream innovation in the Southern African public service.
- Increase sharing of knowledge on innovation through knowledge products and platforms within the public sector to better enable the implementation of the National Development Plan, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the AU Agenda 2063.
Some of the CPSI officials have over the years been integral to the regional initiatives spearheaded through the UNDP Regional Innovation Facility based in Addis Ababa, including the annual UN Public Administration Network (UNPAN) workshop – in which you Deputy Minister have personally participated in, when UNPAN was held in Mauritius this year. I would also like to express my gratitude to Pierre Schoonrad for his personal support and commitment to this work with UNDP at country, regional and global levels. Moving to the institutional level, South Africa has had the Foresight to establish an entity with the clear mandate to drive innovation throughout the public service, namely CPSI. It is incumbent on all of us to therefore consider how best to strengthen that critical institution including how to ensure it is better funded to deliver on its ambitious yet critical mandate.
The scope of our partnership with CPSI dovetails well with UNDP’s overarching vision of supporting countries to achieve the SDGs through our six signature solutions outlined in our new strategic plan for the period 2018-2021, inter alia,
· Keeping people out of POVERTY;
· GOVERNANCE for peaceful, just, and inclusive societies;
· Crisis prevention and increased RESILIENCE;
· ENVIRONMENT: nature-based solutions for development;
· Clean, affordable ENERGY; and
· Women's empowerment and GENDER equality
In implementing these 6 signature solutions, innovation is clearly identified as one of two key enablers under our new Strategic Plan, together with improved performance. We have long experience in supporting more than 130 countries across all regions of the world to implement public service reforms as part of its good governance agenda. To us innovation for development is about identifying more effective solutions that add value for the people affected by development challenges – people and their governments, our users and clients. For example, new approaches include:
-setting up innovation labs with governments to re-design public service delivery;
-embracing big data innovation to implement and monitor the SDGs;
- using innovative planning tools such as Strategic Foresighting as part of National development planning efforts; and
- exploring emerging and alternative sources of financing to deepen and diversify the resourcing and implementation of the SDGs.
As UNDP shapes its innovation journey, the Innovation Facility, housed in UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support (BPPS) at headquarters in New York, regularly holds a series of global conversations to trigger new experiments within the organization. We bring external experts to provide new perspectives on how development can be done differently with a view to generating development spin offs across the globe. When the time is ripe, we would be very keen to bring this work on SA’s experiences in exploring an innovation funding model as part of the discussions on this platform.
Since its launch, the Facility has enhanced community participation by developing responsive feedback mechanisms and pathways; strengthened national planning processes by developing national planning instruments; and encouraged inclusivity by establishing spaces to co-design solutions to social problems. The Facility has invested in over 140 country-level experiments, across 87 countries and territories.
Many of these experiments also find their way on the global stage and UNDP through its global reach is able to facilitate such platforms. For example, UNDP recently, on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly, hosted a series of conversations on Nurturing Entrepreneurial and Innovation Ecosystems for the SDGs, looking at the potential of social entrepreneurship and the role of innovation ecosystems. With the 2030 Agenda, radically new innovations are needed to help transform our economies into sustainable systems that provide opportunities for all.
UNDP is excited and very willing to partner with as many partners as possible to identify and scale solutions from ‘unusual’ suspects and, importantly, to bring actors together to address common development challenges. This is at the core of UNDP’s Country Platforms concept. These platforms and labs bring different actors across sectors, including governments, innovators, funders to find solutions to “wicked” multi sectoral development problems that cannot be addressed by any single sector alone, such as inequality, poverty, corruption or how to entrench innovation in the public sector.
Since April 2018, the UNDP Administrator Mr. Achim Steiner has been hosting monthly conversations with UNDP innovators and entrepreneurs as part of his drive to push innovation in the organization. These calls feature a one-hour discussion with two Country Offices to explore their approaches to changing business as usual and pursuing ‘impact at scale’ with new ways of working. These calls highlight how UNDP colleagues are innovating to address complex challenges, and send a clear signal that UNDP is on the move and that taking calculated risks is both supported and rewarded.
On 24 October 2018, UN Women Executive Director Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka joined the Administrator to discuss innovation with colleagues in two Country Offices. UNDP’s team in Georgia shared their stories about how a portfolio of experiments led to a system-wide approach to public sector innovation, delivering tangible results across multiple Sustainable Development Goals. They also shared results of the ongoing collaboration between UNDP and UNWOMEN in Georgia and South Africa on leveraging behavioral insights to address gender-based violence in the country.
We have just been informed that our Administrator may be coming to South Africa later in December and I am sure he would love to be exposed to some of the outstanding innovations here in South Africa and we look forward to working with CPSI and others in the innovation ecosystem to perhaps arrange for a suitable interaction while he is here.
Ladies and gentlemen, moving now to the topic of this Roundtable, one of the critical challenges that has been raised during the investigation of service delivery challenges is the lack of, or inadequate, dedicated funding mechanisms to develop and implement innovative concepts and solutions. A number of international studies have identified this as a barrier to implementing innovations in the public sector.
The current South African public service procurement environment inhibits innovation as the funding of early stage innovation or procurement from a local innovator requires a “deviation” from the normal procedures, which may result in negative audits. Accounting Officers and CFOs thus avoid such situations.
We want to argue that what is needed is a functional, and risk-friendly innovation seed and procurement policy environment, supported by a self-funding mechanism that can be accessed by departments and their development partners to fund proofs of concept, pilots and initiatives that are for scaling up. If such a mechanism was to be put in place, departments will be more willing to test, implement and scale new innovations aimed at achieving the National Development Plan and SDGs.
Achieving the SDGs will require innovative methods of development. It will also require all of us to work in creative partnerships with people and organizations that may not have been traditionally seen as our counterparts and development partners.
Finally, let me say that political support for this innovation funding mechanism is very essential, and we commend the presence of the Deputy Minister in this Roundtable.
We look forward to a robust discussion today and hope that the research commissioned by UNDP and CPSI will bring us one step closer to taking the needed calculated risks to unleash development and contribute to “making innovation the currency for development”.
I thank you!