Building capacity for change in public services

‘The role and functions of public services are constantly evolving. The skills and capacity of public servants need continuous attention and development to ensure policies and services remain fit for purpose’. (Goal Vignette – Strengthening Skills and Capacity in the Public Service).

Departments and services have access to a range of new skills, thinking and approaches in public services. But how do you make them stick? Capacity building refers to activities that strengthen an organisation, enhance its effectiveness, help it to fulfil its mission and goals, and sustain its work into the future. It is widely recognised as a critical component in achieving public value and better outcomes for citizens. Activities include the strengthening and development of skills, and transfer of knowledge. Turnover of staff and structures can make capacity building challenging for government departments and agencies.

Capacity building is important when organisations are preparing for change. In February, we held a joint event with the IPA on the theme of Building Capacity and Working Collaboratively. The seminar featured our partnership with HSE mental health services, which involves using a programme management approach to introducing change and making it last. Capacity building approaches included developing tools, resources and methodologies, along with change teams with a good mix of skills. Experience from the partnership indicates that understanding the context is key – i.e. the real world environment and challenges.

Learning about change and innovation and what supports it is being captured from an evaluation of the Goal Programme for Public Service Reform and Innovation. Key themes are outlined in a series of vignettes, one of which is focused on ‘Strengthening Skills and Capacity in the civil and public service.’ The vignette identifies some factors which support capacity building – including tools and resources and developmental supports (for example championing good practice, mentoring). Co-design of new approaches with staff and service users can help to make them sustainable.

To read the vignette, click here.

To view the slides, click here.