Steering senior public sector officials towards innovative thinking


Recognizing the indispensable role of a robust public sector in achieving Sri Lanka's development objectives, Citra -Sri Lanka's pioneering Social Innovation Lab established as a joint initiative between Prime Minister’s Office and UNDP Sri Lanka - held the Citra Fellowship on Public Service Excellence, a unique experiential learning programme tailored to fortify and invigorate the nation's public sector.

Titled the ‘Citra Fellowship – Executive Programme’ it aims to equip skilled officials with strategic foresight, citizen-centric innovation, and Anticipatory, Adaptive and Agile Governance (AAAG) approaches and tools necessary to tackle Sri Lanka’s ambitious development targets.

This year’s programme was tailor-made specifically targeting senior government officials, including Additional Secretaries and Senior Assistant Secretaries from diverse Ministry portfolios.

The week-long experiential learning programme was designed and facilitated by Citra Lab, along with support from UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific. 

These officials, often regarded as the next generation of public sector leaders, play a pivotal role in advancing the country's sustainable development goals.

Commenting on the shift towards innovative thinking in the public sector, Anura Dissanayake stated, “There is a pivotal role for strategic foresight and innovation in shaping our governance mechanisms. We must continually adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of the Sri Lankan people and it is up to the public sector to transform to serve its people better. I am confident that through programmes such as these, our senior officials will be equipped with the necessary tools and mindset to become catalysts for positive change and innovation within the public sector. Therefore, I encourage them to fully engage, approach things with an open mind, learn, and apply the knowledge acquired during this learning programme to enhance their professional roles”.

Emphasising the need for transformative programmes such as this, Chandima Wickramasinghe, Additional Secretary to the President stated, “As senior officers, we recognise the importance of instilling the values of agility, adaptability, and anticipatory thinking, referred to as ‘triple A governance,’ in our upcoming leaders. Your involvement in this program is a vital step in ensuring that these qualities become ingrained in the next generation of public sector leaders, allowing you to navigate the complex challenges of governance with future-fit skills and vision”.

Highlighting the timeliness of such programmes, Azusa Kubota, Resident Representative of UNDP in Sri Lanka highlighted, “Sri Lanka has been through a series of cascading crises over the last years. Public institutions must be agile, adaptable, and anticipatory to respond effectively to the ever-evolving needs of our citizens. When the needs are so great and changes are so fast, doing more of the same won’t be innovative enough. Innovation isn't only about embracing new technology. It’s also about trying new ways of solving the problems. It requires a different mindset”.

The transformative journey facilitated officials to gain exposure to cutting-edge development planning, strategic foresight, and innovative methodologies. Through the comprehensive curriculum which includes Human-Centered Design, Collective Intelligence, and the principles of AAAG, the knowledge gained will enable the officials to seamlessly align with Sri Lanka's development aspirations and provide a crucial foundation for a public sector that is forward-thinking and well-prepared to confront the multifaceted challenges of the current poly-crisis.

In addition to gaining new skills and being exposed to global best practices, the programme also aimed to change the mindsets of the participants and inspire them to become champions of innovation in Sri Lanka. One highlight of this programme was the opportunity to interact closely with noteworthy individuals from multiple sectors in the country during the ‘Fireside Chat’ segment.

This included a series of discussions that took place each evening at the close of the workshop component of the day. The four Fireside chats were based on the themes of: State of the Economy; Climate and Energy; Digital Transformation and Artificial Intelligence; and, Transparent and Accountable Governance.

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