The Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) recently completed the first phase of the Citizen-Powered Innovation Initiative (CPII), launched by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) under the Vietnam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) program. The project aims to identify, promote and accelerate local initiatives that are committed by top leadership to solve citizen-identified problems and will be implemented in a transparent manner to mobilize public action and inform broad-based learning.
The first phase of the Initiative was the Identification and Engagement phase (Phase I), which took place from October 2020 to October 2021. It aims to enable UNDP to develop a grounded mechanism and fair assessment to identify and engage with interested provinces. FSPPM has submitted to UNDP the final report, carried out by a research team including members from FSPPM and UNDP Vietnam, which documents the work conducted in Phase I, the corresponding findings and recommendations moving forward. Link to the report can be found HERE.
One major component of this phase is the field study to five provinces, carried out in two rounds: the first round to Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Ninh and Ha Giang in December 2020 and the second round to An Giang and Tay Ninh in early April 2021. The second round of the field study promoted the CPII Digital Expo, gauged the provincial leadership interests, and explored local initiatives that would be suitable for display at the Digital Expo.
The Digital Expo and its website (cpiivietnam.org) were officially launched on 14 April 2021. It is intended to become a living platform where provinces showcase their tested local solutions and share lesson-learned, effectively creating a pool of quality innovative solutions for UNDP’s consideration in future rounds of funding within the CPI Initiative and beyond.
Based on the level of information provided by the initiatives collected from the second field study and also from initiatives submitted to the CPII Digital Expo via its website, the research team developed a quantifiable set of criteria for shortlisting initiatives for the first round of funding of CPII starting in November 2021, which evaluated initiatives around four primary components: expected impacts, leadership commitment, transferability, and feasibility.
As of 15 July 2021, after 2,5 months of its official launch, the CPII Digital Expo received 98 initiatives coming from all parts of the country, of which 69 were endorsed by government agencies in 15 provinces, indicating a strong commitment of provincial governments to adopting innovation in public governance.
The research team put forward some recommendations based on the findings from the study in relation to governance innovation in Vietnam, among which is the need to have an agenda to assist the provincial leadership and to develop the capacity for public officials and civil servants. The component at the center of this agenda is a mechanism to assist and encourage provincial governments in citizen engagement, with a particular focus on effective collecting, evaluating and sharing of innovative solutions from local communities to tackle local challenges. The researchers propose that citizen engagement would be more appropriately framed as stakeholder engagement, by which local governments not only gather innovative ideas and solutions from diverse community groups but also engage them in the design and deployment of such solutions.
In a separate but related study entitled “Digital Competencies of Public Officials Holding Provincial Leadership Roles in Viet Nam: Preliminary Findings from Case Studies”, the research team found evidence that civil servants holding provincial leadership positions in the three surveyed provinces have different levels of competencies in skill sets that are deemed critical for them to operate effectively in the digital environment in the public sector. The digital era poses challenges to the supply side (local governments) in piloting innovative solutions, some of which include the shorter life cycle of technologies, continuous and fast adoption to these technologies by the people, and the inherent constant shifting of the demand side’s expectations of higher quality of public services. Successful governance innovation in the digital era requires continuous updating and upskilling of government employees in core digital competencies.