This summer, the Northern Ireland Audit Office published its latest Good Practice Guide, on the theme Innovation and Risk Management. The Guide was officially launched at a special event hosted by the Chief Executives' Forum (CEF) at the Innovation Factory in Belfast. Delegates, comprising senior leaders from across the local public sector, were joined by Comptroller & Auditor General Dorinnia Carville, Head of the NI Civil Service Dr Jayne Brady, CEF Chair David Sterling, and a panel of guest speakers sharing their insights and experiences of managing and delivering innovation.
With the growing demand for improved and more responsive services, especially during this period of fiscal pressure, the importance of identifying new ways to operate and deliver services has never been higher.
The NIAO's new Guide aims to initiate discussions and encourage public servants, working in organisations of any scope or scale, to explore new avenues for generating better outcomes. It addresses both perceived barriers to innovation and the key enablers that facilitate successful innovation. The guide emphasises that risk is an inherent part of the innovation process and should be managed rather than avoided.
Among the guest speakers at the launch event were Alistair Jinks (Head of
Business Services, NI Water), Richard Rodgers (Head of Energy, Department for the Economy) and Dr Nigel Ruddell, (Medical Director at the NI Ambulance Service). The three speakers presented two compelling case studies, featured in the Guide, that demonstrated innovation in action within the public service:
- Innovation in Health - NI Ambulance Service Complex Case Team: This case study showcased innovative approaches employed by the NI Ambulance Service Complex Case Team to enhance their services and better respond to complex medical cases. By embracing innovation, they have been able to deliver improved outcomes for patients in critical situations.
- Innovation in NI Water - Developing Hydrogen and Oxygen Ecosystems: NI Water's innovative endeavours in developing hydrogen and oxygen ecosystems were shared during the event. This innovative approach has the potential to create sustainable solutions, further advancing the organisation's commitment to environmental responsibility.
Among the other speakers at the launch were Malcom Beattie (Head of the Innovation Lab within the Department of Finance) and Neil Allen (Centre Director at the Innovation Factory) who discussed the work of their respective organisations in promoting and supporting innovative cultures and approaches.
During her introduction to the Guide, C&AG Dorinnia Carville commented:
"With the realities faced in the public sector changing fast the need to innovate and adapt and to so with speed is no longer an option but a necessity. If we are to meet the level of innovation required to deliver on government and citizen’s needs and expectations this means that public sector organisations need to take a more deliberate approach to innovation management.
"Innovation will be a critical corporate capacity for public services seeking to reconcile these factors and ensure public services are better targeted, more responsive to end user expectations and needs, and provide better value for money."
Innovation and Risk Management - A Good Practice Guide for the public sector is available to download in the Publications section of the NI Audit Office website.