At a time when many countries are facing economic difficulties, government institutions have to look for new ways to sustain and improve public services with fewer resources, while also addressing growing environmental challenges.
To achieve such a challenging endeavor, a number of local governments are giving citizens more decision-making powers to influence and shape the public services they use while encouraging its people to take on a wider variety of responsibilities.
Until recently, the City of Skopje has operated according to a traditional, top-down governance model. This approach, however, has bred public mistrust of distant government institution and a low level of satisfaction with the quality of the public services it offers.
As a result, there is a growing sense among civil servants and citizens alike that the City of Skopje needs to be more responsive to public needs and more transparent, accountable and inclusive in its decision-making processes.
There is general consensus that a radical reshaping of the relationship between citizens and public services is crucial in giving people more control over services, an approach that ensures they have a greater say as well as a strengthened sense of partnerships between them and public government employees, combined with an improved access and availability of information.
Bringing about such restructuring and reorientation in any government institution with a traditional governance model is no easy task.
Local governments need support and partners to achieve effective reforms.
One such partnership aimed at improving governance by introducing new social innovation techniques and empowering the public administration to become more creative, by involving citizens in innovation projects, was created between the City of Skopje and the UNDP office in Skopje. The first task of the new partnership has been to identify ways to tap into the creative potential of the public administration in order to support innovation.
And out of that partnership, Skopje Lab (City of Skopje Innovation Center) was created.
Skopje Lab is currently a pilot project with a physical space within the City of Skopje premises, envisioned as a space and set of protocols that will enable a coming together of citizens, the public administration, the private sector and civil society to brainstorm, develop and test ideas, experiment as well as and most importantly, learn from each other.
By reducing hierarchy, focusing on design approaches, promoting appropriate levels of risk-taking in organizations, the Innovation Lab will help public administrators overcome both most common structural as well as process oriented challenges.
By applying trending methodologies such as co-design and co-creation we’ll try to connect bureaucrats with an outside-in perspective on current practices.
This will help public servants strengthen the cooperation with citizens and businesses in Skopje and will help them see how services could be made more valuable to people while making use of people’s own networks and resources and thereby reducing costs.
To ease this process a physical space for the Lab that enables face-to-face meetings in the heart of Skopje was established.
Combining creativity with multi-functionality in a space, we hope we are already and will continue to show how innovation can be achieved with limited resources.
The Skopje Lab is our chance to showcase the usefulness of bringing citizens’ perspectives to decision-makers at all levels in the city.
And it’s full steam ahead! The first urban challenges we worked in 2017 and continuing to work this year are air pollution and waste disposal. In parallel, we are trying to facilitate a creation of public service innovation Eco-system.
Step by step, progress is already made, and we, the team at the Skopje Lab are committed to continuing the endeavor. We will use this site to as of now frequently post updates on our work and the approaches we use to make a difference.
Stay tuned for updates.