This site is the personal site of Alex Roberts (aka @CaptainInnovate) and includes his blog posts, publications and presentations.

Alex Roberts is a long-time public servant and international expert in public sector innovation and is passionate about helping government both keep up with the world and to shaping the change occurring in the world.

Between June 2016 and May 2021, Alex was Deputy Head of the Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), a team within the Public Governance Directorate at the OECD focused on helping governments around the world take a more sophisticated and deliberate approach to their innovation efforts. During this time, Alex:

  • Led the first OECD study into a national public sector innovation system, providing an in-depth investigation of the historical, present and future innovation journey of Canada, working with counterparts in the Canadian Privy Council Office’s Impact and Innovation Unit. This report set out the ‘innovation determinants’ framework, the first articulation by the OECD of a cohesive theory for what shapes when and how innovative activity is likely to occur in the public sector.
  • Led or contributed to a range of other studies and scans of national public sector innovation systems, including that of Brazil, Israel, Latvia and Denmark.
  • With his colleague Piret Tõnurist, developed OPSI’s ‘innovation facets’ model, setting out the different types of innovative activity and exploring the different supports needed to help encourage those activities.
  • Helped draft and finalise the OECD Declaration on Public Sector Innovation, adhered to by over 40 countries and sending an important signal about the necessity and value of public sector innovation to the effective workings of government.
  • Spearheaded Government After Shock, a global convening involving 67 events with over 5000 participants, hosted by partners around the world looking at the questions of what to leave behind, what to keep and what to do differently in light of the lessons of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, followed by a high level OECD convening of leaders and practitioners including national leaders, politicians and thought leaders.

Prior to joining the OECD, Alex spent 15 years working in the Australian Public Service across a range of topics and issues, industry policy, international investment attraction, innovation policy and public sector innovation. During this time, Alex:

  • Helped initiate, run and wind-up DesignGov, a pilot of one of the first whole-of-government innovation labs in the world.
  • Helped to initiate and develop the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s public sector innovation awards.
  • Formed the Public Sector Innovation Network, one of the then largest public sector innovation networks in the world, running from 2010 to 2020.
  • Had a lead role in the development and production of a public service wide change agenda ​Empowering Changeand the consequent ‘APS Innovation Action Plan’ (2011), one of the first national public sector innovation plans or strategies.
  • Was an organisational advocate for innovation, including leading the establishment of the Department of Industry’s first public weblog, the Public Sector Innovation Blog.
  • Was part of the secretariat that supported the Expert Panel that undertook the 2008 review of Australia’s national innovation system. 
  • Had key roles in the development of a national investment attraction framework, its successor strategy as well as the implementing agency’s business planning processes, business process improvements and assisting the agency’s Executive on strategic matters.

This site includes personal and professional musings about our fast changing world. It contains a mixture of personal writing as well as blog posts drafted in various official capacities:

  • Personal posts
  • Posts published by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, and are included here for record
  • Posts published on the Australian Government Public Sector Innovation Network, and are included here for record
  • Posts published at DesignGov, a pilot whole-of-Australian-Government innovation lab that ran between July 2012 and December 2013, and are included here for record
  • Publications including reports and other works published.
  • Presentations (e.g. webinars or otherwise recorded presentations).

The personal blog posts are published outside of an official capacity and do not in any way represent Alex’s employer.

(The name of the site is from Alex’s Twitter handle @CaptainInnovate).