The word ‘innovation’ suggests the presence of creative ideas, cutting-edge technologies, and novel outcomes, though the word is used differently across contexts. Innovation, however, is not necessarily characterized by technological advancement or radical change; it is about adding value in new ways through approaching an existing challenge in an original way or applying existing approaches to new contexts. It can be directed and top-down, or undirected and responsive to changing circumstances in contexts that range from highly certain to exploratory and uncertain. Innovation is not synonymous with reinvention, especially in the public sector where tax dollars should be spent responsibly, though experimentation is inherent to the process of innovating.

Innovation helps the Bureau understand future needs and work towards addressing these needs. Importantly, innovation is more than an idea – it is an act. Here in ECA, we define innovation as the process of implementing new approaches to achieve positive outcomes for our stakeholders and program participants. Innovation is divided into two groups (programming innovation and management innovation), with activities including creating new programs (pilots), adding new programming components, improving processes, or information-sharing. In addition to designing new programs or introducing new tools, we explore existing programs, components, and processes to understand how they can be modified to enhance the Bureau’s activities. ECA’s innovation practice is data-driven, with outcomes centered around: improved efficiency and effectiveness, better program results, lessons learned, best practices, and/or increased satisfaction