As an innovator, what sets you apart from others?
I think that the difference is that I had a vision and didn’t leave it at that; I started working on the actions to make the programme come to life. Over the past eleven years, the programme has been evolving and developing each year. The feedback we get is important and helps us to improve wherever possible. Comfort is the enemy of innovation.
What drives you to innovate?
I innovate when I see there is a gap or need that has to be filled or addressed. When it came to my attention that youth wanted to be active citizens but can’t without any skills or platform to do so, I decided a change (or innovation) had to be made. That is how Y-CAP started.
Undertaking an innovation journey is not easy. How did you overcome challenges associated with being an innovator, especially in the public sector?
The programme is a Public Private Partner (PPP), which means that I was working at an NPO at the time. We approached a funder (private) and government (public) to help us to work on the programme, Y-CAP. So, from the beginning, it was a collaboration. This made the task more manageable. There were still challenges but with three sectors involved, we managed to overcome them.
Similarly, how would you motivate other people to be innovative against all odds?
I would say to people that innovation can be done if there is a passionate and committed person or team driving it. It takes courage and perseverance to create change and innovate. Don’t give up!
Which factors do you think impede innovation in the public sector?
There is a lot of bureaucracy, politics, and lack of resources (human and financial) that can be challenges in the public sector. This is why having PPPs can help with these issues. Partnerships can overcome the weaknesses in some sectors by using the strengths of others.
What do you think government should do to promote innovation in the public sector?
Perhaps create a platform where innovations can be piloted and analysed. This way, when they are implemented, the design has already been tested and the process can repeat until it’s finalised. This could be done through CPSI.
How many accolades and awards have you received since you were first recognised through the Public Sector Innovation Awards Programme?
The awards were in November, 2019, so we have not won anything since then. Before that, our CEO Amanda Blankfield-Koseff was a finalist in the Europcar Women in Leadership Award category in the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards. Empowervate has also been awarded the Education Excellence Award from the Gauteng Premier’s Youth Excellence Awards, as well as the ROCCI Community Builder Awards two years in a row.