Jonah Czerwinski is founding director of the VA Center for Innovation and has served as an advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs since 2009. Learn more about his work on innovation in a piece he wrote for Excellence in Government here.
"More isn't better," said Jonah Czerwinski, quoting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. "Better is better." Czerwinski, who recently spoke with Excellence in Government, said the VA isn't interested in innovating for innovations sake--but in order to improve and build upon the department's current service offerings.
Czerwinski says the one thing agencies trying to innovate really need is support from the Secretary level on down. "You have to have some secretarial leadership at the top," said Czerwinski. "Arguably [you also need] presidential leadership to say innovation matters and that I'm willing to take some risk."
In a story Czerwinski recently wrote for Excellence in Government, he said the new VA Center for Innovation (VACI) is designed to:
Create an enabling environment. This means VA provides the authority, priority, and capability for programs and people to succeed at innovation. Protocols and procedures allow for a dedicated program, for instance, and it features prominently in VA’s strategic and tactical plans. This requires VA to invest resources, including personnel and training dollars, toward this goal.
Develop mechanisms that create implementable solutions. Programs need to be established to develop and make use of the skills required for innovation, as well as provide a framework for systematic ideation, piloting, measurement, and diffusion of innovation. This results in the organization quickly generating, testing, and preparing ideas for roll-out.
Deliver real value to VA’s organization and community. The objective is to establish programs that are not innovating for innovation’s sake, but rather producing outputs that are implemented and impactful to VA’s mission. This results in the organization and community realizing better, faster, or more affordable products and services.
You can see Czerwinski's full interview with Excellence in Government below:
Mark Micheli is the Special Projects Editor of Government Executive, editor of Excellence in Government Online and former Program Manager of the Government Business Council. Prior to his current roles, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department. He’s worked as a political research analyst, a correspondent for the Des Moines Register at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland and is a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs. He studied at Drake University where he has degrees in Magazine Journalism, Political Science and History.
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