Empathy Triggered Innovation Journey

Making a deep understanding of citizens’ needs central to transforming public services

Empower civil servants to place themselves in citizens’ shoes and motivate them with a sense of purpose for driving improvements in public service delivery. Show more


mpathy’ is the first guiding principle in a2i’s 3-phased approach (Initiation–> Execution–> Celebration) to help civil servants embark on a journey of innovating citizen-centric public services.

What happens when public services are not designed with citizens’ needs in mind?

Understanding the citizens we serve is central to what we are trying to do. When public services are not designed with empathy for the people who use them, mothers have to travel long distances with their newborns and wait in long queues to collect government maternity allowances; citizens, not knowing where to go to access a service or even how to apply, ping-pong among different agencies, sometimes for months (land services) and years (judicial services). Unscrupulous intermediaries or ‘middle-men’ take advantage and charge exorbitant ‘speed money’.

Triggering empathy

Typically, civil servants who are in a position to overhaul processes and institutionalize improvements in service delivery are far removed from the grassroots level where citizens come in touch with the system. Even when, for example, the Director General of Health makes an effort to visit a village level community clinic to see how things are first-hand, given their rank (which shields them from being exposed to the real picture) and knowledge of their own domain (that makes it difficult to objectively assess process flows) they are often unable to identify ‘pain points’ from the citizen’s perspective.

a2i’s empathy methodology thus arranges for relatively senior government officers to act as secret shoppers and visit citizens’ access points for services outside of their ministry or area of expertise. This truly places them in citizens’ shoes since they are forced to navigate public systems without any official or intellectual privileges. The result in most cases is a powerful, moving experience that creates a deep sense of empathy for citizens and the myriad sufferings they must endure to avail even the most basic services.  This experience helps participants develop a critical eye that they use to scrutinize their own agency’s delivery systems and improve the overall quality of services.

Citizen-centric innovation journey of civil servants in Bangladesh

To date, a2i’s empathy methodology has empowered hundreds of civil servants to redesign services in a citizen-centric manner and launch Innovation Pilots around the country, especially at the field level. These pilots, some of which are funded by a2i’s Service Innovation Fund and the rest funded by local resources mobilized by the innovators themselves, allow government innovators to test their ideas. Public Service Innovation Bangladesh – a social media powered peer-support and mentorship network – offers a platform for sharing, discussing and refining the pilots (and other promising ideas) boosting their chances of making impact at scale. Finally, outstanding efforts to transform public service delivery are celebrated through national and district level Innovation Summits & Fairs that enhance citizens’ knowledge and deepen their engagement in making further improvements.

Cases and Stories


Exploring an Approach for Quick Delivery of Monthly Pension

Upazila Account Officer of Basail observed that almost in every working day of the week, there was so much noise in his office compound which hampered the …

Exploring an Approach for Quick Delivery of Monthly Pension


Upazila Account Officer of Basail observed that almost in every working day of the week, there was so much noise in his office compound which hampered the working environment of the office. To find out the reasons of this noisy situation, one day he moved out of his room and saw lots of pensioners were gathered in office compound to get their pensions. Some more events caught in his eye that one pensioner needed to wait hour after hours to get the pension. Moreover, sometimes in this long waiting time and clumsy environment some of the pensioners became sick. By investigating, he got some mismanagements on the existing system which are addressed as the problems of this system.

  • There was one register to keep records of pensioners of all ministries
  • There was only one adviser to provide daily pension
  • In addition, there was no good arrangement of seating, drinking water and medical facilities for pensioners


To solve these mismanagement and other issues, at first 3 ministry based pension register (one for home ministry, one for ministry of education and third one for other ministries) have been made on the basis of the number of pensioners. Then two more advisers have been assigned in order to reduce the work pressure of the single advisor in providing pension and to complete the task in an organize way within one day of a week. In addition, for ensuring pensioner good physical condition, quality sitting system,hygienic toilet facility, pure drinking water facility and medical facilities have been arranged in office compound.


After implementing this pilot project, pensioners suffer less in receiving their pension than previous. Now they do not need to wait hour after hours to get their pension and visit of several times. As a result, time, cost and visit of the service, on an average have been reduced by 95%, 75% and 50% respectively.

As well as, this project helps to enhance the efficiency of the service. Thus, satisfaction of the beneficiaries has been increased towards the service.

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