Advancing Public Service Innovation Through Empathy: An Analysis of Bangladesh’s Intrepid Approach

Shah Md Azimul Ehsan, The American University in Cairo (AUC)
Farhad Hossain, The American University in Cairo (AUC)
Derek Eldridge, Honorary Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Shahjahan Bhuiyan, The American University in Cairo (AUC)


This study attempts to understand, explore and analyse how Bangladesh public administration has made considerable progress in fostering public service innovation (PSI) by instilling empathy among the public bureaucrats through the Empathy Training Programme (ETP). By employing qualitative methods, this study collected data from both primary and secondary sources. The empirical findings of the study suggest that ETP has been able to change the paternalistic and colonial mindset of public bureaucrats. In addition, the study further reveals that public bureaucrats are bringing this knowledge of empathy-led innovation to their workplaces, where they are effectively practising it, indicating that the ETP has not only been able to generate a cultural change in the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) but also has created a sense of responsiveness and self-accountability among public bureaucrats. However, there are still areas of concern in terms of the sustainability of the ETP approach. The study also identified some critical building blocks, which have been considered responsible for the limited scaling up of the pilot projects. Finally, the study has come up with a set of recommendations for making this intrepid approach to Bangladesh public administration more effective.