Learning from Innovation in Public Sector Environments

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11 september 2013

News: Conference paper EGPA 2013: From public innovation to social innovation in the public sector: A literature review of relevant drivers and barriers

A second paper which will be presented at the EGPA conference by the Dutch partners of LIPSE is about social innovation in the public sector (Authors: Victor Bekkers, Lars Tummers and William Voorberg).

Innovation is a recurring issue in public administration. At this moment, the innovation journey sails mostly under the flag of 'social innovation'. This is an inspiring concept, because it stimulates people, politicians and policy makers to explore en implement new ideas about the way a society deals with vital challenges for its functioning as a political community.

Social innovation is weakly conceptualized, due to the dominance of rather grey, policy-oriented literature. However, four elements seem to be recurring. First, social innovation aims to produce long lasting outcomes that are relevant for (parts of) society, given the needs and challenges with which (groups in) society wrestling. Secondly, social innovations aims, in a fundamental way, to change the social relationships and the 'playing rules' between the involved stakeholders. Thirdly, in order to produce outcomes that really matter, it is important that relevant stakeholders are involved in the design, implementation or adoption of an innovation. Fourth, social innovation refers not only to the production of new outcomes but also to the process of innovation. This process can be seen as a learning and reflection process.

The research question which lays behind this paper can be stated as follows: What factors (in terms of drivers and barriers) influence the process of social innovation in the public sector? In order to answer this research question, an inventory of relevant publications in the public administration literature was made.

This inventory has led to a variety of relevant factors which were grouped as follows. First, it is important to make a distinction between the process of innovation and the diffusion and adoption of innovations. Secondly, by adapting a more ecological perspective on innovation it is possible to make a distinction between factors that relate the innovation process itself and factors that relate to specific characteristics of the environment in which the innovation and adoption process is embedded. Based on this perspective, different drivers and barriers that relate to 1) the innovation environment, 2) the innovation process and 3) the adoption process can be mentioned. Finally, these factors were organized into a conceptual framework which can help to understand which factors stimulate or frustrate the possible processes of social innovation in the public sector.

Download the paper here.

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