Chapter 9: Understandings of ‘Users’ and ‘Innovation’ in a Public Sector Context
Luise Li Langergaard This chapter explores the rationales behind user-based services in the public sector by framing them within three paradigms of public governance. Innovation and user-driven innovation in the public sector are, these days, receiving widespread attention. Innovation seems to be conceived of as an unalloyed good if not as imperative for the public sector’s ability to uphold its legitimacy and level of welfare provision. It is, however, not always unambiguously clear what ‘innovation’ or the ‘user’ mean in a public sector setting. In discussions and theories of user-based services in this context, notions of ‘involvement’ and ‘learning from users’ take very diverse forms and build on a number of different ideas about the public sector services and the users. A way to distinguish between different user-based service approaches is to link them to theories of public governance. These theories are traditionally divided into three paradigms, or schools of thought, namely Public Administration, New Public Management (NPM), and Network Governance. The word ‘paradigm’ is here to be understood in a broad sense, and words like ‘discourse’ or ‘model’ could also be used instead. But, since the term ‘paradigm’ is often encountered in the literature, it is also employed here. The three paradigms can be traced both in academic theorizing on the public sector, and to ideas behind concrete reform initiatives. Of the three paradigms, only NPM and Network Governance work with ideas of users and innovation. By framing ‘innovation’ and ‘users’ within these paradigms, different theoretical, philosophical and political...
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