Edited by Stephen P. Osborne and Louise Brown
There has been a growing realization among policy makers, managers and practitioners that the public sector must work differently if it is to respond adequately to a rapidly changing operating environment, characterized by decreasing funds and increasingly higher service demands and expectations. As a consequence, government and community services are displaying a stronger interest in innovation to refine strategies, processes and service delivery models for more effective, efficient, and therefore sustainable, solutions to new and emerging problems as well as those that are more entrenched and intractable (Walker 2006; Tinkler 2008; Martin et al. 2009). The process of innovation is lengthy, requires considerable resources and the coming together of diverse talents and skills. These factors have combined to limit the vision and scope of innovative practice and programme development within the public sector. The refocusing of a single body of effort into a cohesive endeavour via networks has allowed those in the public service a vehicle by which innovations can more easily be attempted. Thus, networks have become an innovation in and of themselves as well as a mechanism to create innovation. Unfortunately, although a number of studies (Ferlie et al. 1984; Osborne 1998; Osborne and Brown 2005) have been undertaken to better understand and enhance innovation within the public arena, they have largely overlooked the detailed functioning of networks as innovation drivers and creators.
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