Introduction: innovation in public services
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Kimberly’s judgement on the pre-eminence of innovation as a concept reflected no doubt the results of two decades of tectonic societal change throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Yet it resonates also with the place that innovation currently occupies in public policy and public services management in the early twenty-first century (Aldbury 2005). Since the early 1980s, it has become one of the key ‘buzzwords’ beloved by policy makers and practitioners around the world (Borins 2001; Eshima et al. 2001) – leading one commentator to dismiss it as ‘policy chic’ (Behn 1997). Indeed, it has an appeal that seems hard to argue with. It combines a determination to reform and improve the delivery of public services with a whiffof ‘state of the art’ business practice. Surely no one can disagree with such a heady cocktail? In the UK, for example, the growing dominion of innovation as an influential concept in public policy can be traced back to the early 1980s and it has continued ever since. In 2008 the Cabinet Office exhorted that ‘government must embrace a new culture that celebrates local innovation’ (Cabinet Office 2008, p. 7). Likewise the highly influential White Paper Innovation Nation asserted that innovation in public services ‘will be essential to meet the economic and social challenges of the 21st century’ (Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) 2008a, p. 8; see also Audit Commission 2007).