Handbook of Innovation in Public Services
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Handbook of Innovation in Public Services

Edited by Stephen P. Osborne and Louise Brown

Leading researchers from across the globe review the state of the art in research on innovation in public services, providing an overview of key issues from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Topics explored include: context for innovation in public services and public service reform; managerial change challenges; ICT and e-government; and collaboration and networks. The theory is underpinned by seven wide-ranging case studies of innovation in practice.
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Chapter 13: Leading successful innovation in local public services

James H. Svara


In order to address new policy challenges, improve productivity, better serve and more fully engage a changing citizenry, local governments have the option of becoming more innovative. The questions that have not been fully answered in the research on local government innovation are – how and why do they do it? This chapter addresses the fundamental questions of whether government organizations are capable of innovation and renewal, what kinds of innovations occur in local governments, and what characteristics are associated with innovative organizations with special attention to the role of leaders. In popular views and some academic critiques, governmental organizations are seen as reactive and resistant to change, at worst, or constrained by circumstances that make some capable of innovation and others not. Local governments have divergent characteristics regarding the likelihood of being innovative. On the one hand, they are close to the publics they serve and have both the opportunity and the pressure from their populations to develop new approaches that address local needs. On the other hand, local governments often have limited resources and wide variation in the capability and inclination of government officials to develop or adopt new approaches. There can be resistance to change that limits the spread of new approaches from one local government to another.

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