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 20: Collaborative innovation in the public sector

Jacob Torfing


The public sector is far more dynamic and innovative than its reputation. Take, for instance, the spectacular changes in health care, employment policy and environmental protection that we have been witnessing over the last 30–40 years. The organization and the mode of governance in the public sector have also undergone dramatic transformations, and so has the relation between citizens and public authorities as a result of the arrival of new digital means of communication. However, public innovations in policy, organization and services are often one-off episodes driven by more or less accidental events such as public scandals, the recruitment of new managers, public spending cuts or technological inventions (Borins 2001, p. 313). Moreover, the efforts to produce innovative solutions are typically confined to public organizations that are facing considerable pressures and have an experimental culture or a proactive leadership. Hence, the attempt to improve public services and break policy deadlocks requires the development of a new innovation agenda that aims to turn innovation into a permanent and systematic activity that pervades the entire public sector from local institutions and municipalities, over ministries and government agencies, to international and supranational governance structures. Today, there is a growing demand for innovation in the public sector. It is impossible to meet the rising expectations of citizens and private firms in a situation with limited, or even shrinking, public budgets without generating new and smarter services.

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