From public innovation to social innovation in the public sector

A review of the literature by Victor Bekkers, Lars Tummers & William Voorberg: “Innovation is a recurring issue in public administration. In doing so it can be considered as a ‘magic concept’ that is been used to frame the necessary transformation of the public sector in order to improve not only its effectiveness and efficiency but also its legitimacy. Innovation is a concept that inspires people and policy makers because it offers the promise of radical change. As such the desire to innovate the public sector has a long history which is sometimes linked to reform programs in order to meet budget cutbacks, to meet the introduction of new management and governance ideologies (like New Public Management or Open Government) or to meet the introduction of new information and communication technologies (like e- government)…
Our starting point for studying social innovations in the public sector is that social innovations take place in a specific environment in which different actors can be distinguished. These actors collaborate with each other in terms of sharing relevant resources in order to develop and implement new ideas, new ways of working or new ways of organizing. This implies that characteristics of the environment can be seen as a relevant drivers and barriers. These characteristics can either function as a trigger for innovation while at the same time they can also function as relevant constraints. Based on an analysis of the literature, we have found that the following aspects of the environment could function as important drivers and barriers of innovation:
  • The social and political complexity of the environment in which public organizations operate which leads to specific demands that function as an external ‘trigger’ for innovation
  • The characteristics and degree of the legal culture in a country or policy sector
  • The type of governance and state tradition in the country or policy sector
  • The allocation of resources, resource dependency and the quality of relationships within the networks among the involved stakeholders”