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Anthony Arundel


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Social innovation and the public sector: issues and obstacles, GFP Ottawa 2018

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Anthony Arundel

  1. 1. Social innovation and the public sector: issues and obstacles Anthony Arundel UNU-MERIT, Maastricht University, the Netherlands & Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, University of Tasmania, Australia
  2. 2. Relevant definitions An innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly changed product or process. (Gault, 2018). • Social and eco-innovations are a subset or restricted types of innovations An eco-innovation is a new or improved product or practice of a unit that generates lower environmental impacts, compared to the unit’s previous products or practices, and that has been made available to potential users or brought into use by the unit (Kemp et al, 2018). A social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals” (my emphasis) (Phills et al, 2008, p. 39). Social innovations involve new forms of collaboration that restructure power relations in a way that creates positive social impacts (Ayob et al, 2016).
  3. 3. Collaboration Innovation Co creation Change New forms of social relations Innovation New power relationships Utilitarian social value Societal impacts Ayob et al, 2016
  4. 4. Social innovations usually consist of a combination of innovative processes, services, service delivery methods, policies and infrastructure that cross organisational boundaries and jurisdictions (Voorberg et al, 2015). They can involve for-profit businesses, but government, NGOs, NPISHs or self-organising individuals are likely to play a central role. Technologies play a supporting role – platforms for self- organised networks.
  5. 5. Disruption •The primary disruption is often due the social innovation itself, as when it creates new social and power relationships. •Secondary disruption from how the social innovation is conceived and developed – use of design thinking / co-creation. •Tertiary disruption through the use of new technologies (platforms, use of digitalisation in elderly home care)
  6. 6. Social innovation in the for-profit business sector?
  7. 7. Continuous sidewalk: Stops a major cause of auto/bike-pedestrian collisions: car drivers turning into a residential road at speed. “Low tech” Traffic engineering solution. Changes the power relationships between citizens as car drivers and citizens as cyclists or pedestrians
  8. 8. Surveys show that the majority of public sector innovations today are both complex (52%) and involve ICT in some way. This is likely to also apply to social innovations.
  9. 9. Obstacles (hindering factors) and barriers
  10. 10. Australia, 2012: 344 branches of the Federal government, responses from senior managers European Union, 2010: 3,500 public administration agencies Australian 2011 State of the Service survey: 10,000 employees at all job levels Surveys on obstacles and barriers Scandinavia, 2009: 2000 public administration agencies, plus health and education organisations More recent (since 2016) surveys in Scandinavia and Australia
  11. 11. 1. Lack of political consensus (barrier) • Social (and eco) innovations use resources (financial, spatial, etc.) and can affect / require changes in how things are done (power relations). • This can attract strong political opposition that blocks or substantially hinders social and eco-innovations. • “War” on pedestrians and cyclists.
  12. 12. 2. Unsupportive governance (barrier) Governance in the public sector can encourage innovation (networked governance) or discourage it (traditional Weberian governance). Most of the ideas for public sector innovations are from managers – not politicians and high level management. Source of the idea for the unit’s most important innovation, percent (Australia, 2012) • Chart for source of idea from Australia 11.9 13.3 19.6 55.2 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 Other Highlevelmanagement& Ministers Lowerlevel staff Leadershipgroup(middle& upper-middlemanagement)
  13. 13. 3. Risk averse culture (obstacle) •Public sector managers innovate in a risk averse environment by reducing uncertainty and innovating carefully (Kay and Goldspink, 2012). •Draw on collaboration, complementary supporting innovations, and active management strategies to support innovation (Torugsa and Arundel, 2017).
  14. 14. -0.381 0.071 0.21 -0.4 0 0.4 Collaboration to reduce problems from a risk averse environment for service innovations Effect of collaboration on share of services that are innovative. Comparison group consists of agencies that do not report a risk averse culture. All 3 of these groups report a risk averse environment for innovation Source: Ann Torugsa, AIRC No collaboration With collaboration Collaboration and in- house capabilities Effect of collaboration on share of services that are innovative
  15. 15. 4. Insufficient collaboration (obstacle) Collaboration is a defining characteristics of public sector innovation, but a failure to collaborate with all relevant parties (businesses, user groups, other government agencies, etc.) can lead to unsatisfactory outcomes. Shift to use of co-creation. Percent innovative public organisations and private businesses that collaborate on innovations Public agencies Service sector businesses Europe Service innovations 81.6% 19.8% Process innovations 76.7% 26.3% Australia Service innovations 75.9% - Process innovations 74.3% - United States All innovations 96.1% -
  16. 16. 5. Failure to engage users in co-creation (obstacle) Theory stresses the value of including users in the design of all public sector service innovations, including social innovations. Results in better outcomes – innovations that are ‘fit for purpose’. Percent government units involving citizens in the design of service innovations 8% 27% 28% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% Australia, Commonwealth Gov., 2011-12 Australia, Tasmania, 2013-14 Europe, 2008-10
  17. 17. A few conclusions • Social innovation is driven by collaboration between governments, citizens and NGOs – disruption through changing social relationships. • Technology is a supporting player in social innovation (it can create opportunities), but it is unlikely to be sufficient. • Barriers differ from obstacles • For major social innovations, the greatest barrier is a lack of political consensus. • Obstacles can be overcome by in-house capabilities for innovation in the public sector plus collaboration. • Increasing interest in ‘co-creation’ and ‘design-thinking’ by governments to involve users in the design of social innovations.