The Persistence of Innovation in Government

The Persistence of Innovation in Government

Sandford F. Borins
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  • Book Info
    The Persistence of Innovation in Government
    Book Description:

    Sandford Borins addresses the enduring significance of innovation in government as practiced by public servants, analyzed by scholars, discussed by media, documented by awards, and experienced by the public. InThe Persistence of Innovation in Government, he maps the changing landscape of American public sector innovation in the twenty-first century, largely by addressing three key questions:

    • Who innovates?

    • When, why, and how do they do it?

    • What are the persistent obstacles and the proven methods for overcoming them?

    Probing both the process and the content of innovation in the public sector, Borins identifies major shifts and important continuities. His examination of public innovation combines several elements: his analysis of the Harvard Kennedy School's Innovations in American Government Awards program; significant new research on government performance; and a fresh look at the findings of his earlier, highly praised bookInnovating with Integrity: How Local Heroes Are Transforming American Government. He also offers a thematic survey of the field's burgeoning literature, with a particular focus on international comparison.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2561-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Public Sector Innovation: Still, and Again
    (pp. 1-10)

    Innovation as a phenomenon within the public sector persists. Despite skepticism about whether large, hierarchical, monopolistic government agencies can initiate and embrace change, there is extensive evidence that they can, they do, and they will. Because innovators persist. In the face of the obstacles inherent to the process, in spite of the risk of failure, in spite of the time, energy, vision, skill, networking, preparation, accommodation, persuasion, education, and improvisation required to bring an innovation to fruition, public servants continue to try new ways to create public value. Innovation has also outlasted the theoretical controversies and political backlash of the...

  5. 2 Emergence and Diversity: Public Sector Innovation Research
    (pp. 11-39)

    It is always instructive, if sometimes a little humbling, to re-read one’s earlier work. RevisitingInnovating with Integrity, I was struck by the relative brevity of its literature review. Fifteen years ago, a conscientious survey of relevant scholarship included Osborne and Gaebler’s best-sellingReinventing Government(1992) as well as the Clinton administration’s high-profile National Performance Review, commonly known as the Gore Report (1993), the academic critiques of both that became part of the New Public Management debate, and some key private sector literature such as Kanter’s (2000) encyclopedic review of the literature on innovation. A very few books and articles...

  6. 3 The Class of 2010
    (pp. 40-60)

    In 2010 more than 500 applications were submitted to the Harvard Kennedy School Innovations in American Government Awards. Of these, 127 were chosen as semifinalists, 25 ranked as the top tier, and 6 as finalists, from which a single winner was selected. Collectively these applications form what I am calling “the Class of 2010,” although I’ll use the term most frequently to refer to the semifinalist group. What does this class look like? What are the major characteristics, or building blocks as I’ve referred to them elsewhere (Borins 2006), of the applicant innovations? What public management techniques or practices do...

  7. 4 Present at the Creation
    (pp. 61-85)

    Innovations are not static and they are often complicated. You cannot code more than 500 descriptions of innovative initiatives over a twenty-year period of research without realizing that. A successful public sector innovation process depends on an evolving interplay of interpersonal, organizational, political, social, and economic factors. What is more, it grows out of a history of previous successful, and unsuccessful, efforts. Here I will be investigating both this history and this interplay, with a particular focus on the beginning of the innovation process—the circumstances of its creation. As in chapter 3, I approach the subject from a variety...

  8. 5 Innovation Stories: Real People, Real Challenges, Real Outcomes
    (pp. 86-107)

    The previous chapter dealt with the launch of an innovation. This one deals with the life of an innovation up to its appearance in the HKS Awards data set. For our 2010 semifinalists that is an average span of more than six years (see table 3-8), a considerable period of time in the life of a government program. In this chapter I examine the life stories of the Class of 2010 as recounted in the HKS Awards applications. You will be reading narratives of innovative initiatives written by either an originator or someone closely associated with the innovation. Participants are...

  9. 6 Creating Public Value, Receiving Public Recognition
    (pp. 108-142)

    At the height of the New Public Management debate, in 1995, Mark Moore in his bookCreating Public Valuecoined the term “public value” to encapsulate an essential difference between the public and private sectors. Moore argued that private value can be measured by the market test, but public value cannot because it involves pure public goods, or at least goods that politicians have decided will be provided by the public sector without charge to users (technically, “merit goods”). Moore was supportive of New Public Management because he saw it as a means of increasing public value, and he advanced...

  10. 7 From Data to Stories: Innovation Patterns in the Six Policy Areas
    (pp. 143-179)

    The research methodologies we use shape our thought processes as much as they are shaped by them. Throughout this analysis I have grouped all the HKS Awards semifinalist applications together to create a data set with enough degrees of freedom to support statistical analysis, which would not have been possible had I analyzed the six policy areas separately. And I have consistently conceived of and discussed public sector innovation as a single, though never simple, phenomenon with identifiable characteristics that cross policy areas. It is now time to disaggregate. Public sector innovators in different policy areas confront different types of...

  11. 8 Summing Up, Looking Forward: Awards, Practitioners, and Academics
    (pp. 180-206)

    If there is a single point this book has sought to make, from its title onward, it is that public sector innovation is an enduring, ongoing phenomenon. It is fitting, then, that this final chapter stands as a point of departure rather than a conclusion. There is, happily, no final word to say. Innovation in government persists because inspired individuals launch innovations, awards programs recognize them, and scholars study them. It is a three-way partnership, and this book is intended as both a testimony to the potential of that partnership and an argument for its extension.

    Innovation begins with ideas...

  12. Appendix: Initial Application and Semifinalist Application Questionnaires
    (pp. 207-210)
  13. References
    (pp. 211-216)
  14. Index
    (pp. 217-230)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-231)