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How can the public sector become more innovative?

  • Publisert 23.01.2012
- A future success criteria for public sector organizations will not be how to increase their budget, but how to decrease it and in the same time be able to provide a professionel welfare service level, said Margrethe Vestager, Danish Minister for Economics and Internal Affairs at a conference on how to make the public sector more innovative.

Velfærdens innovationsdag was arranged by Monday Morning, a Danish news and consultancy company, in Copenhagen on 19 January.


The conference was opened by Margrethe Vestager. One of her main messages was that the public sector will have to become more innovative.


The conference had its focus on innovation projects in Danish municipalities and presented a varied number of public innovation projects within health care, elderly care and social services. Four winner projects were also chosen, and the importance of practioneers at lower levels in the organization being able to work with and test out their ideas, was emphasised.



Innovation works best under constraints

Another factor that had played a great role for the winner projects was the fact that Denmark’s economy is under severe strain and the public sector and municipalites are faced with budget cuts. Several innovation projects has emerged as a consequence of this situation, and the question is whether this can be labelled courageous or leadership innovation? Based on the panel discussions and practical examples it seems that public sector management and local government politicians have some work to do when it comes to managing organizations in an innovation and knowledgde driven economy with a majority of employees being knowledge workers. The culture of not making mistakes and controlling processes in detail was said to be a serious barrier to public sector innovation.



From public to self-service

A central message from the conference was also the importance of listening to peoples’ needs and involving the users in developing better welfare services and. At the panel discussion it was mentioned that private companies have been innovating around the customer for more than ten years and it was surprising to hear that client service innovation was new to the public sector.  An interesting example of public sector service innovation was they focusing on how to educate citizens to take over the service provision and thereby reducing the need for public sector ressources.


- It is debatable to which extent this type of self-service amounts to innovation in the sense of innovation being a new way of doing things and delivering added client value. On the other hand, the Nordic and European welfare states are under so much pressure that they have to fire on all available pistons of the welfare service engine to make ends meet, said Jørn Bang Andersen, Senior Innovation Adviser at Nordic Innovation.