Innovation in public administration

Date: 9 May 2018
Time: 12.30 - 13:45 hrs
Venue: Ravelijn, RA 1315
Speaker: Dr. Carolina Isaza Espinosa, Coordinator Opera Research Group, Faculty of Finance, Government and International Relations, Externado University of Columbia


Public administration, like other domains of contemporary life, has “hypes” or “catch words” that change often and influence practice in different ways. This phenomenon is related with New Public Management and its private-sector model for public administration. In private management this same tendency to create passing fads, led by a global consultancy industry, has been studied and critiqued by some. However, in public administration studies this has not been much researched, with some exceptions. One of this fads is “public innovation”.

This presentation is about my research progress so far, including a literature review on “public innovation” or innovation in public administration, and preliminary results on a content analysis on the use of this concept in a corpus of academic literature and /or practitioners texts.

The project addresses a double group of problems: a conceptual problem and a practical problem. The first refers to the hype of “innovation” in public administration: Is it an empty word? What is its meaning? Is it useful to improve public sector practices / results? The second refers to the adoption of this hype by developing countries which have different institutional contexts: What consequences does the adoption of the “innovation” hype entail for developing countries’ PA? Is it a harmless passing fad? Can it go against fragile institutional designs and undermine previous efforts to strengthen them?

In this colloquium I will focus only on the first problem, the conceptual one concerning the meaning of the concept of innovation in the context of public administration. I will present the literature on this subject and the insights gained so far from it. I will explain an initial content analysis conducted on a corpora of texts on public administration. From this initial results the project will move on to a more detailed and in depth discourse analysis and finally to an analysis of the adoption of these discourses by one or more developing countries. Some ideas on how to proceed will be presented for discussion as well.