In recent decades, the public sector has been subjected to increasing demands for streamlining services, organisation and work processes.
Complex challenges require a higher degree of cross-sector collaboration; in addition, we currently impose greater demands on public services. These are some of the reasons why innovation is on the agenda throughout the public sector.
The National Network for Public Sector Innovation (INNOFF) has been created to connect researchers and others interested in public sector innovation. Already, the network numbers nearly 150 researchers, as well as key contact persons from management.
Associate Professor Ann Karin Tennås Holmen of the Department of Media and Social Sciences chairs the working group. The purpose of the network is to enable people to find one another. This applies to the cooperating researchers and to employees in municipalities and others concerned with public innovation.
Efforts to innovate in the public sector have increased in recent years, and many Norwegian researchers and research communities are active in this area. However, much of the work and the expertise has not been made visible.
“Frequently other countries, such as Denmark, have been cited as examples or as illustrations of achievements in the field of innovation in the public sector. This has occurred even though much is being done in the field in Norway. A network is important to show activity here in Norway and to contribute towards more cooperation", Tennås Holmen says.
The network was established at the request of Research Council Norway and the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, and on the initiative of Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences.
The first step was to map the existing researchers, research communities and projects in institutions that work with innovation in the public sector. The list was long. On the website innoff.no, which was launched earlier this year, a list is provided, ordered by research area and geographical affiliation.
"It is handy information for those who are looking for an expert or a partner. If someone is looking for a researcher to cooperate with, it should be easy to find someone nearby", Tennås Holmen
The network has already held its first workshops and seminars, and in January the 5th PUBSIC (the Innovation in Public Services and Public Policy) Conference is to be hosted by University of Stavanger in Norway.
In addition, the network has several special issues for journals in process (Nordic journal of Social Research and Samfundslederskap i Scandinavien).
And in connection with the work on a new parliamentary white paper on public sector innovation, the network is also in dialogue with the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation (KMD) and will hold workshops to provide input in conjunction with the work.
Earlier this year, the book "Innovation Meets the Municipality" was launched. Ann Karin Tennås Holmen and Toril Ringholm are the editors, and the book addresses the topic of what happens when innovative ideas meet the municipality. The authors who contribute in the book are affiliated with the network.
The network was formally established as a project by the University of Stavanger, and UiS currently serves as the secretariat for the network. Associate Professor Ann Karin Tennås Holmen of the Department of Media and Social Sciences chairs the working group, which consists of representatives from research institutions throughout Norway. Research Council Norway holds observer status in the working group.
The network is open to all researchers who define themselves as working with innovation. There is no fee for membership in the network and there is to be one contact person at each institution. The contact person is to represent the network and, if necessary, solicit support from their institution.
Text: Karoline Reilstad