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The Persistence of Innovation in Government

Sandford F. Borins

Publication Year: 2014

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. In The 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 book Innovating 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.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Series: Brookings / Ash Center Series, "Innovative Governance in the 21st Century"

Front Cover

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Series Info, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book represents the latest product of my long-standing and extraordinarily fruitful research relationship with the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School. In recent years, the Ash Center has supported my involvement as editor of the 2008 book Innovations in Government: Research, Recognition, and Replication ...

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1. Public Sector Innovation: Still, and Again

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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. ...

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2. Emergence and Diversity: Public Sector Innovation Research

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pp. 11-39

It is always instructive, if sometimes a little humbling, to re-read one’s earlier work. Revisiting Innovating 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-selling Reinventing Government (1992) as well as the Clinton administration’s high-profile National Performance Review, ...

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3. The Class of 2010

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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. ...

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4. Present at the Creation

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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. ...

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5. Innovation Stories: Real People, Real Challenges, Real Outcomes

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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. ...

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6. Creating Public Value, Receiving Public Recognition

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pp. 108-142

At the height of the New Public Management debate, in 1995, Mark Moore in his book Creating Public Value coined 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, ...

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7. From Data to Stories: Innovation Patterns in the Six Policy Areas

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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. ...

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8. Summing Up, Looking Forward: Awards, Practitioners, and Academics

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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. ...

Appendix: Initial Application and Semifinalist Application Questionnaires

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pp. 207-210


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pp. 211-216


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pp. 217-230

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815725619
E-ISBN-10: 0815725612
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815725602
Print-ISBN-10: 0815725604

Page Count: 230
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Brookings / Ash Center Series, "Innovative Governance in the 21st Century"
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OCLC Number: 879947266
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Persistence of Innovation in Government

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Political planning -- United States.
  • Public administration -- United States.
  • Administrative agencies -- United States -- Management.
  • Organizational change -- United States.
  • Government productivity -- United States.
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