NEW SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 1 – Public value as the game changer for co-creation of innovative solutions in the public sector

Special issue blog series on strategic management of the transition to public sector co-creation

updated special issue editors co creationJacob Torfing, Ewan Ferlie, Tina Jukić and Edoardo Ongaro

During the 1980s and early 1990s, we were consistently told that the public sector was ossified, incompetent and unimaginative, and squandered value produced by the hard-working and innovative private sector. Government was the problem, not the solution, and we should therefore have less state and more market. The neoliberal onslaught on the public sector had begun and public employees gradually developed an inferiority complex.

This nightmarish development was reversed by Mark Moore’s Creating Public Value (1995) who insisted that the public sector creates its own distinctive value. The public sector creates ‘public value’ defined as what has value for the public and public values. Public managers are not merely engaged in securing compliance with bureaucratic rules, but are entrepreneurs engaged in the exploration of new and better service and policy solutions. In this way, the public sector was redeemed and public managers could re-describe themselves as proud guardians of the public interest and producers of public value. 

While the notion of public value is important for reinvigorating the public sector, in our new special issue introduction in Policy & Politics we contend that the notion carries an unexploited potential. Indeed, we believe that public value is a game changer for public governance as it allows us to appreciate the many different public and private actors, including users, citizens and civil society organisations, which can contribute to the production of public value. Public value is more often than not co-created by a plethora of relevant and affected actors. Co-creation is the “new black” because it mobilises societal resources, enhances innovation and builds joint ownership over new public value outcomes.

The expansion of the scope and significance of co-creation in public policy and governance prompts the integration of different theoretical strands. Taken together, these theoretical strands can help us to illuminate the antecedent conditions, the complex processes of multi-actor collaboration, the fostering of innovative solutions and the assessment of their public value. Exploring the affinities and complementarities of relevant perspectives such as theories of co-creation, public value management, public innovation, collaborative governance, network governance, strategic management and digital era governance may help us to generate a more comprehensive framework for studying the co-creation of public value outcomes such as needs-based services, effective governance and democratic legitimacy. In particular, we need to develop a theoretical framework that enables us to explain why we must transform the public sector in order to induce co-creation, how strategic management and digital platforms can support this transformation, and how the complex processes of co-creation and their concomitant drivers, barriers and outcomes can mapped, analysed and affected.

Strategic management that aligns all actors inside and outside public organisations around a new vision of the public sector as an arena for co-creation, and builds digital platforms for collaborative governance, may spearhead the transformation of public service organisations so that they can reap the fruits of co-creation and enhance the production of public value.

In summary, our hope is that this special issue will stimulate the combination of relevant theories into comprehensive theoretical frameworks and fresh research programmes. Through this issue, we aim to conceptualise different forms of co-creation, analyse the collaborative processes of creative problem solving in networks and partnerships, and study the role of strategic management, digitalisation, and generative platforms for stimulating the co-creation of innovative public value outcomes. The practices of public governance are rapidly changing, and so must the theoretical frameworks for understanding the creation of efficient, effective, and democratic governance solutions.

You can read the original research in Policy & Politics:

Torfing, Jacob; Ferlie, Ewan; Jukić, Tina; Ongaro, Edoardo (2021) ‘A theoretical framework for studying the co-creation of innovative solutions and public value’,  Policy & Politics, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557321X16108172803520 [Free]

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested to read from the special issue:

Co-creation: the new kid on the block in public governance

Digital platforms for the co-creation of public value

Collaborative governance and innovation in public services settings

How public leaders can promote public value through co-creation

Strategic management as an enabler of co-creation in public services

Concluding discussion: key themes in the (possible) move to co-production and co-creation in public management

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