Master of International Affairs   Master of Public Policy  

Public sector innovation

Innovation is the new buzzword in public sector reform policies across the globe. Its promise is to deliver a way out of the twin problem of increasingly wicked problems that public organisations have to address under ever-tighter resource constraints. “Public sector innovation” tries to use cross-boundary collaboration (across organisations, sectors, professions) and new methods such as design thinking, agile working methods and behavioural insights to conceive, adopt and implement changes in the way public organisations operate and deliver services. Digital technologies play an important role in collaboration and the ‘co-creation’ of innovations. Another proposition of the new trend of public sector innovation is to strengthen ‘experimentation’ in government and nurture a new culture of ‘failure tolerance’ in the public sector as a precondition for the creation of innovations. The course introduces the key concepts, tools and promises of the new public sector innovation agenda and critically reviews its track-record in different policy and country contexts. We will discuss conceptual foundations in the first section of the course, explore key tools (or methods) of public sector innovation in the second part and analyse the track record of public sector innovation in a comparative perspective in the third section of the course. Participants will gain a grounded understanding of the key characteristics and tools of public sector innovation strategies, their underlying assumptions about bureaucracy, politics and organisational change and the challenges in designing, implementing and evaluating innovation.

This course is for 2nd year MIA and MPP students only.


  • Kai Wegrich , Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy