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Abstract Deadline: 30 June 2020

Co-creation of social innovation in public services:

Innovating relationships between services, citizens and communities

Public services face growing pressure to innovate but there is little agreement how this can be achieved. This PMM theme puts the spotlight on the intersection of social innovation and co-creation. Co-creation implies that people who use (or potentially use) public services work with providers to initiate, design, deliver and evaluate them. Empirical study of social innovations across Europe highlights aspects of co-creation, such as new provider–user relationships, revision of professional roles, collaborative forms of governance, and social justice - link co-creation and social innovation as ‘magic concepts’ that have become widely adopted as a panacea for the basis of reform strategies for the public sector. The contributions in this themed issue will offer a unique opportunity to take stock of the emerging evidence base, conceptual developments and—very importantly—policy lessons to be learned from research.

Innovation is a multi-dimensional concept that refers to the implementation of new ideas, processes or products, with advantages for businesses and beneficial externalities for society. The influential concept of open innovation urges businesses to seek commercial success by inviting customers to ‘co-produce’ and ‘co-create’ with them. In public services there is evidence that citizens and intended beneficiaries—with many other stakeholders—can enhance mutual learning and help develop new solutions.

‘Social innovation’ is explicitly about addressing human needs. It has roots in various traditions and the term has been stretched in numerous directions. Social innovation is notoriously difficult to ‘engineer’ and it is not entirely clear what policy prescriptions will encourage it. Yet the idea remains evocative and firmly embedded in policy. Indeed, within Europe, social innovation features almost as prominently as technological innovation.

Co-creation is a more recent entrant to policy agenda than social innovation but also appears to have swiftly become the current dominant orthodoxy of how innovation ought to be enacted. There are variations in detail and emphases but co-creation invariably attempts to reposition people who are usually the targets of services (i.e. have services done to them) as asset holders with legitimate knowledge that has value for shaping service innovations. All this appears to align closely with claims in the (social) innovation literature that the roles of innovator, producer and consumer overlap or merge. Yet, notwithstanding the powerful prima facie case, much remains to be learned about how co-creation and social innovation processes may be related in terms of intentions, principles, practices and outcomes and how sustainable such changes might be. In this PMM theme we will test the stance that co-creation can be understood as an integral part of the social innovation process. A review article by the guest editors will evaluate the current ‘state of the art’. Further papers are sought that may include—but are not necessarily limited to—the following themes:

  • Environment and cultures of learning and experimentation that involve varied stakeholders in co-creating service innovations.
  • Innovative methodologies to enhance the evidence base and evaluations of impact related to social innovation, service innovation and co-creation.
  • Management of relationships between change processes and innovation processes and the challenges of management.
  • Processes, mechanisms and techniques for ‘co-creation’ in practice.
  • Innovations through new forms of relationships including governance processes between service providers, (public sector, third sector, for-profit) communities and citizens.
  • Role of digitization, digital government and data in supporting or driving public service innovation through activating new forms of co-creation at individual or community level.
  • Forms of ongoing co-creation and service innovation that recognize—and try to sustain—the capacity of people who use services to make effective judgements (as well as inform design). 

Public Money & Management

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Guest Editors

  • Sue Baines (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
  • Rob Wilson (Northumbria University, UK)
  • Andrea Bassi (University of Bologna, Italy)
  • Inga Narbutaite Aflaki (Karlstad University, Sweden)
  • Aldona Wiktorska-Święcka (University of Wrocław, Poland)
  • Harri Jalonen (Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland)

Submission Instructions

Potential authors can submit one of three types of submission.

  • Debate article (up to 1000 words): Debate articles will offer distinctive, provocative comments and arguments (so long as they are also considered), perhaps from the world of practice.
  • New development piece (up to 2500 words): will describe innovations or changes to practice.
  • Research papers (up to 8000 words including references)

All submissions must be suitable for both academic and reflective practitioner readers. Debate and new development articles will be reviewed by the guest editors and research papers double-blind refereed by both an academic and a practitioner.

Outline proposals of 500 words for debate or new development pieces and 1000–1500 words for research papers should be sent to S.Baines@mmu.ac.uk and Rob.Wilson@northumbria.ac.uk by the end of June 2020.

Invitation to submit full papers or submissions based on abstracts will be sent July 2020. Submission of papers should be September 2020. Final submission of revised papers for DOI publication by end of November 2020 with expected full publication in 2021.

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