Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

Policy Design and Practice

For a Special Issue on

Collaborative Public Sector Innovation as a Policy (Design) Problem

Abstract deadline
30 June 2024

Manuscript deadline
31 October 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Mattia Casula, University of Bologna, Italy
[email protected]

Andrea Migone, Toronto Metropolitan University, Canada
[email protected]

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Collaborative Public Sector Innovation as a Policy (Design) Problem

In a post-NPM world, Public Sector Innovation (PSI) is considered one of the most important reform trajectories and frameworks involving the current public sector reform landscape. Part of this literature has analyzed how public sector collaboration with other public sector organizations, businesses, universities, and citizens is increasingly becoming the main driver for PSI, with recent studies showing a positive relationship between public sector collaboration and innovation outcomes. Of particular relevance is how these efforts fit within the policy space and how they align with policy design principles.

To meet this practical transformation in public sector policy making, a few theoretical and analytical studies have introduced the term “Collaborative Public Sector Innovation - CPSI”. This concept captures the capacity and potentialities of these new governance networks to solve wicked, emerging problems and to act as a new, unexplored framework for public sector innovation. Furthermore, much of the work emerging in CPSI has a direct connection with the practice of governments and administrations at various jurisdictional levels, including the work of policy labs, how they partner with various actors, and the nature of governance arrangements in those spaces.


Despite this emerging interest in CPSI within the public policy and public administration communities, a set of weaknesses in the research on collaboration for public sector innovation continue to persist. These weaknesses limit the theoretical and empirical understanding of this approach to public sector reforms.

A first theoretical weakness concerns the relationship between CPSI and other post-NPM concepts and ideas, such as new public governance, the neo-Weberian state, public value, digital era governance, and public service logic. Little is known about the layering effect between CPSI and other post-NPM reform trajectories, as well whether and how CPSI concepts, practices, and measures are combined with them.

Second, more analysis is needed on the connection between CPSI and the policy space. This is relevant not only to the emergence of specific spaces when innovation is designed and tested, such as policy labs, but also to how CPSI is ‘designed’ in the policy process and how it affects policy design.

Third, the analytical dimensions of the two canonical approaches used to distinguish the governance of public sector collaboration and to understand the complexities of the actors involved – respectively, the top-down/hands-on and the bottom-up/hands-off – have never been placed side by side with the other post-NPM principles, and their empirical understanding is lacking.

Fourth, relatively little is known about when collaboration typically occurs in the policy-making process, as well as when the relationship between collaboration and public sector innovation outcomes is most likely to be strongest. While it is well-established that collaboration can occur at the level of co-initiation, co-development, co-implementation, and co-evaluation, more analysis is still needed on the type of collaborative actors involved in this process and how they ultimately contribute to innovation.

Finally, empirical research has been limited to single country studies, primarily involving Western countries and areas. What is more, it has also been limited in jurisdiction and policy sectors. Cross-country and cross-sectorial studies of collaboration in the public sector and its impacts on innovation continue to be circumscribed, thus limiting the possibility of reaching generalizations on CPSI knowledge and of providing a theoretical advance on CPSI concept and practices.


The editors are soliciting both theoretical and empirical contributions, especially including comparative analysis (both cross-sectorial and cross-national), reflecting on:

  1. The concept of CPSI;
  2. The theory underlying this emerging post-NPM approach to public administration reforms;
  3. The relationship between policy design, policy implementation, and CPSI;
  4. The added value of specific collaborative practices implemented, and how they ultimately impact public sector innovation outcomes.

Contributions should consider these emerging practices of collaboration in the public sector as both independent and dependent variables. Both qualitative or quantitative contributions are appreciated. Some examples of possible research questions are:

  • Given the complexity, hybridity and layering of the current public sector reform landscape, how are CPSI concepts and practices combined with other post-NPM ones (such as new public governance, the neo-Weberian state, digital-era governance, public value)?
  • What is the role of policy design in both successful and unsuccessful CPSI instances?
  • What implications do the possible co-existence of CPSI’ reform trajectories with other post-NPM concepts have for public policy, policy design and practice?
  • Which are the main analytical dimensions underlying the concept of “collaboration” in public sector innovation? What kind of relation do these have in particular to policy design?
  • Is the distinction between top-down/hands-on and bottom-up/hands-off approach to CPSI valid? How does this distinction fit with the new inter-institutional relationships characterizing the public sector, such as highlighted by the neo-Weberian state approach?
  • Which political and institutional factors can facilitate collaboration for policy design and public sector innovation?
  • Who are the main actors involved in CPSI (e.g., other public sector organizations, businesses, universities, and citizens)? Is their involvement equally distributed in the different phases of the policymaking and policy design process (e.g., at the level of co-initiation, co-development, co-implementation, and co-evaluation)?
  • How does collaboration ultimately impact policy and innovation outcomes within different public administration sectors?
  • Is CPSI a concept used and usable to explain the reform trajectory and framing involving the current public sector reforms in non-Western countries and areas (such as Africa, South America, Asia) and how does this relate to the policy design phase?

Submission Instructions

Please submit a short abstract of no more than 500 words and selected bibliography or an expression of interest to Mattia Casula by June 30, 2024.
  • Submission of abstracts: by June 30, 2024
  • Notification of abstract acceptance: no later than July 15, 2024
  • Submission of full manuscripts for review: by October 31, 2024
  • Notification of final acceptance: no later than January 31, 2025
  • Publication: TBD

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