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Innovation in Municipal Welfare Services
Mälardalen University, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Health and Welfare. (Health and Welfare in Multicultural Working Life)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8045-797X
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates, analyzes and discusses innovation efforts and the use and understanding of the innovation concept and related policies in municipal welfare services. There are two main themes in the study, policy and practice. It is based on interviews with employees and managers in four Swedish municipalities. Also, an analysis of related policy documents on both a national and local level was done. Methods used were document analysis, thematic analysis and critical discourse analysis.

The results indicate differences between management levels in the view of innovation and what was achieved. Senior managers stressed the importance of innovation, but experienced obstacles in the form of old structures, ways of working, and employees lack of time for innovation. Employee innovations achieved were accordingly not acknowledged.

Middle managers and employees experienced opportunities for employee-driven innovation (EDI). However, barriers such as time and lack of internal communication existed. The study suggests that an excessive control, insufficient empowerment and limited autonomy for employees may be of hindrance for innovation.

Local authorities stressed the importance of innovation in strategic documents, but the dynamic resources of the municipalities were not used to support and develop innovation.

Innovation procurement was prominent in central governmental policies, but concrete elements were otherwise missing. The documents were also influenced by New Public Management, for example on control and efficiency.

Research on welfare services innovation is limited. The study contributes with an understanding of the challenges management meet and knowledge of what barriers and opportunities employees experience for their taking part in innovation. It also raises several fundamental questions about innovation in welfare services, such as if a different approach to innovation in welfare services may be needed as compared to other sectors or if innovation is less important in this context.

This study develops welfare sector innovation research, from empirical knowledge to concept development and a better understanding of the conditions for innovation in welfare services. Further research is needed, addressing the question how innovation, if at all, ought to be managed within the context of welfare services.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University , 2014.
Series
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 164
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-25883ISBN: 978-91-7485-162-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-25883DiVA: diva2:744847
Public defence
2014-11-19, Paros, Mälardalens högskola, Västerås, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-09-09 Created: 2014-09-07 Last updated: 2014-12-08Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Employee-driven Innovation in Welfare Services
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Employee-driven Innovation in Welfare Services
2014 (English)In: Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, ISSN 2245-0157, E-ISSN 2245-0157, Vol. 4, no 2, 159-180 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

There is a growing interest in both employee-driven innovation (EDI) and innovation in welfare services, but a lack of empirical studies addressing innovation from the employee perspective.

Accordingly, this study was designed to contribute with well-grounded empirical knowledge, aiming

to explore the barriers to and opportunities for participation in innovation experienced by employees of the Swedish welfare services. In order to reach the aim, a qualitative thematic analysis of

27 semi-structured interviews with employees in four municipalities was performed.

The study identified three main themes, with a great impact on the innovative performance of the studied organizations: support, including leadership and innovation processes; development, including creativity and learning; and organizational culture, which includes attitudes and communication, all essential ingredients in EDI. Experienced barriers for innovation were unclear or non-existing innovation processes with ambiguous goals, insufficient learning, and deficient organizational slack, thus creating a tension between day-to-day work and innovation and hindering reflection and exploration.

Attitudes of colleagues and lack of communication were also barriers to implementing innovation, suggesting the need for better management support for a communicative and open culture.

Opportunities were found, including commitment to innovation and willingness to try new ideas, but the employees must be given the mandate and sufficient time to develop the potential that emerges from continuous learning, time for reflection, and user dialogue. The conclusion was that incremental innovations existed, but the full potential of these did not benefit the entire organization due to inadequate communication and lack of innovation processes.

The study improves our understanding of how employees regard their involvement in innovation.

It also discusses how to make better use of employees’ resources in innovation processes andcontributes to important knowledge about EDI in the public sector. On the basis of our results, we suggest a model of EDI for use in practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Roskilde University, Roskilde: , 2014
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-25879 (URN)
Available from: 2014-09-07 Created: 2014-09-07 Last updated: 2016-03-10Bibliographically approved
2. Innovation policy for welfare services in a Swedish context
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Innovation policy for welfare services in a Swedish context
2013 (English)In: Offentlig Förvaltning. Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration, ISSN 2000-8058, E-ISSN 2001-3310, Vol. 16, no 4, 27-48 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of the study is to explore the role of public welfare services expressed in theSwedish government’s innovation policy. The focus is on municipal and county services,such as education and health care. The study is based on an analysis of 55 documentsproduced by the government and its agencies. Although innovation policy is a major issue in Sweden, and Sweden has a large public sector, research on innovation within this fieldis very limited. The results show that the municipality and county services are visible ininnovation policy when they are a driving force for innovation in the private sector. Thisapplies especially when public procurement becomes a vehicle for business innovation.Innovation is not used as a concept representing radical change and general progress ofthe public sector as such. When municipal welfare services become visible in the studieddocuments, there are often references to a need for efficiency improvements and forprocurement leading to innovation. For the public sector, including local welfare services, no coherent innovation policy is present, but this study found elements that could becomepart of an innovation policy. Policy development is important for the future, consideringthe public sector´s role in the important and increasing service sector and in the society as a whole.

National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-23413 (URN)
Available from: 2013-12-10 Created: 2013-12-10 Last updated: 2016-06-28Bibliographically approved
3. Innovation Management in Swedish Municipalities
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Innovation Management in Swedish Municipalities
2016 (English)In: European Journal of Workplace Innovation, ISSN 2387-4570, Vol. 2, no 1, 43-62 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research on public sector innovation is still limited, and increased knowledge of innovation processes is needed. This article is a based on a study of the implementation of innovation policies in Swedish municipalities, and gives a first-hand, empirical view of some of the complexities of innovation in the public sector. The study took place in four municipalities in central Sweden. The municipalities varied in size and organisational forms. Interviews and policy documents were used for data collection.The results showed that the innovation policies were not followed by action, which may be described as not mobilizing dynamic capabilities to create innovativeness. Thus, dynamic capabilities, such as learning and HRM, Human Resource Management, were not used in conjunction with innovation. Particularly amongst senior management there was a negative attitude towards the innovative capacity of their organization. Middle management saw possibilities. However, barriers such as extensive control systems removed the focus from innovation. There was a lack of communication between senior management and middle management regarding innovation. The conclusion was that innovation, as both concept and practice, was not fully embraced by the municipalities.

It is suggested that generative leadership, opening up communication within the organisations, especially between employees, could be beneficial, and that a common understanding and definition of the innovation concept is needed. Integration of top-down processes with bottom-up processes, such as employee-driven innovation, is also suggested.

Keyword
Public sector, innovation, innovation capacity, dynamic capabilities, innovation concept, management, barriers, opportunities, employee-driven innovation, thematic analysis, summative content analysis, Offentlig sektor, innovation, medarbetardriven innovation
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-25880 (URN)
Available from: 2014-09-07 Created: 2014-09-07 Last updated: 2017-02-02Bibliographically approved
4. The innovation concept in the Public Sector
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The innovation concept in the Public Sector
(English)In: Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice, ISSN 1447-9338Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

This study explores the concept of innovation and its use in today´s Swedish public sector. Based on interviews and critical discourse analysis it is demonstrated that the social practice of New Public Management, NPM, was highly visible on the governmental level. Rhetoric from the 80´s was used for the challenges of the future, despite the fact that research indicates that NPM has not led to increasing innovation. NPM rhetoric was less noticeable at the local government level than at the national.

The results suggest that the concept of innovation may be understood and used very differently. It may be used internally to promote change and effectiveness in a competitive society. It may also be used as the manifestation of the hegemony of certain values and beliefs. From the interviews, it was also clear that the interpretation varied. When we interpret and study public sector innovation, we should be cognizant of these differences. 

Keyword
Critical discourse analysis, innovation, public sector, policy, government
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-25881 (URN)
Available from: 2014-09-07 Created: 2014-09-07 Last updated: 2014-12-08Bibliographically approved

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