Risking innovation: Understanding risk and public service innovation - evidence from a four nation study

Stephen Osborne, Taco Brandsen, Valentina Mele, Juraj Nemec, Sarah-Sophie Flemig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents new evidence about the governance of risk in public service innovation. It finds that risk is currently poorly understood with public service organizations. Either it is presented as a professional issue or it is dealt with purely as an actuarial or health and safety issue. There is little understanding of risk as a core component of innovation. In response, this paper argues for a more nuanced risk governance approach that calls for transparent decision-making on risk in public service innovation in relation to its intended outcomes.

Politicians and public service managers need to understand that risk is an inherent element of innovation, because it engages with uncertain outcomes. A framework needs to be evolved to balance these risks against potential benefits and which can drive forward transparent risk governance involving politicians, public service mangers, citizens and local communities and other key stakeholders. This approach also needs to accept that failure can often by an outcome of innovation. The key here is not to maintain the blame culture that has dominate the debate to date but rather to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and to improve public services and their outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Money and Management
Early online date5 Jun 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Jun 2019


  • innovation
  • public services
  • risk

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