Conceptualising public sector innovation: Introducing the lens of the epistemological, pragmatic and normative dimensions


  • Luise Li Langergaard Roskilde University College



public sector innovation, conceptualization, innovation theory, Network governance, public value


Innovation is a relatively new concept in the public sector, and there is currently no broad agreement regarding how to understand and conceptualise it. This article assumes that a central role for research is to critically scrutinise and discuss what research does—or could do—when applying the concept of public sector innovation, especially because innovation has become a powerful organising metaphor for policy and practice. The article initiates a meta-conceptual inquiry and discussion of public sector innovation as a research concept, suggesting a method of conceptual clarification for future research by breaking the concept down into different dimensions. Methodologically, the article conducts a meta-conceptual analysis and inquiry into research positions and discussions in public sector innovation, thus reflecting the academic activity/enterprise of conceptualising. By discussing selected literature from the public sector innovation field, three conceptual dimensions emerge: epistemological, pragmatic and normative dimensions. These dimensions refer to questions about what kind of knowledge the concept of public sector innovation represents, what its pragmatic or practical implications are and which normative or value dimensions the concept implies. Finally, the concluding discussion highlights questions for research(ers) to address in future reflections on the conceptualisation of public sector innovation.


Special issue Nordic Journal of Social Research: Public Sector Innovation– Conceptual and Methodological Implications

Guest editors:

Associate Professor Ann Karin Tennås Holmen, University of Stavanger,

Postdoctoral Fellow Maria Røhnebæk, Innland Norway University of applied science,


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How to Cite

Langergaard, L. L. (2021). Conceptualising public sector innovation: Introducing the lens of the epistemological, pragmatic and normative dimensions . Nordic Journal of Social Research, 12(Special issue), 24–45.

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