“We don’t feel like we are part of the project”
An analysis of tensions in the development and implementation of a public sector innovation project in Norway
Keywords:Public service innovation, collaborative innovation, actor-network theory, social enterprise
Some of the extant literature on collaborative public sector innovation seems to assume that collaboration per se implies a positive outcome. Recent research, however, has demonstrated that innovation processes may take different shapes and trajectories depending on, for example, the collaborating actors’ diverging (or converging) perceptions of the given situation. In this article, we seek to contribute to understanding the nature of potential challenges in public sector innovation processes. We interviewed seven key actors involved in developing and implementing a new introduction programme for refugees in a municipality in Norway. The interviews explored how the innovation process evolved and how the different actors experienced their participation in the process. In this article, we use the classic four ‘moments of translation’ approach proposed by Callon (1986) to shed light on the main tensions that arose for the project team in the 18 months after the project was launched. These challenges related to why the innovation was realised, how such an innovation should be operationalised, for whom the innovation was targeted and whose innovation project the project was initially. In conclusion, we argue that to address the tensions that may arise in any collaborative project, innovation leaders must establish a ‘structure for collaboration’ that includes a space in which to acknowledge and potentially solve emerging challenges.
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