Social Innovation for Public Service Excellence

Published on 27 May 2014
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Governments around the world are grappling with societal challenges that are acting as a brake on sustainable economic growth, leading to inequality and instability in society, and impinging upon the general well-being of their population.


Social innovation is a response to these challenges that offers considerable promise for public managers. It offers new solutions, new methodologies and new conceptual frameworks. Success can be seen through case studies from around the world, including middle- and low-income countries in South-East Asia. While it remains an emergent field, still building a robust theoretical underpinning and establishing an evidence-base, the promise of social innovation is too compelling to ignore.


Social innovation refers to new ideas that work in meeting social goals. A social innovation approach puts capacity to harness innovation at the core of public service. As a field, social innovation is new, practice-led and under-theorized. It should be considered more of a movement than a particular methodology, as might be the case for design thinking. Indeed, a feature of social innovation is that it combines multiple disciplines, types of actors and sectors. Social innovation is also more than just invention; it describes a process from initial prompt through to scale and systemic change.


This Discussion Paper was developed to inform the consultation on the Co-design of Public Policy and Services, organised in Singapore on 2nd and 3rd December 2013.

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