A living lab logic for public sector innovation: the case of European living labs

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The shift in focus from New Public Management (NPM) to New Public Governance (NPG) has ledto an increased interest in innovation as a collaborative and distributed process which includes new ways of doing and managing co-creation between citizens, public administration, civil society and the private sector. The emergence of living labs in a public sector context is one such way of addressing the request for cross-sectorial collaboration for innovation, but with an outspoken focus on the user and/or citizen and on providing a third place for experimenting with innovative solutions.

In living lab literature two main approaches have been identified: living lab understood as methodology, depicted by service design methods and user testing, and living lab understood as an eco-system for innovation. Despite these approaches, there is an articulated need for conceptual clarification and for better understanding how and with what resources users and citizens are in fact engaged in living lab activities for public sector innovation (Schuurman and Tõnurist, 2017). To address this, as part of the EU Horizon 2020 program, 18 qualitative case studies of living labs across 9 EU countries have been carried out.

Based on an analysis of the empirical findings the paper argues that living labs open up new ways of thinking about and practicing innovation in the context of the public sector. When analyzed through the lenses of public value theory, the potentials of living labs as a logic for creating a joint sphere of innovation among many stakeholders comes to the fore. The cases show that living lab activities convene actors, and facilitate co-creation processes, which are focused on and committed to listening to users and citizens in the creation of public value. Even though living lab activities often have such a strong co-creation component, users are mostly involved in giving feedback, in testing, and in facilitated dialogues about the subject matter and less part of problem identification and decision-making processes. Nevertheless, this is in most cases seen as a future perspective and something to strive for, which is why the public value dimension of living lab as still to be fully developed.

In this manner the logic of living labs is two-fold: 1) their potential for public service providers to get insights into users’ and citizens value creation as well as other stakeholders’ value dimensions, and 2) through innovation and design processes that create a room for public value creation. Living labs can therefore been seen as a logic of public innovation, that creates “joint spheres” drawing on heterogeneous repertoires of resources and tools. This logic reaches beyond the more instrumental understanding of living labs as either a methodology or as an eco-system by providing tools for thinking about living labs with prescriptive implications.
Publikationsdato30 jan. 2020
StatusUdgivet - 30 jan. 2020
BegivenhedThe 5th Innovation in Public Services and Public Policy Conference
- Stavanger, Stavanger, Norge
Varighed: 29 jan. 202031 jan. 2020
Konferencens nummer: 5


KonferenceThe 5th Innovation in Public Services and Public Policy Conference
AndetThe PUBSIC Conference remains as an important gathering of scientists interested in public sector innovation, often attracting around 100-120 scholars from throughout the world and at all stages of their career. The academic programme covers the spectre of public sector innovation, creating a platform for lively discussion, exchange of ideas and the best thinking in the field.<br/><br/>In recent years an important body of research and knowledge on public service innovation (PSI) are emerging. Previous PUBSIC Conferences have now taken place in Shanghai, Budapest, Lillehammer and Milan over the past four years. To continue this dialogue and to build upon this evolving body of knowledge we would invite you to participate January 29. – 31. 2020 here in Stavanger.

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