Social Innovation and Governance in Public Management Systems: Limits of NPM and search for alternatives?


Études théoriques et méthodologiques






Centre de recherche sur les innovations sociales


While the decades following the Second World War saw a proliferation of social innovations in public administration3, the term ‘innovation’ as such was rarely mentioned. Instead, emphasis was placed on the main political reforms that led, among others, to the establishment of diverse types of welfare states in the developed countries, in particular through defamilialization and decommodification of public services (Esping‐Andersen, 1990). However, over the past two decades, reference to innovations in public administration and public services management has become more commonplace. This growing interest in social innovations can be largely explained as the outcome of reforms inspired by New Public Management (NPM), a new paradigm that emerged in the 1980s (Osborne and Gaebler, 1993). In this paper we begin by providing an overview of social innovations and show how a great number of these have in fact emerged from the new NPM approach. Thereafter, we take a more critical look at these innovations and discuss alternative views of innovation and governance. In conclusion, we comment on, among others, the specificity of social innovations in public administration and how this topic merits further research.