This thesis investigates, analyzes and discusses innovation efforts and the use and understanding of the innovation concept and related policies in municipal welfare services. There are two main themes in the study, policy and practice. It is based on interviews with employees and managers in four Swedish municipalities. Also, an analysis of related policy documents on both a national and local level was done. Methods used were document analysis, thematic analysis and critical discourse analysis.
The results indicate differences between management levels in the view of innovation and what was achieved. Senior managers stressed the importance of innovation, but experienced obstacles in the form of old structures, ways of working, and employees lack of time for innovation. Employee innovations achieved were accordingly not acknowledged.
Middle managers and employees experienced opportunities for employee-driven innovation (EDI). However, barriers such as time and lack of internal communication existed. The study suggests that an excessive control, insufficient empowerment and limited autonomy for employees may be of hindrance for innovation.
Local authorities stressed the importance of innovation in strategic documents, but the dynamic resources of the municipalities were not used to support and develop innovation.
Innovation procurement was prominent in central governmental policies, but concrete elements were otherwise missing. The documents were also influenced by New Public Management, for example on control and efficiency.
Research on welfare services innovation is limited. The study contributes with an understanding of the challenges management meet and knowledge of what barriers and opportunities employees experience for their taking part in innovation. It also raises several fundamental questions about innovation in welfare services, such as if a different approach to innovation in welfare services may be needed as compared to other sectors or if innovation is less important in this context.
This study develops welfare sector innovation research, from empirical knowledge to concept development and a better understanding of the conditions for innovation in welfare services. Further research is needed, addressing the question how innovation, if at all, ought to be managed within the context of welfare services.
Västerås: Mälardalen University , 2014.
Sandmark, Hélène, DocentHoppe, Magnus, Ekonomie Dr.