Co-creation, Collaborative Innovation and Open Innovation in the Public Sector

A Perspective on Distinctions and the Convergence of Definitions

Collaborative approaches to innovation with citizens are captured in various and often interchangeable terms, such as collaborative innovation, co-creation, open innovation, social innovation and innovation network. A systematic review of the literature was used to analyse this research area. The aim was to explore how terms regarding collaborative approaches to innovation with citizens have been defined and applied in the public sector and to identify research streams that characterise the literature. We found that collaborative approaches to innovation with citizens are named, defined and conceptualised in different ways and are poorly defined, leading to conceptual limitations and hampering comparisons between studies. The three terms used most often—co-creation, collaborative innovation and open innovation—share many similarities, although they stem from different academic origins. Our discussion of the terms may contribute to a clearer conceptual distinction between the terms, and improve both analytical precision and empirical comparison.


Ailin Aastvedt and Ulla Higdem




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