Effects of culture and strategy in Norwegian municipalities

Public innovation has rapidly moved to the top of the agenda in many advanced western democracies (Borins, 2008), and a growing number of both international organizations and governmental institutions are developing research, strategies and policies with the aim of advancing public innovation (Bason, 2018). As complex societal problems such as the aging of the population and climate change combined with tighter budgets, new demands, and changing political priorities create pressure (OECD, 2011), many emphasize how more collaborative innovation efforts may be especially fruitful for tackling these, often referred to as, “wicked problems” (e.g. OECD, 2011; 2015; Sørensen and Torfing, 2011; 2012; Torfing, Sørensen and Røiseland, 2016; Voorberg, Bekkers and Tummers, 2015). Governments are currently in transition, facing a paradigm shift from developing and producing welfare for citizens towards developing society together with citizens, private sector and other actors in the society (Hartley, 2005; Bason, 2018).

However, collaborative innovation or co-creation is still a new concept in both practice and research, and both how to implement co-creation, and the impacts of different antecedent factors, remain unclear (Voorberg, 2015). In the current study, we address this research gap and respond to the call for more quantitative research in order to develop generalizable knowledge regarding these issues (Voorberg, 2015). With a mixed methods approach, we aimed to both test the importance of strategy and culture for implementing co-creation, and understand how these factors may produce more and better co-creation. Strategy, meaning a formal strategic statement with an emphasis on innovation and co-creation. Culture, meaning an organizational culture in the municipality that values and fosters innovation and co-creation.

A survey was distributed to unit leaders in all municipalities in Norway, and case studies of two Norwegian municipalities. Specifically, we hypothesized positive effects of (1) innovation strategy, (2) co-creation strategy, (3) innovation culture, and (4) co-creation culture respectively, on municipalities’ degree of co-creation. 472 leaders of municipal units completed the survey (response rate 9,9%), representing 234 Norwegian municipalities (55% of the total 422 municipalities in Norway). Our findings supports two of the four hypotheses: We find significant, positive effects of innovation strategy (1) and co-creation culture (4) on co-creation. Co-creation culture has the strongest effect, indicating that such culture may be crucial to a successful implementation of co-creation in municipalities. We find no significant effect of co-creation strategy (2) or innovation culture (3).

These findings where supplemented by additional case studies of two Norwegian municipalities, and a total of 22 interviews. In both municipalities, they acknowledged organizational culture as a key driver as developing a pro-co-creation culture was strongly emphasized in both. Further, strategic anchoring was also emphasized by both municipalities as crucial for involving the different actors of the society and to create acceptance and legitimacy in the implantation throughout the organization. Hence, strategy may be an important (first) step in developing a co-creation culture. 


Ailin Aastvedt og Anette Myhre Momrak