Academic journal article The Innovation Journal

Measuring the Accountability of Collaborative Innovation

Academic journal article The Innovation Journal

Measuring the Accountability of Collaborative Innovation

Article excerpt


The public sector is increasingly expected to be innovative. As the demands for innovation grow, new forms of governance emerge. Traditional forms of bureaucratic, representative government are moderated by New Public Management reforms and a variety of collaborative forms of governance that, among other things, aim to enhance the innovative capacity of the public sector. As forms of governance change so does the models of accountability by which decision makers are held to account. The efforts to develop a model for measuring the accountability of collaborative innovation processes are, however, in its early stages, and the article review the first attempts to develop a collaborative approach to accountability and set up a research agenda for further work in this field.

Keywords: Collaboration, accountability, innovation, governance, NPM.


Innovation is no longer exclusively perceived as a matter for private firms seeking to develop new sales techniques, production processes and products. Policy makers are increasingly demanding that the public sector, not only encourages and supports private sector innovation, but also produces innovative public policies and services, and does so in new ways. Hence, Western governments are expected to increase their capacity to produce innovative governance. However, at the same time, governments face a series of other demands specific to the public sector, the call for accountability being one of them.

This article analyses the relationship between public innovation and accountability, and aims to uncover the tensions between these two ambitions seen in the light of different models of accountability. It shows how transformations in the way societies are governed and the tasks they set for themselves trigger the development of new models of accountability. A specific focus is placed on how a call for a more innovative public sector has gradually entered the scene as a core ambition for public governance and public sector reforms and how the emerging forms of collaborative governance trigger the search for new accountability models that suggest ways to hold those involved in collaborative innovation processes to account.

The article is structured in the following way: First, it defines the concept of accountability, and draws an outline of the traditional model for holding public authorities to account. Then follow an analysis of the accountability model that the New Public Management (NPM) paradigm introduced in the 1980s and 1990s. This analysis is succeeded by a discussion of the innovative potential of some of the collaborative forms of governance that go under the name of New Public Governance (NPG). It concludes with an analysis of a new strand of theory, that aims to develop standards for holding those involved in collaborative governance processes to account, and a first attempt is made to develop a model for measuring the accountability of collaborative innovation processes.

The concept of accountability

The idea that public authorities should be held to account for their actions is a core feature of modern political thought. But what does it mean to be held to account, and according to what standards are different public actors held to account? The concept of accountability is used in different ways and with various meanings by social science theorists as well as by public authorities and others involved in public governance (Behn, 2001: 3-5). Mark Bovens (2006: 9) offers an uncontroversial definition of the concept of accountability when he states that it signifies "the relationship between an actor and a forum in which the actor has an obligation to explain and justify his or her conduct, the forum can pose questions and pass judgment, and the actor may face consequences."

Much in the same vein Robert Behn (2001) defines accountability as a relationship between an accountability holdee and an accountability holder that grants the latter the information and sanctioning powers needed to evaluate and subsequently punish or reward the former on the basis of a mutually accepted set of standards (Behn, 2001: 2- 6). …

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