New Book Maps the Changing Landscape of American Public Sector Innovation in the Twenty-First Century

June 25, 2014
New Book Maps the Changing Landscape of American Public Sector Innovation in the Twenty-First Century

Cambridge, Mass.  The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Brookings Institution Press are pleased to announce the publication of Sandford Borins’ The Persistence of Innovation in Government.

The Persistence of Innovation in Government addresses the enduring significance of innovation in government as practiced by public servants, documented by innovation awards, analyzed by scholars, and discussed by the media.

The book is based on Prof. Borins’ comparative analysis of applications to the Harvard Kennedy School’s Innovations in American Government Awards in 2010, combining significant new research with a fresh look at the findings of his earlier, highly-praised book Innovating with Integrity: How Local Heroes are Transforming American Government (1998). Offering a detailed, thematic survey of the field’s burgeoning scholarly literature The Persistence of Innovation in Government maps the changing landscape of American public sector innovation in the twenty-first century and compares it to that of other countries.

Probing both the process and the content of innovation in the public sector, Borins identifies major shifts and important continuities, including:

      • the increasing frequency of inter-organizational collaboration
      • the increasing frequency and diversity of evaluation of innovations
      • the growing media and scholarly attention to innovations, and
      • considerable continuity in the process of innovation

He charts the implications of these findings as well as the influence of emergent policy agendas and the new culture of performance measurement on innovation. And he returns to perennial questions: Who innovates? When? Why? How? What are the persistent obstacles to innovation? What are the proven tactics and strategies for anticipating and overcoming them? He also provides a statistical explanation of the determinants of recognition, including the Innovations in American Government Awards, for public sector innovation– findings which will be of particular interest to past, current, or prospective applicants.

The book concludes with a challenge to practitioners and academics alike to exploit the potential of innovation awards data to further our understanding of two key phenomena: “serial innovators” and “hotbeds of innovation,” that is individual public sector agents who repeatedly and successfully innovate and jurisdictions or agencies that do likewise.

Advance praise for The Persistence of Innovation in Government includes:

“Sandford Borins has produced another tour de force. Combining comparative knowledge, data, and analysis from the 1990 and 2010 Kennedy School Innovations in American Government Awards applications, Borins presents a rich portrait of policy and management innovations in the U.S., comparing his findings to studies in Europe and around the world to paint a mosaic of how and why government innovation occurs. Written in clear and lively prose, and full of insights, I heartily recommend this book!” –Frances S. Berry, Frank Sherwood Professor of Public Administration, Florida State University

“If the purpose of innovation in government is to help institutions of democratic governance adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and popular expectations, the work is far from finished. Sandford Borins, like the innovators he has studied for over two decades, persists in the mission to understand this important and difficult work. This wonderful book is a must-read for both optimists and skeptics of innovation in government.” –Jorrit de Jong, Lecturer in Public Policy and Management and Academic Director of the Innovations in Government Program, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government

“Wise scholars early on seize a central issue to which they return recurrently over the course of a career. For Sandford Borins that defining theme, amid a widely varied research agenda, is the topic of this book. Innovation in the pursuit of public value is the ore-rich intellectual quarry, which he mines again and again. In this volume on the persistence of innovation he once more demonstrates, to the benefit of all of us who care about governmental performance, the payoff to persistence in inquiry.” –John D. Donahue, Faculty Chair, Masters in Public Policy Program, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government

Sandford Borins is a professor of public management at the University of Toronto and a research fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School. His previous books include Governing Fables: Learning from Public Sector Narratives (2011) and Innovating with Integrity: How Local Heroes Are Transforming American Government (1998), and he is the editor of Innovation in Government: Research, Recognition, and Replication (Brookings/Ash Center, 2008).

The Persistence of Innovation in Government is the eighth volume in the Innovative Governance in the 21st Century series, a project that examines important issues of governance, public policy, and administration, highlighting innovative practices and original research worldwide, co-published by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the Brookings Institution Press.

Professor Borins’s research on public sector innovation was also supported by the IBM Center for the Business of Government (, which concurrently published a monograph based on Prof. Borins’s research, entitled The Persistence of Innovation in Government: A Guide for Innovative Public Servants.

Additional information, including a link to purchase the book can be found at the Brookings Institution Press website.

For more information, contact:

Daniel Harsha
Ash Center

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. Three major programs support our mission: the Program on Democratic Governance; the Innovations in Government Program; and the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia. For more information, visit

About the Brookings Institution Press
The Brookings Institution Press is the book- and journal-publishing arm of the Brookings Institution. All new Brookings Press titles are published in a variety of formats, and the Press is working vigorously to digitize its extensive backlist. With an eye to serving the global marketplace and increasing the worldwide impact of its publications, the Press aggressively promotes and distributes its work in international as well as domestic markets, licenses translation rights to foreign publishers, and partners with digital aggregators and e-retailers. The Press also provides sales and distribution services to a number of other research organizations around the globe. For more information, visit