Policy & Governance Innovation: Definitions and Examples in the climate space

What is the current landscape of innovation in public policies and governance in southern Europe? Which institutions are working on new forms of governance to address climate change? What are they doing and which agents are involved?

These are some of the questions that an interdisciplinary team formed by Gorka Espiau Idoiaga, Fernando Fernandez-Monge, Carlos Mataix, Karmele Olabarrieta and Cecilia Lopez Pablos tried to answer.

This report delineates the contours of such concepts by:

  1. exploring the practitioner and academic literature, and
  2. analysing a set of cases in Southern Europe where innovations in governance structures and policy design mechanisms have had a positive impact in dealing with climate change.

The first conclusion after analysing the literature is that there is no established and agreed upon definition of ‘policy and governance innovation’. Elements of such an approach can be found across a diverse set of terms (policy innovation, innovation in government, governance innovations, creative bureaucracies, etc.).

These definitions have a clear focus on services and processes, with less attention to key concepts such as user-centric, citizen, systemic change, value and cultural changes, co-creation, etc.
The concept of policy and governance innovation that we aim to define, by contrast, does focus on those deeper building blocks of government action. As such, any conceptualisation of policy and governance innovation needs to lie between the broader social innovation and the narrower public sector innovation concepts.

Based on this conceptualisation, the paper subsequently introduces an overview of “Key Dimensions of policy and governance innovation,” including a set of tools and mechanisms organised in five groups:

  • New approaches to the diagnosis of the problem and the conceptualisation process
  • New co-creation and prototyping capabilities in five interconnected levels
  • New portfolio approach
  • New management approaches
  • Transformative Capital


These dimensions are then identified and analysed in more detail in five selected case studies in three countries (Spain, Italy and France).

An overarching theme emerging across the literature and practice is a wide-reaching consensus that technological solutions alone will not make the quick transformation needed. Governments have to be the key enablers of this shift, and that requires changing their own structures and capacities first.

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