International insights on civic leadership and public service innovation

Project details

Full project title: International insights on civic leadership and public service innovation

Duration: January 2009-June 2009

Sponsor: Local Authority Research Council Initiative/Communities and Local Government

Project leader for SPE: Professor Robin Hambleton

Other UWE Bristol researchers:

  • Joanna Howard
  • Marilyn Taylor

Research partners/collaborators:

  • Community Sector Coalition
  • Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government
  • Local Government Association
  • Local Government Yorkshire and Humber
  • Society of Local Authority Chief Executives
  • Whitehall Innovation Hub.

These partners are in addition to the co-sponsors of the study: The Local Authority Research Council Initiative (LARCI) and Communities and Local Government (CLG)

Project summary

This scoping study examines the potential for using international exchange to advance the understanding and practice of civic leadership and public service innovation in UK local governance. The Study was prepared in response to requests from leaders in UK local governance, and practitioners were heavily involved in reviewing and improving the final report.

The study explains why public service leaders need to move beyond approaches that emphasise ‘improvement' and engage more actively in radical ‘innovation'. A conceptual model for understanding civic leadership is presented and this distinguishes three overlapping realms of place-based leadership – political, managerial and community. The main reasons why local government policy and practice would benefit from giving more attention to public service innovations in other countries are outlined. Five examples of ‘leadership across boundaries' drawn from local governance in other countries are presented:

  • Regional civic innovation in the Capital District, New York, USA
  • The civic leadership response to climate change in Malmo, Sweden
  • Urban leadership and community involvement in Enschede, The Netherlands
  • Participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil
  • The planning and participatory budgeting programme in Medellin, Colombia

In each case pointers for the UK from the international case studies are identified. The implications and opportunities of the Scoping Study for the UK are set out.

Key outputs

Project contact

For further information about this project, please contact Professor Robin Hambleton (

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