Australian Innovation Research Centre

Social and Public Sector Innovation


Social and Public Sector Innovations involve the development and implementation of new ways of improving the quality and efficiency of service provision that can have big impacts in terms of maximising social welfare. This research theme cuts across sectoral and disciplinary boundaries and consists of two interlinked sub-themes: social innovation and public sector innovation. Social innovation is an umbrella term covering a wide range of activities that address social issues and that can be initiated by the public, private and non-profit sectors. 

Social and public sector innovations are complex, multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and context-specific, with most societal problems defying simple linear explanations and having more than a single 'end' or 'solution'. This makes the task of sense-making in theorising, measuring and analysing such innovations challenging and often involves 'phenomenon-driven' empirical discoveries.

The Social and Public Sector Innovation theme, led by Professor Anthony Arundel and Dr Ann Torugsa, embraces a broad range of research topics, including but not limited to:

  • The antecedent configurations and outcomes of innovation
  • The effects of multiple risk factors on innovation, including organisational aversion to risk and management strategies to reduce the risk of innovation failure
  • The development of context-specific measures of social and public sector innovation
  • The development of better research designs and methodologies (both experimentation and non-experimentation) that bridge the divide between theory and practice
  • Quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods approaches for analysis of innovation
  • Alternative set-theoretic techniques that combine qualitative reasoning and quantitative testing within one analysis and that capture multiple realities

Potential students interested in working in this area should email: or