Conferences, Proceedings of the 3rd National Local Government Research Forum

Font Size: 
Local government as a facilitator of systemic social innovation
Sharon Zivkovic

Last modified: 2013-10-23


It is widely recognised that new and innovative approaches are required to address the complex, wicked problems that communities face. To tackle these challenges, local governments are developing new and innovative products, services and processes, and replicating innovations that are promoted as having been successfully implemented in other local government areas. This paper argues that approaches focusing on separate individual product, service and process innovations, and then replicating these innovations in new contexts, are not suitable for wicked problems. Instead, it is argued that local governments need to take a systemic approach to innovation when addressing wicked problems: an approach that is informed by complex adaptive systems theory that is specific to an individual community’s unique needs, and utilises the community’s unique resources and collective intelligence. To demonstrate this approach, a diagnostic tool for systemic social innovation which was reasoned during a project with the City of Onkaparinga is described. This tool highlights nine areas that local governments can focus upon to facilitate systemic social innovation. Five of these areas enable communities to unlock their complex adaptive system dynamics; two areas assist government systems to undertake unplanned explorations of solutions with communities; and two areas assist government systems to exploit the knowledge, ideas and innovations that emerge from community-led activities. A new research project is then described which aims to investigate if this diagnostic tool can be used to affect systemic change in a local government area.

Full Text: PDF