Public innovation policies: implications of unlearning and interactions in achieving results


Publication date: 15/09/2023

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Summary: To stimulate specific sectors of the economy, the federal government has adopted as one of its
strategies the creation of public policies through programs made available to state governments,
in a kind of collaborative network aimed at regional development. This is the case of the
innovative entrepreneurship incentive program, led by the Brazilian federal government and
implemented by state governments. There is, however, a conflict between the dynamism
inherent to the innovation process and the slowness resulting from public bureaucracy, which
is enhanced by management behavior in the different participating governmental instances. In
this context, the results become highly dependent on adaptations in the processes, providing
opportunities for potential improvements in the public policy itself. This thesis assumes that, in
this context, interactions and unlearning are essential in the process of implementing and
improving public innovation policies. For that, it was investigated how the interactions
influence the unlearning process between the actors responsible for implementing of a public
innovation policy. The study is based on concepts of public management, public policies and
unlearning in a complex adaptive system. This is a qualitative research, of a descriptive and
explanatory nature, which had as a case study the experience of the Centelha Program, in the
state of Espirito Santo. Data were collected through interviews, questionnaire and documents.
Data analysis was performed using narrative analysis techniques, descriptive statistics and
document analysis. Results showed that informal interactions were predominant in an attempt
to reconcile public bureaucracy and dynamic demands throughout implementation. The public
innovation policy required several adaptations, which were possible from the mobilization and
interference of entrepreneurs for the action and intervention of responsible public managers.
The results also showed that the interactions, especially the informal ones, potentiated the
unlearning process in order to make necessary changes throughout the development of the
public innovation policy and, also, aiming at the improvement of future editions. The changes
carried out during the implementation were directly dependent on the encouragement of public
managers to enable a virtuous circle between learning and unlearning, resulting from dynamic
interactions. The dynamism of the public innovation policy encouraged actors to reflectively
practice in situations of unlearning and learning in the face of the unpredictability of innovation
and bureaucratic obstacles. It is concluded that the replication of practices used in other public
policies is inappropriate to the creative, unpredictable and dynamic context inherent to a public
innovation policy. Therefore, the rigidity of a public innovation policy in a dynamic and
reflective context compromises success.

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