There’s at least one thing liberals and conservatives have in common: They care how their government spends their tax dollars. Facing intense pressure from all sides, the public sector is always innovating in the hopes of delivering effective, efficient services. As part of this effort, public and nonprofit organizations often adopt the competitive structure, culture, and management practices of private businesses. However, public sector innovation may benefit more from collaboration than competition.   

What Does Innovation Mean for the Public Sector? 

Public-sector innovation is a process through which “problems are defined; new ideas are developed and combined; prototypes and pilots are designed, tested, and redesigned; and new solutions are implemented, diffused, and problematized.” In this context, innovation is disruptive, breaking down barriers such as political oppositions, and leading to the adoption of new technologies and approaches. Improving an existing solution is not enough. To solve emerging and evolving problems, public and nonprofit organizations must be in a constant state of change. 

While innovation is not a cure-all—integrated planning, resource allocation, and service improvements are all just as important—it can help governments make the most of limited resources. Here are several innovations that are transforming public and non-profit organizations.  

Web 2.0 

Web 2.0 tools provide numerous ways for governments to engage with the public—with admittedly mixed results. Twitter has become a go-to platform for politicians looking to rile up their bases. However, after an earthquake, hurricane, or other crisis, this same platform is used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to gather real-time emergency information from community members that inform response efforts. Social media platforms, along with blogs, wikis, crowdsourcing, and other Web 2.0 tools, allow agencies to promote transparency while encouraging people to participate and collaborate in improving public services. 


Co-production is a process in which government and non-government organizations collaborate to improve public services. For example, health departments performed contact tracing at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging with communities to provide them with the resources and services they needed. Licensed healthcare professionals were later asked to volunteer to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in their communities. New, creative solutions emerge when people with different perspectives and experiences are brought together, and it’s yet another example of how collaboration breeds innovation.  

Public-Private Partnerships 

Public organizations may not operate like businesses, but they can reduce costs and manage risks by forming public-private partnerships (P3s). The U.S. happens to be one of the largest—if not the largest—P3 market in the world for infrastructure projects, and there are countless opportunities across the country for for-profit firms to take on a project’s design, construction, and maintenance. Minority- and women-owned businesses are often given priority during the procurement process, helping to foster a collaborative, innovative environment.  

Public vs. Private  

Achieving goals while operating within a budget is a priority for any public entity, but unlike private businesses, public institutions aren’t driven by profits. They exist for the sole benefit of citizens, delivering services like healthcare, infrastructure, public transit, and public education. Although red tape can be counterproductive, bureaucracy can actually promote innovation by safeguarding against waste, instability, and corruption. Policies can be rewritten. A risk-averse private business that favors short-term profits over creativity and collaboration? That can be a harder problem to solve.

Improving Access 

Not everyone has access to public services, especially healthcare. About 20% of the U.S. population live in rural areas and tend to have higher rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, and unintentional injury than their urban counterparts. Numerous factors contribute to the poor health outcomes of rural Americans, but the fact that only 11% of physicians practice in these areas doesn’t help. Telehealth has increased access to healthcare in rural and underserved areas, but government agencies must continue innovating if they are to provide equal access to these and other essential public services.  

Innovation in Public and Nonprofit Organizations 

The innovations we’ve discussed offer a glimpse at the focus of the UT Permian Basin course Innovation in Public and Nonprofit Organizations. This online course exposes students to innovative tools and practices, exploring such topics as performance measurement, collaborative innovation, and social entrepreneurship. By engaging with online lectures and discussions, students gain a deeper understanding of public-sector innovation in preparation for careers in emergency, financial, human resource, and public relations management, among others.  

Earn Your MPA Online From UT Permian Basin 

Innovation in Public and Nonprofit Organizations is offered as part of our online Master of Public Administration program. This 36-credit online program prepares students for leadership roles in public administration by teaching them how to address challenges in a practical, ethical, and politically savvy manner. In as little as one year, students can graduate with a career-enhancing graduate credential and an expanded skill set that will help ensure their success in fields including criminal justice, fine arts, healthcare, human services, public safety, or transportation.   

The University of Texas Permian Basin’s MPA program is entirely online and features asynchronous elements, allowing you to pursue your master’s degree while you continue to work, care for your family, and balance your personal and professional life. We also offer a variety of elective courses, such as Marketing Management, Healthcare Management, and Cultural Diversity in Education and the Social Sciences, so you can gear your studies toward your professional interests. At UT Permian Basin, every measure has been taken to offer you an online MPA program with as much value as possible.  

Apply to our online MPA program now to pursue your graduate degree alongside other aspiring leaders in professional administration.