Resistance-driven Innovation? Frontline Public Welfare Workers’ Coping with Top- down Implementation




Health, Working Environment and Wellbeing, Identity, meaning & culture, Innovation & productivity, Labor market institutions & social partners, Organization & management


Employee-based innovation researchers point to the important role of welfare workers in public service innovations. Bureaucratic and New Public Management inspired managerial agendas, still widely present in Nordic welfare organizations have been tied to an increase in feelings of inau- thenticity and use of coping strategies by welfare workers. At the same time, post-NPM principles of collaboration and service tailoring are more in line with professional values of welfare workers. Drawing on a critical realist informed case study comprising qualitative interviews and observations in the Norwegian public welfare and employment services, we describe types of revision and resis- tance practices used by frontline employees when faced with top-down implementation instructions, linking them to different types of innovations. The article adds to literatures on employee-based innovation by conceptualizing resistance practices as value-motivated resistance-driven innovation that may have a function of calibrating public value creation in welfare organizations submerged in bureaucratic and NPM-inspired managerial regimes

Author Biographies

Gry Høiland, University of Stavanger

 PhD candidate, Center of Innovation Research, UiS Business School. e-mail:

Elisabeth Willumsen, University of Stavanger

 Professor, Faculty of Health Science.




How to Cite

Høiland, G., & Willumsen, E. (2018). Resistance-driven Innovation? Frontline Public Welfare Workers’ Coping with Top- down Implementation. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 8(2).