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Third sector organizations and the co-production of health innovations

Paul Windrum (Nottingham University Business School, Nottingham University, Nottingham, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 8 July 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine the roles played by third sector organizations in forming and managing health innovation networks, and their contribution to the co-production of new health services.


Using data collected in four case studies, the findings highlight the central role of third sector organizations in forming and organizing public-private health networks.


They are trusted organizations, commonly patient advocates, with perceived neutrality. Members of these organizations take leading roles in innovations networks, using their excellent network connections and their prominent positions within their organizations to leverage competences and funding. A key asset of key third sector individuals is their prior experience of public and private sector organizations and, hence, the ability to move across public-private boundaries.

Practical implications

The research findings have important implications for practitioners. The author identifies a set of key drivers and barriers for the successful organization of innovation networks and the innovative services they develop. Prior knowledge and experience of partners, often linked to personal ties, in initial partner selection but are also important for trust and the effective organization of complementary competences during innovation projects. The absence of direct competitors – whether public, private or third sector organizations – is also highlighted. Non-rivalry and different partners’ interests in the outcomes of the innovation reduces moral hazard and the associated costs of setting up and monitoring formal contracts. Heterogeneity requires flexibility by actors; to understand partners’ different values, cultures, and organizational drivers. Finally, the research findings identify policy and practitioner enrolment as critical for the successful roll out and diffusion of service innovations.


The paper examines an important, but under researched issue – the role of third-sector organizations in collaborative innovation projects.



Windrum, P. (2014), "Third sector organizations and the co-production of health innovations", Management Decision, Vol. 52 No. 6, pp. 1046-1056.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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