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Date(s) - 25/01/2024 - 26/01/2024
All Day

Université Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (Université Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) - Université Paris Saclay)


Call for contributions

Ethics and Innovation in Public Administration

Conference, 25-26 January 2024, 

ISM-IAE de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines

Publication to be finalized in September 2024

Innovation management is an important topic in economic literature, but less studied in public administration (de Lancer Julnes, Gibson, 2015; Demir, 2022). Indeed, public organizations are more associated with a procedural form of bureaucracy, limiting the initiative-taking of civil servants: any improvement in service must first be validated according to a more or less lengthy decision-making process and above all not necessarily geared towards user satisfaction. These public organizations were rightly seen as less customer-oriented, in the name of public values not necessarily shared by all. Indeed, innovation is supposed to be stimulated by competition, whereas public organizations are subject to little or no market pressure. Fortunately, today, several factors are encouraging public-sector organizations to innovate themselves, either by adopting an experiential approach (such as customer experience), and progressively (towards citizen experience?), or by adopting a quality approach and/or benchmarking procedure: pressure from user-consumers, their increased means of information and comparison, the pugnacity of privatesector companies, and the availability of technological innovations enabling the consumption of public goods to be individualized.

Over the past three decades, innovation within public administration does seem to have been inspired by developments in the private sector, such as, for example, New Public Management or Organizational Social Responsibility, etc. (El-Taliawi, Dayal, 2018). More, innovations often emanate from the initiative of citizens themselves (Rouet & Côme, 2023), social entrepreneurs or even NGOs. For all that, public administration remains a very fertile ground for innovations (de Lancer Julnes & Gibson, 2015, Gil-Garcia et al., 2020).

One of the European Union’s stated objectives is to help improve the quality of public administrations in its member states, as well as their governance, with an impact on both the economic performance of companies and the social performance of citizens. Administrative practices must therefore be based on a renewed approach to citizens and their needs, with respect for the ethics of public life, transparency and accountability (Pantiru, 2019; France22, 2022). The European Commission supports a number of projects, including action plans to combat corruption and fraud, the design of new internal audit and control systems and methods, and the modernization of public procurement systems, therefore some incorporate both innovation and ethics[1].

However, just as in the private sector (Hanekamp, 2007), the ethics of innovation are rarely questioned in public administration, particularly when it comes to digital innovations. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, a practice, service or product recognized or advertised as an “innovation” is associated with progress, with a positive a priori for the user-consumer, perhaps less positively felt for the operator. Of course, no one is opposed to innovation, if it’s possible to set up educational and adherence systems, and to adopt an ethical approach, except to assume a conservatism that can only be denounced and even condemned. What’s more, as the missions of public organizations are geared towards researching, maintaining and developing the “common good”, their “innovations” are all the more likely to be factors of progress and improvement in social life. The development of e-administration is a good illustration of these presuppositions, and indeed, the generalization of online administrative procedures is indeed progress, overall, but the effects of the reduction, or even disappearance, of relations with public service agents have not been sufficiently anticipated, and are only just beginning to be studied. The weak point of these innovations, however, remains their inclusion in an electoral cycle, tinged with mimicry in the case of local authorities, and with a limited time horizon, particularly in terms of their real impact.

Every organization must constantly strive to ensure its institutional integrity, particularly in terms of its missions and practices. Public servants must therefore behave in a way that is adapted to this objective, and know how to separate individual (or corporatist) interests from the general interest. It’s legitimate to ask what this means in the case of digital innovations.

Ethics, and administrative ethics in particular, as a field of reflection on values, the traditional pillars of public administration (Economy, Efficiency, Effectiveness and Equity) or more recent ones (Evaluation, Resilience) and the goals of human action, on standards, practical rules and moral principles, has long been at the heart of numerous analyses and research projects, particularly on regulatory tools and mechanisms (laws, regulations, charters, etc.) and their evolution ((Frederickson, 2003 ; Frederickson, Rohr, 1993; Cooper, 2000; Piron, 2002; Piraux, 2008; Bartoli et al, 2011, Dutelle & Taylor, 2021). Corruption is one of the main themes addressed (Cox, 2009; Merloni, 2018). It also extends to nepotism and favoritism, or even cronyism. This issue is sometimes addressed at the individual level with virtue theory (Vries, Kim, 2011), or at the organizational and institutional level with critical theory (Boje, 2008).

Thus, research into the ethics of innovations (managerial, organizational, technological, social) in public administration remains quite scarce. A quick survey of the literature reveals two contradictory currents: the first, very optimistic, encourages public organizations to imitate private organizations and multiply codes of ethics; the second, rather pessimistic, focuses on the loss of ethics in public administration, or even the loss of meaning and values among public agents, and the multiplication of opportunistic behavior.

To resume, there is some literature on innovations in PA, but as far as we know, there is no books that focus on an ethic of innovations in PA. This collective project proposes to contribute to an ethical analysis of innovations (and of its uses) in the public sector, particularly digital innovations, which is itself performative and enables us to envisage future collective actions. It follows on from the collective project “Participatory and Digital Democracy at Local Level”, which led to the organization of a symposium on January 28, 2022, followed by a publication by Springer in January 2023.

Ethical theory includes many currents: consequentialism, deontology, virtue and communitarianism, social contract, justice, discourse and feminine ethics (Painter-Morland, 2008; Fryer, 2015). Some of these approaches are normative and involve explicit codes of ethics and rules, while others are descriptive, but all focus on an abstract, universal level of analysis that is sometimes disconnected from everyday working life.

Codes, rules and values are interpreted by social actors in order to make sense of them in reallife situations. On the basis, notably, of phenomenological and pragmatist ethics, we propose to consider ethics as a collective realization through the performance of social practices. The social practices approach is itself a collection of multiple currents: ethnomethodology, actor-network theory, discourse, critical, feminist approaches, community of practice, Bourdieusian, Schatzkian and Giddensian praxeologies, and pragmatic sociology (Nicolini, 2013; Bueger, Gadinger, 2018). What all these approaches have in common is an emphasis on everyday life, meaning-making and the rejection of classical dualities (matter versus meaning, structure versus agency).

While social practice approaches are frequently mobilized to study innovation processes, this is not the case for business ethics studies. Painter-Morland and Bos (2011) propose considering ethics as a practice carried out in everyday business situations, but without empirical analysis. Furthermore, it seems that the existing literature places little emphasis on ethics as a practice in public organizations.

For Schatzki (1996, p. 89), social practices are dispersed temporal and spatial links of “acts and words”, organized around “shared understandings” (Schatzki, 2002). Shared understandings are normative, attributing identities and values to social actors and material artifacts. Ethics is thus a dimension of all social practices. It is therefore possible to consider practices as routine articulations of acts and words, or as performances (Shove, Pantzar, Watson, 2012). In the former case, the aim is to study how elements of practice are routinely articulated at a historical and structural level (shared understandings); in the latter, particular instances of specific spatiotemporal realizations of practice can be analyzed (particular words and deeds).

Thus, innovations (technological, managerial, social, etc.) are new performances (words and deeds) of existing social practices. But a social practice (digital voting, for example) is not isolated. It is interwoven with other local social practices (face-to-face voting, electoral practices, communication practices, etc.). Ethical dilemmas emerge when a new social practice is in contradiction with other existing or emerging practices.

Put differently, we propose to study innovation and ethic of PA in order to engage practitioners, students and even some researchers in more reflexive attitude toward PA practices. We argue that ethics is not disincarnated code or policy but an everyday achievement. Innovation is an opportunity to engage in ethical dialogue.

The aim of this project is to take part in a theoretical exploration enabling an analysis of practices, in an attempt to understand how to tackle the ethical dilemmas of innovation within public administrations in Europe. The theoretical analysis envisaged is therefore not purely abstract and/or normative, but will be part of an appropriation of current approaches. As such, the aim is to improve day-to-day practice, and to interest researchers, public managers, civil servants, citizens, associations and students.

Some general suggested themes

      • Ethics of PA: raison d’être or logic of power
      • Between Political and Business ethics in PA
      • PA: for an ethical everyday dialogue
      • IA and ethic in PA
      • Digital transformations in PA and their effects
      • Digital innovations in PA: “Technologism” versus opportunity to realize public services values
      • Social transformations in and by PA
      • EU PAs: Membership Diversity and Policy Ethics
      • PAs in the EU: EU as a catalyst for innovation (?)
      • Ethical evaluation of PA’ innovations
      • Success stories of ethical innovations in PAs
      • Ethics of PA’ innovations: Perspectives

Contributions may address the following points:

    • A theoretical analysis of empirical cases of innovation within public administration in different local contexts, enabling common processes to be identified.
    • European Union as an ethical innovation: a European dimension with, in particular, a study of the European Union’s ethics and values for innovation in public administration at European and local level.
    • Case studies in different sectors of public administration (military, education, health, etc.), in different professions (executive, employee, senior civil servant, manager, trainer, communicator, etc.) and statuses (contract, civil servant, permanent) and in different countries.
    • Consideration and analysis of different points of view: citizens, politicians, managers, trade unions, NGO, political leaders, etc.
    • The contribution of cases of intrapreneurship within public administration in social and solidarity initiatives.
    • Comparative elements of successful initiatives and solidarity initiatives.
    • Studies on struggles and resistance to change in public administrations, particularly in the name of public values and maintaining public service, and the responses made.
    • Training elected representatives in ethical issues and the need to take them into account before any innovation whether in democratic processes (participatory democracy, district councils, citizen (participatory democracy, neighborhood councils, citizens’ conventions), in administrative services or in the extension of digitalization.
    • Integrating an ethical approach into local authority communications of moral or sexual harassment, the presumption of innocence and the risk of presumption of guilt, particularly through social networks.


Bartoli, A., Keramidas, O., Larat, F., Mazouz, B. (2011). « Vers un management public éthique et performant », Revue Française d’Administration Publique, 4(140), pp. 629-639.

Boje, D. M. (2019). Organisational Research. Storytelling in Action. London, New York, Routledge.

Bueger, C., Gadinger, F. (2018). International Practice Theory. New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

Cooper, T. (2000). Handbook of Administrative Ethics. New York, Routledge.

Cox, R. W. (ed.) (2009). Ethics and Integrity in Public Administration. Concepts and Case. London, New York, Routledge.

de Lancer Julnes, P., Gibson, E. (2015). Innovation in the Public and Nonprofit Sectors. New York, London, Routledge.

Dutelle, A. W., Taylor, R. S. (2021). Ethics for the Public Service Professional. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

France22 (2022), “Strasbourg Declaration on the Common values and challenges of European Public Administrations”, available at < values_challenges_european%20public_administrations_1.pdf>.

Frederickson, G., Rohr, J. A. (1993). Ethics and Public Administration. New York, Routledge.

Fryer, M. (2014). Ethics Theory and Business Practice, Sage.

Gil-Garcia, J. R., Gasco-Hernandez, M., Pardo, T. A. (2020). “Beyond Transparency, Participation, and Collaboration? A Reflection on the Dimensions of Open Government”, Public Performance & Management Review, 43(3), pp. 483-502.

Hanekamp, G. (ed.) (2007). Business Ethic of Innovation. Springer.

Merloni, F. (2019). Corruption and Public Administration. The Italian Case in a Comparative Perspective. London, New York, Routledge.

Nicolini, D. (2013). Practice Theory, Work, and Organisation. An Introduction. Oxford University Press.

Painter-Morland, M. (2008). Business Ethics as Practice. Ethics as the Everyday Business of Business. Cambridge University Press.

Painter-Morland, M., Bos, R. T. (2011). Business Ethics and Continental Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.

Pantiru, M. C. (2019). “Ethics, an integral part of the organizational culture in the European public administrations”. EUPAN survey during the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2019, available at <>.

Piraux, A. (2008). « L’éthique administrative à l’épreuve de ses usages », Revue du Centre d’études et de recherches en administration publique, 16(1), pp. 83-144.

Piron, F. (2002). « Éthique de l’administration et du service public », Revue internationale d’éthique sociétale et gouvernementale, 4(1), pp. 31-44.

Rouet, G., Côme, T. (2023). Participatory and Digital Democracy at the Local Level. Springer.

Schatzki, T. R. (1996). Social Practices. A Wittgensteinian Approach to Human Activity and the Social. Cambridge University Press.

Schatzki, T. R., (2002). The Site of the Social. A Philosophical Account of the Constitution of Social Life and Change. University Park, Pennsylvania State University Press.

Shove, E., Pantzar, M., Watson, M. (2012). The Dynamics of Social Practice. Everyday Life and how it Changes. Sage.

Vries, M. D., Kim, P. S. (eds.) (2011). Value and Virtue in Public Administration. A Comparative Perspective. Springer.

El-Taliawi, O., Dayal, O., (2018), “Ethics and Public Administration”. In: Farazmand, A. (eds) Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance. Springer, pp. 1-4.

Demir, F. (2022). Innovation in the Public Sector. Smarter States, Services and Citizens. Springer.

Proposals for contributions

Project Coordination: Stela Raytcheva, Thierry Côme, Gilles Rouet, LAREQUOI, ParisSaclay University Written Contributions: English – Conference Language: English, French

Proposals for contributions (title, summary of the proposal in English or French, 150 words, 4 to 6 keywords, and personal presentation of the author (s) must be sent before 15 July 2023, simultaneously to

Emmanuel Aman-Morin,  & Gilles Rouet,

The selected authors will receive formatting instructions and will have to send their text before December 15, 2023.

After the conference, a collective publication will be composed with the selected contributions and under the title Ethics and Innovation in Public Administration

Scientific and Organizing Committee

      • Emmanuel Aman-Morin, LAREQUOI
      • Mourad Attarça, LAREQUOI
      • Thierry Côme, LAREQUOI
      • Petia Gueorgieva, NBU, Bulgaria
      • Radovan Gura, UMB, Slovakia
      • Miroslaw Natanek, ISE, Krakow, Poland
      • Gabriela Pascariu, CSE, Iasi, Roumania
      • Grzegorz Pozarlik, ISE, Krakow, Poland
      • Stela Raycheva, LAREQUOI
      • Maria Rostekova, UMB, Slovakia
      • Gilles Rouet, LAREQUOI