Innovating for the Greater Good: Examining Innovation Champions and what Motivates them


Governments have increasingly tasked the not-for-profit sector with supporting the provision of public goods and services. Alongside this role, not-for-profits have faced increasingly challenging external contexts, including heightened competition and tighter funding regimes. This makes effective innovation critical for the successful delivery of social goods within this setting particularly, and in other public service-oriented organisations more broadly. However, we know little about how innovation occurs in such contexts and even less about the motivations of those who choose to expend the effort to drive innovation there. This study examines the motivations of a key innovation agent, the innovation champion, in the challenging and dynamic not-for-profit context. Via a multi-case study, qualitative approach with 46 interviews, we utilise self-determination theory to surface what motivates innovation champions to develop and drive new idea generation and implementation. The motivations for championing innovations in not-for-profits are varied, spanning intrinsic, prosocial, and other extrinsic drivers. With wider implications for public service-oriented organisations, our work also suggests that champions in such contexts are variably motivated throughout an innovation project and appear to be simultaneously intrinsically and prosocially motivated. We also find that boredom, or its avoidance, can motivate champions toward innovative activities.

Innovation, champion, not-for-profit

Molloy, C., Bankins, S., Kriz, A., & Barnes, L. (2024). Innovating for the greater good: Examining innovation champions and what motivates them. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 83(1), 24-49.

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