First Advisor

Masami Nishishiba

Term of Graduation

Summer 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Affairs and Policy


Public Affairs and Policy




Policy diffusion, Policy entrepreneurs, Policy innovation, Policy innovation process, Public sector innovation, Smart city



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 372 pages)


Innovation is a necessary process for public sector organizations and governments to adapt to social and economic changes. Innovation helps governments improve public service performance and address wicked challenges. Although the significance of public sector innovation has long been realized, how it occurs, and how it is influenced by contextual factors is not well explored. Particularly, policy innovation that emerges in an open and dynamic social system is understudied. Policy entrepreneurs mobilize policy change in their social systems, but their roles in a public sector innovation process still needs further investigation.

This study explores the policy innovation process and explicates the determinants that influence the process. It also examines the roles of policy entrepreneurs in the policy innovation process. Smart City initiative in Khon Kaen city of Thailand was examined in this case study. A series of in-depth interviews with 26 policy entrepreneurs were conducted, and other relevant documents were collected and analyzed using a thematic analysis approach.

The findings revealed that the policy innovation took place while both invention and diffusion processes happened simultaneously. The invention process involved activities such as ideation, adaptation, research, development, and agenda setting. The diffusion process involved activities such as government intervention, policy learning, imitation, and competition. Political, geographical, economic, socio-cultural, and global environments were determinants of policy innovation that brought ideas to implementation.

Policy entrepreneurs performed multiple roles that cut across invention, implementation, and diffusion processes. The existing need to solve social problems became an opportunity for the policy entrepreneurs to suggest new approaches. In addition, there was a national and international policy and technology trend that supported innovative ideas, which helped policy entrepreneurs to seize the opportunity to pursue new ideas. Those policy entrepreneurs harnessed their knowledge, political connections, social networks, financial resources, and timing to influence policy change. While they were able to push ideas into practice, they confronted various barriers emerging in the policy environment, and these barriers were found at the levels of individual, organization, sector, and society.


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