In search of bureaucratic entrepreneurship: A study of how everyday entrepreneurial practices influence public bureaucratic organisations

Kristian Holmgaard Bernth

Student thesis: Master thesis


Public bureaucratic organisations are under heavy critique for their alleged inability to respond to the challenges of contemporary society. Increasingly, scholars and politicians propose a market-based ‘enterprise’ alternative, which is argued to be the entrepreneurial and responsive opposite of bureaucracy. In this debate no attempt has been made at understanding, how entrepreneurship can be part of public organisations because of their bureaucratic characteristics as opposed to in spite of them. In this study I search for a new understanding of entrepreneurship, as bureaucratic entrepreneurship. The research focuses on the role that public employees play, by asking how entrepreneurial acts are performed by public employees to make room for new kinds of practices in their organisation. The question is answered through a study of the two Danish agencies the Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation and the Danish Enterprise and Construction Authority. Using narrative interviews from the two agencies the complexity and drama of bureaucratic entrepreneurship is unfolded through stories of entrepreneurial practices. Exactly drama is an important result of the analysis, which shows how conduct in the two agencies is governed by a highly implicit strategy for innovation. Upon this implicit strategy, the employees perform entrepreneurial acts with passion to produce new bureaucratic practices that lie close to and consistent with their bureaucratic ethos. The drama intensifies as the performances are conducted through three organisational characters, the manager, the bureaucrat and the entrepreneur, who conflict and converse in the process of developing the bureaucratic qualities of the organisation. Bureaucratic entrepreneurship extends our practical and theoretical understanding, of how bureaucratic organisations develop dynamically on the basis of the actions of employees. The thesis shows, how the bureaucratic model involves a unique sense of both entrepreneurship and ultimately innovation. However, it also questions the dispassionate involvement we normally associate with the bureaucrat, and emphasise how scholars and public managers alike must be attentive to the drama of bureaucratic entrepreneurship.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages75