It takes three to tango – End-user engagement in innovative public procurement

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa, Arina auditorium (TA105)

Topic of the dissertation

It takes three to tango – End-user engagement in innovative public procurement

Doctoral candidate

M.Sc. (Economics and Business Administration) Hannu Torvinen

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Oulu Business School, Department of Marketing, Management & International Business

Subject of study



Associate Professor Morten Abrahamsen, BI Norwegian Business School


Professor Pauliina Ulkuniemi, Oulu Business School

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Public procurement by the public

The doctoral thesis examines the phenomenon of end-user engagement in innovative public procurement. The study encourages the placement of end-user interaction further at the heart of innovative public procurement procedures. The findings of the thesis are based on interview, observation and document data on four innovative property procurement cases in northern Finland. The key objective of innovative public procurement can be seen in enhancing the efficiency and quality of public services through closer collaboration with the suppliers and service providers as well as other stakeholders affected by the public service. Where the consideration of innovative procurement practices in Finnish municipalities usually starts from the procurement’s financial constraints, imperative for the birth of innovative products, services and processes is interaction with service users from procurement’s planning to its tendering and evaluation phases. Legislatively proper, yet conversational procurement model can also help to lower public opposition against the procurement. The first sub-study of the thesis groups end-user engagement activities in four categories of dialogue, access, risk assessment and reflexivity, as well as transparency related actions. Most important for the end-user’s value experience is direct interaction especially in early planning phases of the procurement. In addition, particularly beneficial for the procurement’s success is indirect sharing of resources that enables end-user’s access to sufficient procurement information and independent value creation. The main objective of end-user engagement can be seen in added value-in-use for the public. Although for instance a school property principally serves the needs of students and teachers, user engagement can indirectly enhance the well-being of the whole society through the benefits of education. The second sub-study tackles the presently fuzzy understanding of end-user roles in the public sector. A specific discovery of the study are role conflicts where end-user is confronted by multiple roles either consecutively or simultaneously during the procurement process. Especially potential conflicts of interests are in small user communities, where the same individual might simultaneously act as a teacher, parent, municipal decision-maker, taxpayer, as well as leisure user of the property procured. Based on end-users’ different potential to generate value-in-use as well as users’ different readiness to engage in interaction, study identifies four situation-specific end-user roles of conventional, cooperative, collaborative and controlling roles. Finally, the third sub-study of the thesis addresses that adopting a user-centred approach to public procurement calls for an experimental culture from the procurer. This enables crucial capabilities of learning-by-doing, networking and evaluation of external support to take place. Notably, the study indicates large size of the procurer organization largely irrelevant to the success of user-centred public procurement. A small municipal organization can be extremely agile in implementing an innovative procurement project by demonstrating a conversational attitude and courage to experiment.
Last updated: 1.3.2023