National officials working in international bureaucracies regularly invoke the fear that member-states strategically use such officials for influencing decision-making to their advantage. Using ones national officials as ‘Trojan horses’ naturally implies a lack of autonomy of such officials working in international organizations, which critically threatens the independence of the organization as such. While national officials’ potential lack of autonomy has been extensively discussed in both academic and public circles, the underlying mechanisms are less well understood. Our analysis takes one step in this direction.
by Akil N Awan, Lecturer in Political Violence & Terrorism at Royal Holloway
This post was originally published on The Conversation blog on 29th January 2015
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill 2014-15, having been rushed through the House of Commons with alarming speed and ease, has passed its second reading in the House of Lords. It is now in the final committee stages and on course to become law within a matter of weeks.
Caught between falling tax revenues and increasing expenditures, governments across the world are looking for new ways of extracting economy and efficiency from the public sector. As in the past, the claim that business can deliver public services more efficiently than the state, provides a key inspiration for reform.
Governments can engage the private sector in public service delivery in a number of different ways. They can open clearly specified functions – like cleaning, refuse collection or grounds maintenance – to a competitive tendering process and then contract with the organisation which promises best value. Alternatively, they may externalise – or, in more loaded terms, ‘privatise’ – the delivery of a whole service, Continue reading Public–private partnerships, management capacity and public service efficiency→
Greater Manchester will become the next urban area in the UK to directly elect a mayor, following Bristol who first elected a mayor in 2012. One of the frustrations in the debate around directly elected mayors, however, is the lack of empirical evidence around which to evaluate their impact. Here, David Sweeting presents some early analysis of data from both before and after the introduction of the mayoral system in Bristol.
Recently George Osborne announced the creation of a ‘metro-mayor’ for Greater Manchester. In doing so he has joined a long line of heavyweight politicians who have endorsed the idea of directly elected mayors as at least part of the solution to issues in urban governance in English cities. From as far back as Michael Heseltine in the early 1990s, via Tony Blair, and through David Cameron the idea of a single figure to govern our Continue reading What impact do mayors have on the cities that elect them?→
Public participation in policy decisions has undoubtedly improved in recent years, yet the system is still far from perfect. Formal or “top-down” mechanisms continue to serve as a starting point, but how they interact with or are complemented by informal or “bottom-up” alternatives is to this day something of a lottery. My latest research, examining the proposed High-Speed 2 (HS2) rail link between London Continue reading Will policymakers ever really listen to the public?→
Over the last few decades, successive UK governments have encouraged the transfer of local authority staff into new employee-owned mutual organisations (also known as ‘spin-outs’). These spin-outs often take the organisational form of social enterprises that continue to deliver public services, but as self-reliant and independent organisations. Policy-makers are hoping that by encouraging public sector workers to be more entrepreneurial, public services can become more innovative, efficient and responsive to the needs of those who use them. The ultimate aim of this policy is to improve services at the same time as making savings to the public purse. Continue reading Public Service Mutuals: An Effective Partnership or Political Challenge?→
by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P conference
The final plenary session of the conference was delivered in energetic fashion by Prof Jacob Torfing, Roskilde University, who took us through a whistle-stop tour of what we can achieve through collaboration and how it enhances innovation. He explained that the last 30 years or so has seen a growing focus on public sector innovation, where previously this had been seen as something of a contradiction in terms, it is now seen as a means to boosting the private sector. Innovation is now pretty high on the public sector agenda.
Using an analogy of the ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’ he took us through three key areas of innovation narratives. The ‘good’ was used to describe the existence of high political ambitions, which is a good thing, but where there is the need to invent new practices in order to achieve those ambitions. The ‘bad’ referred to the ‘wicked problems’ that exist and can’t be solved through standard solutions or by just throwing money at the problem. In this case, creative problem solving is needed. The ‘ugly’ related to the disconnect between expectations and ability to deliver, where there are increasing expectations from citizens at a time when public resources are limited. This disconnect is driving the need to pursue innovation in order to deliver more for less.
Jacob then raised the key question, that is, can the public sector innovate? To which the answer is obviously yes, but where there are various caveats. The public sector is far more innovative and dynamic than its reputation would suggest but it is often episodic and accidental, so as a result enhanced organisational capacity doesn’t always follow. He then added a word of caution, reminding us that innovation is not an end in itself, it is about providing solutions to problems and improving performance and it doesn’t always work!
According to Jacob, one of the biggest problem with public sector innovation is the search for innovation heroes, an approach that is well known in and translated from the private sector. In the public sector it works less well, who are the innovation heroes, are they the elected politicians, the public managers, private contractors, public employees or service users? There are just too many options in the public sector and it is important to remember that innovation is rarely triggered by single individuals, but is more of a team sport. There is greater potential for innovation where multi actors are involved, providing different perspectives and generating joint ownership of bold solutions.
The question then arises of how we lead and manage collaborative innovation and the need to explore the link between theories of collaborative governance and theories of innovation. There’s a massive literature out there on leadership that can be drawn into the debate on innovation, from pragmatic and adaptive leadership to distributive and collaborative leadership, there’s plenty to offer the discussion.
Perhaps one of the key points of this discussion is what this means for public managers and how it changes their role? Jacob describe three new roles for public managers – the convenor, facilitator and catalyst – with all three needed to generate collaborative innovation. A big challenge for the future for all those in the public sector.
Tessa Coombes has just completed the MSc in Public Policy at Bristol University, is a former Bristol City Councillor and regularly blogs about policy, politics and place.