Special issue blog series on strategic management of the transition to public sector co-creation
Christopher Ansell and Jacob Torfing
In our recent article in our special issue on Strategic management of the transition to public sector co-creation, we reminisce briefly about the time when bureaucracy with its hierarchical command structure and emphasis on compliance with written rules was the only game in town. This was understandable, since the public sector was tasked with solving simple problems through large-scale provision of services such as schooling, health care and social welfare. This task called for exploitation of the bureaucratic forms of organisation propagated by industrialisation.
Then, from the 1970s onwards, the criticisms of the public sector for being inefficient and delivering poor services and failing governance solutions started to grow and the public sector was confronted with the question whether to ‘make or buy’. As a result, we saw the expansion of quasi-markets where public and private service providers competed for contracts and customers. This development turned citizens into demanding, dissatisfied and complaining consumers expecting service without having to contribute anything themselves towards problem solving. In the increasingly cash-strapped public sector, this development seems to be unsustainable. We need to mobilise the manifold resources of users, citizens and private stakeholders in order to provide needs-based services and create new and better solutions through mutual learning and innovation. Continue reading SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 2 – Co-creation: the new kid on the block in public governance→
In our recent open access article in Policy & Politics, Johan Kaluza and I take as our starting point for our argument the point that public service organisations should recognise citizens as active co-producers rather than passive recipients in service design and provision. Indeed, there are a number of studies showing that citizens are capable and willing to contribute to public service outcomes that are beneficial not only to themselves but also to the broader citizenry.
However, an important question in the co-production debate is how organisations can effectively engage and enable citizens to become co-producers. We argue that one answer to this question lies in the role taken by front-line employees. Through direct contact and collaboration with service users, they can ‘activate’ citizens to co-produce. Taking this argument one step further, we ask if the actual recruitment of these front-line employees could be a co-produced process with respective service users involved? But what happens when relevant users are actually involved in the recruitment of social workers, teachers, or employment officers? Continue reading Can citizen involvement in the recruitment of front-line employees help to identify candidates who will be effective at co-production?→
Since the late 1970s, governments in many countries have adopted privatisation reforms, including contracting-out public services, transferring functions and responsibilities to the private sectors, and selling enterprises to private interests. The practice of privatisation in some developing countries has led to the problem of unequal treatment. For instance, many local governments in China outsourced their public services (e.g. public bus services, water supply and waste disposal services) to private companies. This included the delegation of operations entirely to these private entities. Government subsidies were allocated to the private operators, but these subsidies could not cover the full costs incurred by those private operators.. In this context, the private operators had to concentrate their services in densely populated areas and neglect the needs of more sparsely populated areas, resulting in the inadequate provision of services in the latter areas. As a result of this, some local governments withdrew from these privatised arrangements in order to ensure a more equal provision of services.
Our recent Policy & Politics article explores whether and to what extent privatisation and its reversal influence public service equity in China. Our paper focuses on public bus services in China, the provision of which has been subject to both privatisation and subsequent re-nationalisation, and draws upon an extensive programme of research that covered 245 cities. The Coefficient of Variation (CV) method was used to measure equity, and the multiple-regression method was adopted to test the relationship between privatisation and equity. Continue reading Has privatisation influenced public service equity? Evidence from China→
From a prevailing, long-standing debate in the journal on the welfare state, we bring you a collection of our best and most recent articles. To highlight just a couple: Anthony McCashin’s How much change? Pierson and the welfare state revisited provides a structural overview of the impact of globalisation on analyses of the welfare state.
Try our new themed virtual issues which are free to download from 1-30 November:
Public Services and Reform
In this new virtual issue, we bring you our most impactful and recent research from diverse perspectives with a coherence of focus on increasing our understanding of public services and reform.
Free research articles for APPAM 2017 from Policy & Politics onthe importance of evidence-based policy making, why measurement matters and, Claire Dunlop on learning from failure.
In celebration of APPAM’s Fall Research Conference theme this year which looks at the importance of measurement in evaluating policy and performance, we have developed a virtual issue of recent research articles based on the conference theme which are free to access from 1-30 November. Just click on the hyperlinks below to go straight to the download page for each article.
The April 2016 issue of Policy & Politics includes two articles about one of the most pressing issues facing contemporary public administration – how governments can successfully harness the resources of the private sector to deliver public services.
The articles, by John Nicholson and Kevin Orr, and Chris Lonsdale et al., differ significantly in theory and method. The former is sociological and qualitative, examining micro-level working relations between public and private actors. The latter uses institutional economics and mid-range survey data to test hypotheses about public procurement processes. Yet, despite these differences, each article shares an interest in public-private relations. Continue reading Inspired by the issue→
Catherine Durose discusses her latest article with co-authors Jonathan Justice and Chris Skelcher. Catherine is on the Editorial Board of Policy & Politics and is based at the University of Birmingham, UK.
What is the best way to organize the design and implementation of public policies and services? We do not pretend to know. Further, we would argue that a meaningful answer can be provided only contingently. It might therefore be more productive to ask a slightly different question: How can we go about figuring out – in a given situation at a specific time with respect to a specific complex of decisions and services – what the best way might be?
A century ago, industrial engineer Frederick Taylor famously argued that managers ought to determine the one best way to do any given task, and then train their subordinates to do things in precisely that best way. Contemporary scholars of organization, however, tend to agree that activities for which a single best way can be prescribed and implemented are very rare. In the 1950s, scholars in the rapidly suburbanizing U.S. debated whether local -government policies and services were better organized through a multiplicity of jurisdictions or through unitary consolidated metropolitan governments. Versions of that debate continue to this day, not only in the U.S. and Continue reading Is there “one best way” to govern public services?→
The research reported in our article UK Employment Services: understanding provider strategies in a dynamic strategic action field was carried out in 2012 as part of the ESRC-funded Third Sector Research Centre’s programme on the third sector’s role in public services. From the outset, we were aware that the third sector had long played a significant role in the mixed economy of employment services, and this was at a point when the UK Coalition government’s new Work Programme was being implemented. Our key interest was to explore the ways in which the third sector was involved in this new programme, and to examine to what extent its contribution could be seen as distinctively different to that of other sectors.
“To each that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance, but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.“ The Gospel according to Matthew, 13:12.
I don’t tend to quote the Bible (or indeed any religious text) very often. This Biblical reference does however draw attention to the fact that we have been concerned about the so-called ‘Matthew effect’– or the law of accumulated advantage – for some considerable time. The research (and indeed the policy community) have been rather reluctant to devote very much time and effort to understanding how and why those who are already in positions of advantage are better able to extend that advantage, in comparison to deprived social groups, when it comes to interacting with the local state and in particular public services.