Quote of the week
“Value is determined by citizen’ preferences, expressed through a variety of means…”
— U.K. research document
Many think the traditional Westminster system of public management is on life support. And with the decline of New Public Management and its market-based approach to government business, which theoretically superseded it, a new term is being used increasingly in discussions around public sector reform.
It is called “public value.”
A U.K. discussion paper defines public value as “the value created by government through services, laws, regulation and other activities.”
The concept speaks to an important role played by citizens in setting government priorities and implementing programs and policies. Citizens essentially define what they want from government and provide it with the resources to get the work done. As a result, there is an implicit contract created between the citizens and the government on what should be done, and this agreement gives the latter legitimacy.
This implies a lot of ongoing public participation, including stakeholders, citizens and customers. Under our traditional model of public management, citizen engagement is limited to elections and general public pressure. Under the NPM model, citizen engagement focuses on business issues.
The public value approach also has implications for performance management in the public service. Typically, under the traditional model of public administration, managers are expected to respond to political direction. Under NPM, performance targets are set for them. Under the concept of public value, there would be an increased requirement to focus on, and respond to, citizen preferences.
This concept is interesting as it is offering another framework for thinking about how government can remain relevant to an increasingly disinterested and cynical electorate.