Sub-theme 07: (SWG) Organizing the public sector: Governance and public management reform

Christine Teelken
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Nicolette van Gestel
Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Ewan Ferlie
Royal Holloway University of London, UK

Call for Papers

Purpose of this Standing Working Group is to provide a more thorough and nuanced vision on the developments in public management reform.
The organization of the public sector is a very important and relevant topic both theoretically and practically. This SWG enables the coming together of organizational theorists with analysis of governance and the management of public sector organizations in different socio-economic regimes.

For the EGOS 2009 we have chosen the following theme:
Investigating creativity and innovation: How does the public sector innovate and respond to governance and public management reform?

The ongoing developments within the public sector are having differential consequences for the different (sub-)sectors within the public sector as well as for the individual organizations within them, both nationally and internationally. Given the variety and complexity of governance mechanisms in existence within Europe, there is an imperative that EGOS has a forum where these issues and challenges can be discussed.

These international developments are visible in the recent shifts in division of roles between the government and society, with government policy in some domains proposing pulling back to give more responsibility to society. Management based on rules and procedures is gradually being replaced by a system based on performance measurement and decentralized decision-making, e.g. the British 'best value' program for local authorities. While some national governments aspire to become more accountable to their citizens, public and semi-public organizations are being required to demonstrate the results of their activities to their customers.

Public management reform cannot simply be explained by one specific management concept or discourse but is influenced by diverse ideas and motives of both public and private actors at various levels of change. Actual reforms therefore contain a mix of elements, which refer to complex, sometimes conflicting processes of policy-making, implementation and interpretation. The term governance, originally considered synonymously with government has since the 'Eighties' obtained a new meaning, it 'refers to self-organising, inter-organisational networks characterized by interdependence, resource-exchange, rules of the game, and significant autonomy from the state' (Rhodes, 1997: 15). Governance is considered a form of network management and the coordination of the plurality and complexity of hierarchies, markets and networks (Kjaer, 2005). In addition, public management reforms have blurred distinctions between the public and private sectors, what have been the implications for the management and delivery of services?

Public sector organizations need to ensure there is a certain level of creativity and innovation to deal with these current policy demands. Purpose of the SWG meeting in 2009 is to explore the impact of governance and public sector reform at an organizational and (sub-)sectoral level.

  • To what extent do the current public sector governance regimes encourage and require higher levels of creativity and innovation from the public sector organizations?

  • Are the conditions and history of public and governmental institutions facilitators or inhibitors of creativity? Can they accelerate the rate of innovation in public services? Or are they crippled by too much regulation and audit?

  • And at a more macro level, how do these developments correlate with new patterns in society?

  • What are the manifestations, impact and implications of employing creativity and innovation at the public policy as well as public management level?

  • Are new organizational forms emerging (such as social enterprises) which are seen as more innovative and creative than public services providers?

Research in public management reform and governance has traditionally been carried out in a predominantly national context. Of course, this theme can be perceived at a national but also an international perspective, for example, whether we can speak of a specific type of European Community governance. Cross-sectional comparison can be very interesting as well. We therefore specifically encourage empirical studies to enable international or cross-sectional comparisons. However, theoretical explanations for crucial reforms or critical reflections are very welcome, especially those which themselves employ creative and innovative theoretical perspectives.

Concerning the submission of proposal, we would appreciate the following information to be included in the abstract: the purpose of the research, methodology and theoretical approach, (preliminary) findings, and the originality of the paper or work in progress. Particular details concerning the chosen theoretical approach and the way the investigations have been carried out should be made explicit.

Christine Teelken 
Nicolette van Gestel 
Ewan Ferlie