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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > S > Service to Citizens (towards a New Public Administration theory)
 
Service to Citizens (towards a New Public Administration theory)

New service implementations are knowledge based, use a holistic approach to service delivery, and encourage citizens’ participation in service design and delivery.

(Bourgon, 2007, pp. 18-20)

---------------------------------

The following is drawn from Bourgon, J. (2007), “Responsive, Responsible and Respected Government: Towards a New Public Administration Theory”, IIAS International Review of Administrative Sciences 73 (1): 7-26.In the early days of public administration, service delivery (i.e. the implementation of public policies) was not considered a distinct function of government. It was the whole of public administration. The purpose of public agencies was to implement politically determined policies and programmes.

The process of policy implementation was top-down, hierarchical and unidirectional. Public agencies were expected to translate policy directives with as little variation and as little discretion as possible. It was not a matter of using discretion responsibly but of avoiding it altogether by adhering to laws, procedures and directives. In this context, responsiveness was unnecessary.

The influence of scientific management led to an expectation that it would be possible to define the ‘correct’ procedures and to control clearly defined and predictable tasks.

It was not until the early 1970s that the service delivery function of government started to receive some attention (the work of Pressman and Wildavsky (1973) is worthy of note). We came to realize that the implementation process is a determinant of policy outcome, and that the institutional capacity to deliver is central to the design of policy options. In short, we learned that policy formulation and policy implementation are an integrated and interactive process of discussion involving both policy makers and administrators.

In the 1990s, the attention focused on new and different types of government services. This was largely the result of new modern information and communication technologies and the changing expectations of citizens. The ‘new’ services share a number of common characteristics:

  • First, they are knowledge based, which means that the service provided depends on the accumulated knowledge of the organization and on the human capital of the people working for the organization.
  • Second, they use a holistic approach to service delivery, which implies a ‘whole-of-government’ method involving multiple service agencies within a government or among levels of government. They also favour a holistic approach to citizens’ needs, which implies addressing multiple demands, depending on the circumstances of service recipients.
  • Third, they encourage citizens’ participation in service design and delivery.

    All of these changes can be seen, to varying degrees, in public administrations around the world. They have profound ramifications for the role of government and raise issues that merit inclusion in a New Public Administration theory. This gives rise to issues of accountability. It also entails a transformation of the interface between the political and administrative realms and of the relationships between the public service and citizens. Figure 13 summarizes this change and provides an initial impression of the magnitude of the change that has taken place in the implementation of public policies over the past thirty years.

    In academia and in government, there are three types of reactions to the transformation of the role of government in service delivery. The first is to dismiss it as a fad or to think that ‘this too shall pass’. The second is to oppose these changes on the grounds that they are not in keeping with the traditional principle of accountability. The third is to carefully but vigorously, explore ways of making government more responsive to citizens’ needs in the twenty-first century while ensuring fairness and adherence to the rule of law.

    References

    Bourgon, J. (2007), “Responsive, Responsible and Respected Government: Towards a New Public Administration Theory”, IIAS International Review of Administrative Sciences 73 (1): 7-26.
  •      
    Service to Citizens (towards a New Public Administration theory)

    New service implementations are knowledge based, use a holistic approach to service delivery, and encourage citizens’ participation in service design and delivery.

    (Bourgon, 2007, pp. 18-20)

    ---------------------------------

    The following is drawn from Bourgon, J. (2007), “Responsive, Responsible and Respected Government: Towards a New Public Administration Theory”, IIAS International Review of Administrative Sciences 73 (1): 7-26.In the early days of public administration, service delivery (i.e. the implementation of public policies) was not considered a distinct function of government. It was the whole of public administration. The purpose of public agencies was to implement politically determined policies and programmes.

    The process of policy implementation was top-down, hierarchical and unidirectional. Public agencies were expected to translate policy directives with as little variation and as little discretion as possible. It was not a matter of using discretion responsibly but of avoiding it altogether by adhering to laws, procedures and directives. In this context, responsiveness was unnecessary.

    The influence of scientific management led to an expectation that it would be possible to define the ‘correct’ procedures and to control clearly defined and predictable tasks.

    It was not until the early 1970s that the service delivery function of government started to receive some attention (the work of Pressman and Wildavsky (1973) is worthy of note). We came to realize that the implementation process is a determinant of policy outcome, and that the institutional capacity to deliver is central to the design of policy options. In short, we learned that policy formulation and policy implementation are an integrated and interactive process of discussion involving both policy makers and administrators.

    In the 1990s, the attention focused on new and different types of government services. This was largely the result of new modern information and communication technologies and the changing expectations of citizens. The ‘new’ services share a number of common characteristics:

  • First, they are knowledge based, which means that the service provided depends on the accumulated knowledge of the organization and on the human capital of the people working for the organization.
  • Second, they use a holistic approach to service delivery, which implies a ‘whole-of-government’ method involving multiple service agencies within a government or among levels of government. They also favour a holistic approach to citizens’ needs, which implies addressing multiple demands, depending on the circumstances of service recipients.
  • Third, they encourage citizens’ participation in service design and delivery.


  • All of these changes can be seen, to varying degrees, in public administrations around the world. They have profound ramifications for the role of government and raise issues that merit inclusion in a New Public Administration theory. This gives rise to issues of accountability. It also entails a transformation of the interface between the political and administrative realms and of the relationships between the public service and citizens. Figure 13 summarizes this change and provides an initial impression of the magnitude of the change that has taken place in the implementation of public policies over the past thirty years.

    In academia and in government, there are three types of reactions to the transformation of the role of government in service delivery. The first is to dismiss it as a fad or to think that ‘this too shall pass’. The second is to oppose these changes on the grounds that they are not in keeping with the traditional principle of accountability. The third is to carefully but vigorously, explore ways of making government more responsive to citizens’ needs in the twenty-first century while ensuring fairness and adherence to the rule of law.

    References

    Bourgon, J. (2007), “Responsive, Responsible and Respected Government: Towards a New Public Administration Theory”, IIAS International Review of Administrative Sciences 73 (1): 7-26.

    Approved for glossaryposting by Ben Eisen on December 6, 2010


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    © University of Toronto 2008
    School of Public Policy and Governance