what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Speaking truth to power

The last session of the NISPAcee Conference on Saturday afternoon came back to the Conference theme of Public Administration of the Future - with a slightly over-the-top intro to Professor Bouckaert, suggesting that governments listened to him and acted upon his advice. Netherlands may, of course, be an exceptional case – but the sad reality is that few public admin scholars even see government as an audience. There is the odd occasion when a Ministry does commission some scholars – Finland did it in the early 2000s and Denmark also.
It would be great to see a paper from some academics which tried to summarise the lessons from the last 20 years of frenetic administrative reforms in a way which made sense for political leaders in central europe (let alone Western) eg a presentation for junior Ministers. Even more helpful would be an advice note on how they should handle the latest recommendations from management consultants! I have actually never read such a paper. Chris Pollitt’s stimulating 2004 paper on Buying and Borrowing Public Management Refoms is as close as I can get to such a paper. In 2006 he actually addressed the issue of consultancy - but from a rather shamefaced point of view"Academic Consultancy What is its nature, place, value within academia?" The paper is useful, however, in separating out eight possible roles which academics can usefully play - including "court jester" and "sparring partner". And Chris Pollitt is the guy who actually produced, in 2003, a book written for officials - The Essential Public Manager.
Even a literature review could be useful but the PAR literature now is so vast that noone (to my knowledge) has attempted it – although there are useful literature reviews on more specialist areas such as anti-corruption work (many); performance management etc.
One of the best policy analysts was Aaron Wildavsky who actually made the budgetary process a sexy topic - and gathered his various papers together in the late 1970ss in a book called "Speaking Truth to Power". It's time for this tradition to be reborn!

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