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!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

a day's reading

I vowed to do a blog each day – partly to encourage the tiny readership I have but also because it is an important discipline – writing is more challenging than talking – it reveals the gaps in your logic and information. And I’ve found it salutary to put on record some of the discoveries which give life its daily delight. And, when you’re a bookish sort of person, that will include insights gained from books. That indeed is one of the main purpose of the blog – to share useful references in the field in which I’ve chosen to spend so much of my life.
Anyway, I have failed to deliver on my daily quota – mainly because I was going through one of these phases of disgust with reading. I was bloated! Books and work – a life not quite in balance? More of that, perhaps, in another post. In the meantime I simply have to admire those such as Matthew Taylor (see links) who are able to make regular posts – with helpful references to the writings of others. One of features I admire in Matthew’s blogs is the honesty with which he confesses his self-doubts. There are millions of us “symbolic analysts” (as Robert Reich memorably called us) who spend our lives scribbling and meeting in ways which our ancestors would find shocking – and being well paid for it. No wonder that the angst sometime shows through!

OK enough of the guilt. What have I found in recent days which is worth sharing? My focus at the moment is a rather challenging assignment in China. Subject to final medical and visa clearance, I depart in 5 weeks and have now started to think myself into the task. I have first to prepare a “Baseline study” on the state of public administration reform there – imagine!! And, as part of that, to draft various briefing papers on the lessons from the countless initiatives of European states in this area eg performance and quality management.
I want to hit the ground running as far as the second part of the initial work is concerned and am therefore trying to first to track down as many recent assessments on the European experience as I can. I do my best to keep up to date – but it is only in the break between assignments that I have to do the surfing and reading which is needed. Earlier this year, for example, I discovered that I had missed quite a few key documents from the British Cabinet Office and yesterday I came across some interesting reports which the National Audit Office had commissioned from academics on innovation in the public sector. I’ve not been able to get separate internet references for the various documents but punch “innovation government” in the NAO search engine and you’ll get 3-4 interesting papers . The NAO also commissioned PWC to do a review of “Good Government” which focuses on France and USA.
The Cabinet Office has also published a useful study of what they regard as good government initiatives here
“Innovation”, “good government”, “improvement”, quality management”, “performance management” etc The language itself confuses – and, to some post-modernists, is itself the product. I hope to return to this issue which is referred to by the academics who have made this their specialism eg Boivard, Brouckaert, Loeffler, Peters, Pollitt. The European Group of Public Administration has lhad a special committee exploring the issue of productivity in the public sector for some years. Their papers can be accessed here You can see why I had no time yesterday to blog – I was too busy surfing!

I also came across an interesting overview from 2004 by Elaine KamarckShe made some intriguing references to the work of President Vincente Fox of Mexico (2000-2006) and when I googled this item I was referred to an article in an open electronic journal I had forgotten about – The International Public Management Review. A glance at the article on the Mexican experience of reform (by Dusaugge) persuaded me that their experience is very relevant to the Chinese! Read it for yourself at And today, I discovered the Scandinavian Journal of Politics – whose articles I am able to access courtesy of Wiley. Some fascinating accounts of what they’ve been up to which rarely get to the mainstream journals. Sorry I’m not able to share them – I’ll try to summarise at some point in the future.

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