Public value as strategic management
Public value is one of those notions that has become part of the lexicon of key terms in public administration. It is also an essentially contested term – everyone has a different interpretation (Rhodes & Wanna, 2007; Rutgers, 2015). In this blog post, I view public value as a strategic management approach and discuss its connection to co-creation.
How do we recognise public value?
As a model of strategic management, public value is a way of thinking about continuous improvement in public services (Moore, 1995). In Recognising Public Value (2013), Moore developed the idea of the ‘strategic triangle’ to show that public value is created when:
- Public service actions are democratically legitimate;
- Public service actions have the support from the authorising environment (e.g. boards, managers, politicians, etc.);
- Public authorities have the operational capacity to implement the action effectively.
Over the years, Moore and others have operationalised the model so that it can be used in practice. Recently, the UK Treasury developed and piloted a public value framework with four dimensions:
- The pursuit of goals, e.g. How does an organisation devise its goals? How does it monitor the delivery of services?
- The management of inputs, e.g. How does an organisation manage its financial resources? How is the balance between cost and performance evaluated?
- Stakeholder and citizen engagement, e.g. How does an organisation engage stakeholders and users? What does an organisation do with stakeholder and citizen input?
- System capacity, e.g. How strong is the delivery chain of specific actions/services? How does the organisation build workforce capacity?
One of the conditions under which public value is created is the engagement of users and citizens in the public policy cycle. Not surprisingly then, co-creation, with its emphasis on collaborative behaviour, is often associated with public value.
However, beyond stakeholder engagement, we know little on if and how public authorities adopt a public value management approach to co-creation.
What is public value management approach to co-creation?
In a recent survey performed in the COGOV project, we asked respondents in public sector organisations to what extent they use the notion of public value when making decisions about co-creation. Based on the first results from local authorities in Slovenia and Croatia (N = 155), more than half of the respondents (strongly) agreed that they apply the notion of public value when making decisions about co-creation (there was no significant difference between the two countries).
Not surprisingly, when asked what a public value management approach meant for them, most of the respondents associated it with the act of engaging stakeholders (citizens, local residents and organisations). Some respondents specified that engagement should take into account the input of stakeholders to the extent it is possible (given the legal framework). Others characterised engagement as public consultation, which is arguably not the most convincing model of engagement to create public value.
For many respondents, a public value management approach is about improving service performance and service satisfaction. Quite a few respondents emphasised that goals should be pursued in ways that services are delivered fairly considering the principle of equity. One respondent highlighted that the pursuit of goals should put citizens in a position where they are able to take the fullest advantage of their rights. A long-term vision in the implementation of goals was also mentioned.
“Public value means putting citizens in a position where they are able to take the fullest advantage of their rights”
Resources and Capacity
Compared to engaging citizens and the pursuit of goals, the management of resources and system capacity to deliver services were mentioned less frequently. For instance, only three respondents mentioned that public value management is about managing work in the organisation so projects are achieved expediently and with better results. Three other respondents mentioned that public value management is about conducting analyses of planned changes considering the extent of impact for society.
In addition to the above-summarized answers, several respondents described public value in general terms, for instance as pursuing the public interest or the good for society. Overall, respondents had a one-dimensional view on what public value management is, which lead us to assume there is a low level of public value strategic management approach to co-creation. To be continued.
 The following analysis is based on the responses 72 respondents, which answered the question “You answered that your organisation uses the notion of public value when making decisions about co-creation. Can you please tell us what does that mean for you?”
What is a public value management approach to co-creation? @AndrejaPegan #cocreation #publicvalue Click To Tweet
Andreja Pegan has a PhD in Political Science and is a research fellow in the COGOV project at Northumbria University (GB). She has previously researched the communication of Cohesion policy in the EU and the public administration of the European Union.