COVID-19 and the Management of Public Services

The COGOV project explores how strategic management best enables managers and professionals in the public sector to exploit the drivers – and overcome the barriers – to the co-creation of innovative public value outcomes. COVID-19 provided COGOV with a further puzzle:

To what extent can co-creation help the post-pandemic recovery in the short and medium term? 

 How do the administration and management of the public sector affect the likely success of transformational approaches to service design and delivery in the aftermath of the pandemic? 

To consider the new realities emerging in the public sector following the COVID-19 pandemic, we have undertaken a literature review on the management of public services in times of COVID-19. Searching for literature on COVID-19 and co-creation (and related terms such as co-production), we have analysed the content of twenty-five articles published between March 2020 until July 2021. We have found the following: 

1) The effectiveness of COVID-19 responses 

There is no consensus on which factors were the most important for a successful response to COVID-19. Leadership, rather than resources or political orientation alone, was one of the critical elements to successful country responses. The ability to create a shared sense of commitment and sacrifice was also essential, which is likely to be connected with citizens’ trust in government, the extent people see themselves and authorities as part of a common in-group and the existence of procedural justice (the rule of law) in the interaction between authorities and their publics. Research from very different parts of the world, including South Korea, Norway, Taiwan, Nigeria and the UK, shows that social capital and elements sustaining a peaceful co-existence of people are critical when collaborative responses to collective problems are necessary.

2) Culture and public administrative traditions: ‘coronationalism’

In Europe, responses to the pandemic have been distinct, even in places with similar state traditions (e.g. Norway and Sweden). In continental Europe, a distinctive feature has been the level of decentralisation (e.g. Germany and France); state awareness on its ability to contain infections or treat patients (e.g. Sweden and Greece) and the importance placed on technical expertise (e.g. Sweden)

3) The effect on public sector professionals/managers

The public sector is becoming accidentally agile as a result of the pandemic. To prepare for future pandemics and socio-economic crises, governments must strengthen their recently acquired dynamic capabilities (e.g. the capacity to adapt and learn, align public services and citizen needs, govern resilient production systems, and manage data and digital platforms). 

Conclusion: COVID-19 and co-creation

Evidence from the literature on COVID-19 indicated that co-creation is well placed to address today’s turbulent times. The reliance on voluntary contributions from citizens contradicts notions that addressing crises relies on top-down hierarchical arrangements. There is plenty of space to introduce ‘whole community co-production’ as the full engagement of the entire societal capacity to transform relevant and interlocking public services to minimise damage from emergencies and build resilience for the future.

For more detailed information, our literature review is available here

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