An introduction to public leadership
An introduction to public leadership

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An introduction to public leadership

2.1.1 Explaining the concept of public value

In this section you will watch three short video clips.

The first of these examines the development and use of public value as a concept. It outlines the context in which the public value concept was first developed by US academic Mark Moore.

Moore wanted to find a way of educating senior public sector managers which would allow them to work productively and creatively with the challenges they faced in deciding what their organisations were supposed to deliver, then to turn these insights into operational priorities. In the video, he explains the background to developing his ideas in an interview with Professor Rolf Rønning. As Moore explains, the period of the late 1980s to early 1990s when he developed his ideas was one in which governments around the world sought to reduce state funding of public sector services. His aim was to provide a counter-balance to these pressures by focusing on the economic and social value generated by these services. The parallels with today’s political and economic environment, with a strong policy emphasis on public sector deficit reduction, are evident.

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Transcript

ROLF RONNING:
Professor Mark Moore, why did you introduce the concept of public value? You are the founding father.
MARK MOORE:
[CHUCKLES] Well, it's-- I'm glad that you think that's true, but actually I'm not quite the founding father. I was more like the midwife. And the way in which I was a midwife was that I was a young professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. And we took it on ourselves to imagine that we had something useful to say to senior practising public sector executives, whom I met in both regular degree programme classrooms and then in executive programme classrooms. And as I listened to them talk and learned from them over the years, I began writing down a variety of things that they told me that they thought was important..
And as I listened to them talk and learned from them over the years, I began writing down a variety of things that they told me that they thought was important. And I was listening to my colleagues talk about what help they thought they could give to public managers. And so in the end, I ended up writing this book, called Creating Public Value, that was, in some sense, a record of what I had learned over that stage, maybe 10 or 15 years of teaching public sector executives with my colleagues and trying to develop a conception that they could use to help them in the doing of their work.
So the first and most important objective was to provide intellectual aid, if you will, to practising public sector executives. The second motivation I think had a lot to do with the idea that, at that particular time, there were ideas that were moving very rapidly from the private sector into the public sector and in many ways, I thought, distorting the discussion about what was important for public sector executives to do in their job.
And so I felt like I had to withstand the challenge that was coming from the concepts from the private sector by developing an alternative set of ideas that would work better for public sector managers. But do for them the same thing that the concepts in private management had done from private managers, which was to strengthen their ability to manage organizations for value creation. So that was the second reason.
The third reason, a little bit less transparent perhaps, was that it was also at a time when people were saying that there was no role for government in society. And that Reagan had been elected on a platform the government was the problem, not the solution. Thatcher had won an election on the principle that there was no such thing as society. And I disagreed with both of those things.
And so I wanted to put a stake in the ground that said that there was a continuing need for government in liberal democratic societies and that they could, in fact, act to improve the quality of individual and collective life and the people that took the responsibility for doing that work should be honoured and supported in their work, rather than treated as though they were either mere bureaucrats or problems in what was otherwise an orderly society.
So it was simultaneously then an intellectual contribution, designed to help managers do their work. It was an intellectual contribution in the sense that it sought to define the distinctive characteristics of a public manager's work, as opposed to a private manager's work. And it was an effort to remind people that the government created value, that it wasn't irrelevant, it wasn't just a neutral arbiter of fights and stuff, that the quality of their individual lives depended a great deal on what public managers did with the authority of the state and with the tax dollars that had been entrusted to them.
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In the second of this series of video clips exploring public value, John Benington, UK academic and former public manager with many years’ experience, explains how the public value concept is useful in developing policy.

Here Benington looks at the different stakeholder interests engaged in defining the public value in any policy context. He illustrates how he and Moore were able to develop a strongly practitioner-focused conceptual framework for social policy making groups, based around a small number of key questions.

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JOHN BENINGTON
Britain has had a more fundamental critique of some of these concepts about the market, and the state, and civil society than is possibly true in America. I may be wrong but my sense is that successive governments of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, then Tony Blair, and then the Conservative Cameron-led government have produced in Britain a very high level of questioning about the relative roles of the state, the market, and civil society.
But in many cases, they have no idea about how to develop the debate about the purposes of these. And what public value gives us is a way of thinking about the ends that we're trying to achieve in society. What kind of a public are we trying to create? What kind of value are we trying to add to the public sphere? Our questions and debates about the purposes, the goals of a society, they look outwards. And I think the public value debate has been able in Britain to help public managers to think about the ends, the purposes, the goals of what they're trying to achieve, not just to look upwards and to account for various performance indicators.
ROLF RONNING:
You would say that's a strength of the concept?
JOHN BENINGTON
I think it is the strength of the concept that it allows a discussion about ends as well as means and that it focuses public managers outwards on the public and the publics that we serve, not just upwards to the governments to whom we're accountable.
ROLF RONNING:
How do you think the concept can be elaborated further?
JOHN BENINGTON:
Well, I think certainly in the UK we've got a growing divide between a populace, a people who no longer feel that the state is on their side, or understanding their problems, or necessarily capable of addressing those problems. And people are resorting, I think, in some desperation to private solutions to those problems. But actually there are no private solutions to problems of ageing of the population. It is impossible to deal with that through the private competitive market alone.
And so we're being posed by a set of problems that we would call complex, cross-cutting, wicked problems. And we need new categories to deal with those problems. And the problems of traditional politics are not dealing with them. Sorry, the categories of traditional politics are not dealing with them. The left and the right are not finding ways of addressing the problems in the way that citizens understand.
So the public value debate now, I think, is moving out beyond public managers into popular political arenas. And I've had a number of projects where we've used the public value framework in meetings with citizens and users who are struggling to make sense of how to deal with complex problems.
So we were able to construct a public debate about public value, bringing the many publics together. And it allowed a debate not just about cost, but about value. What do you most value about your city? What do you most value as a group of young people? What do you as a group of Muslim young people most value?
And questions of value are way beyond questions of cost. They will often involve people making difficult trade-offs. If you really value something highly, you may have to be willing to give something up in order to have more of that. These are deep, democratic, political, value-led discussions which are not always taking place within political parties. They're taking place out in the public arena.
So I'm delighted to find concepts like public value that made sense to me as a public manager within the state but are also robust now to help inform debates within civil society and in engagement with interest groups within the community.
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In this third video clip, Professor Jean Hartley examines why and how the concept of public value is useful, not only for public managers, but also other types of leader operating in the public sphere.

She discusses how the application of public value principles has led to further conceptual refinements and ensured that it is now firmly embedded in the work of public leaders across the UK and internationally.

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JEAN HARTLEY
Public value has been defined as the value which is added through the work of mainly, but not exclusively, public organisations. So in the private sector, it's relatively easy to work out whether value is created by a firm or a business. You look at how much profit is made or how large the market share is. But in public services, it's more difficult. If you were to take policing, for example, it's not necessarily the number of arrests. You might actually want to increase the number of victims who are reporting crime, for example. Or you might want to be preventing crime or disorder happening. So it's harder to look at, where is value added on one level.
But public value theory suggests two ways to look at public value. One is to really think about and find out about what it is that the public values. In other words, what do they prioritise over other elements of public services? And then the second element is what adds value to the public sphere? So in other words, what is it that is added that really benefits society? That might be around justice or equality or dignity. And so these have to be taken into account as well. So it's not just what public organisations produce, but the way they produce it too.
Another issue for public leaders in the police, but also in other services too, is that the work they do is often inherently controversial. So different parts of the public may have very different views about whether something is legitimate or not, should be prioritised or not. So for example, whether somebody is arrested or the number of black people who are stopped and searched or whether a child is taken into care. These things are inherently controversial and therefore inevitably, to some extent, politics is bound up with public service.
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