Public value?

August 4, 2011

A very recent paper from the University of Albany, NY, USA is by Harrison, Guerrero, Burke et al and entitled “Open Government and E-Government: Democratic Challenges from a Public Value Perspective” and was published in The Proceedings of the 12th Annual International Digital Government Research Conference, June 12 – 15, 2011, College Park, MD, USA. Having considered public value as a metric as far back as 2008 and including it within my research before dismissing it as too woolly, I was a little surprised.

The paper sets out public value as six types: financial, political, social, strategic, ideological and stewardship. It then proposes that value is generated by a set of mechanisms consisting of: efficiency, effectiveness, intrinsic enhancements, transparency, participation and collaboration. It is of course the latter three that combine into ‘open’ government.

The positive end of the proposition is that the researchers accept that quantitative metrics are of little benefit, and that the values, as listed, need to be declared through the appropriate production mechanisms, as listed, from the initiative concerned to the stakeholders. Again, I believe this could be done in a simpler manner through the feedback model proposed on this site.

However, as the paper recognises but politicians don’t “transparency, for example, will not be achieved through the mere downloading of data sets”, since it “must enable citizens to do something they find valuable and important”. They also point out that this applies to participation and collaboration, and that “the citizen input they generate must be represented in outcomes that are visible to stakeholders in the decisions and value produced”.

They also state in the conclusion that the “historic focus of e-government” was “improving policy performance”, whilst I would see this more of an abstract aspiration hoped for by a minority of the those absent from day-to-day service delivery, since it could only be done through the co-design of services that was and still is absent from so many e-government initiatives. They do accept that achieving their aspirations will require structural changes to government, and that the production of public value is in itself a good reason for initiating such changes. My personal view being that the structures are frequently underpinned by complex and historic foundations, whose replacement will require patience and understanding not often available to politicians.


October 22, 2009

I haven’t before reported upon discussions at the Local CIO Council and since we try and operate within Chatham House rules, I won’t often, but in this instance I don’t believe I’m breaking them!

On the 20th October 2009 the packed agenda for the day included a presentation on the Socitm benchmarking scheme and its status in the current climate of the Operational Efficiency Programme etc…

Since part of the impetus for this blog is metrics, I have a vested interest in anything that considers channel shift and channel service comparison, which the benchmarks can, so I’m interested!

Unsurprisingly, one of my colleagues, Glyn Evans, commented upon Birmingham’s employment of ‘business value’, an approach that was generally found acceptable given that much of the value of I.T. initiatives is sometimes lost in the tradition of ‘bean counting’, hence I’ve labelled the soft alternative ‘beat counting’!

My own researches have included side investigations into ‘public value’ and ‘social capital’ as possible metrics, which whilst of no assistance on their own, may be able to be employed as parallel accounting contibutions, given sufficient focus upon what the citizen wants and needs.

Any thoughts out there?

Public value and satisfaction

May 3, 2008

Just reading Mark H Moore’s paper from the The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, Harvard University, The Public Value Scorecard: A Rejoinder and an Alternative to “Strategic Pareformance Measurement and Management in Non-Profit Organizations” by Robert Kaplan, published in May 2003 and available here:

Moore’s analysis of the Balanced Scorecard in terms of the not-for-profit sector is useful is reminding us of some particular issues:

Moore (2003, p. 5) “What the financial measures do not tell them, however, is how much public value they have produced.”

Moore (2003, p. 6) “Nonprofit managers, on the other hand, need non-financial measures to tell them whether they have used their financial resources as effective means for creating publicly valuable results.”

Moore (2003, p. 7) develeops the concepts of the downstream and the upstream “customers” of not-for-profit organisations. The downstream customers are the ones in receipt of good or services whilst the upstream are the donors and governments. I presume in this sense, all tax payers plus the government are upstream, whilst when we are in receipt of a service we are downstream.

However Moore (2003, p. 7) does state that “it is often true that both donors and governments want something different (or more) than the satisfaction of the clients the nonprofit organizations serve.” In that they wish to achieve social outcomes.

Moore (2003, p. eight) focuses on the pooling of resources between not-for-profit organisations leading to the ‘Public Value Strategy’.

Whist attacking the theory that a small number of outcome measures are sufficient, Moore (2003, p.13), he does argue that a mix of outcome, output, process and input measures are a necessity.

A lot of the public value work was covered in ‘Creating Public Value – Strategic Management in Government’, Mark H. Moore, Harvard University Press, 1996. Particlarly Moore (1996, p.36) where an interesting discussion arises over the use of customer satisfaction and examples of where it should or could not be used!

None of this dissuades me from the theory I am proposing, since I believe that satisfaction with service delivery or importantly feedback when not satisfied should lead to improving social outcomes or public value, which can satisfy all the upstream customers at the same time as improving matters for the later downstream ones.

Have a look at his paper if you haven’t come across the Public Value Scorecard, it has some useful ideas.

Public Value, Social Capital and other fun metrics

March 15, 2008

In the course of my study of the literature I have had to consider some other ways of measuring the value of electronic government. One of the terms that has been used in recent years is Public Value and a document on the Cabinet Office web site by Kelly, Mulgan & Muers provides some background to this:

Another term is Social Capital, but this is possibly even more difficult to measure, as a review of the literature by the Office of National Statistics demonstrates:

Hence my reason for wanting to examine ‘satisfaction’  versus ‘dissatisfaction’, with explanatory comments for success or failure in service delivery and hence as a means of improving channels!