Send us email

Follow us @CoVAL_eu

Follow us YouTube channel

Citizen Participation Under the 5 Frameworks Of Public Service Reform

Co-VAL > Blog > News > Citizen Participation Under the 5 Frameworks Of Public Service Reform

In the Public Deliverable D1.1 Literature review on public service reform models, Dr Kirsty Strokosch (University of Edinburg) reviewed the literature on the participation of citizens in the delivery and reform of public services under the five most influential frameworks of public service reform: New Public Administration, New Public Management, Public Value, New Public Service and New Public Governance. Based upon an evaluation of the strengths and limitations of these frameworks, this report argues for an alternative way forward in harnessing the transformative potential of Public Service Logic.


  1. New Public Administration Framework (NPA)

The NPA framework places citizens at the centre of decision-making mechanisms, in order to reestablish democratic values in public services. Based on NPA, the essence of true citizenship is participation. However, its conceptualization extends beyond traditional forms of representative participation, for example through voting, towards participative democracy where citizens play a deeper role in communicating their needs and influencing solutions (Page, 1971; Van Slyke et al, 2010).

NPA also redefines the power imbalance between political elites and citizens (particularly disenfranchised groups), firstly by decentralizing decision making and service delivery; and secondly by flattening the hierarchal power structures (Elden, 1971; Meade, 1971; Waldo, 1971; White, 1971).


  1. New Public Management Framework (NPM)

Since the 1980s, NPM framework has developed as the normative and pre-eminent model of public service reform. As Hood (1991) points out, public choice theory is fundamental to the NPM, which positions the market as the optimal structure to produce measurable public service outputs and the relevance of private management experience to their delivery (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2004).

Participation under the NPM framework is directly related to consumerism. Citizens are being perceived as consumers, who are empowered in the market through information and choice or redress through complaints procedures (Hirschman, 1970; Jung, 2010).


  1. Public Value Framework (PV)

PV framework emerged as an alternative to the NPM, advocating a more collaborative approach with the aim of creating ‘public value’ (Moore, 1995; Stoker, 2006; O’Flynn, 2007; Bryson et al, 2014). Both Benington (2011) and Yang (2016) pinpointed that participation is essential to PV and is typically offered as a means of addressing the limits of representative democracy. In specific, PV suggests that a shared understanding of values develops through networks of deliberation and dialogue between government and civil society, both formal (e.g. elections, referendums, public hearings) and informal (e.g. lobbying, social movements).

While having political interaction on its predominant focus, PV frames the citizen as active, participative and responsible (Bryson et al, 2014) and the government as a “value-creating enterprise” (Moore and Benington, 2011, p. 257; Bennington, 2011), where public managers and elected officials play a central and active policy role through which they seek to advance the public interest.


  1. New Public Service Framework (NPS)

NPS framework emerged from a desire to replace market structures, entrepreneurial public managers and self-interest with a collaborative approach, where government is responsible for empowering citizens through training and the co-ordination of voluntary activities (Hefetz and Warner, 2007; Denhardt and Denhardt, 2015a; Dougherty and Easton, 2011).

Similar to NPA, NPS calls for citizenship, but focuses on active citizen involvement, under which the role of public service user is transformed from consumer (under NPM) to citizen, and the idea of self-interest is expanded to a shared vision of ‘public interest’. NPS defines the process of citizen participation as the intrinsic value to individuals, which leads to their taking greater civic responsibility for the public services received and which in turn, catalyses further participation during the design and delivery of services (Denhardt and Denhardt, 2015a).

As facilitators of participation within the NPS, public managers play a principal role in the democratic process as “transformative leaders”, who foster active citizenship in pursuit of public values (Denhardt and Campbell, 2006). However, this transformative leading position creates stronger power asymmetries, as public managers decide the extent to which empower citizens through participative structures.


  1. New Public Governance (NPG)

NPG framework builds on organizational sociology and network theory (Osborne, 2006) and suggests that public management is becoming increasingly fragmented, with public services being produced by networks from the for-profit, public and third sectors.  Sorensen and Torfing (2005) acknowledge that NPG governance networks are mostly associated with new systems for autonomous deliberation, negotiation and implementation. Unfortunately, this model of governance not only adds complexity to the decision-making process (Edelenbos and Klijn, 2005; Verweij et al, 2013) but also shifts from political representation to representation through multiple unelected actors (Hajer and Wagenaar, 2003).

NPG perceives service users as co-producers working horizontally with government (Pestoff, 2006; Pestoff and Brandsen, 2010; Meijer, 2016).  In this context, co-production is described as an interactive and co-operative relationship that takes place during service delivery (Meijer, 2016), with the purpose of producing pre-defined public services that are delineated by public managers during service design (Torfing et al, 2016; Thomsen, 2017).

Despite featuring under each of these five public service reform frameworks, participation has not been fully translated into practice (Roberts, 2004). The argument here is that two key themes across the frameworks have impeded participation, namely power asymmetries and the failure to embed participation as a core structural process of public service design and delivery.

Read the Literature review on public service reform models here


Photo by creativeart on freepik