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The 24th EGOS Colloquium 2008  

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Postdoctoral pre-colloquium workshop

PhD pre-colloquium workshop

Roland Calori Prize

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Standing Working Group 7 (Sub-theme 07):

Organizing the Public Sector: Governance and Public Management Reform –
Upsetting the Balance between Government and Public Sector Organizations,
Can We Strive for a New Equilibrium?



Christine Teelken
Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands)

Mike Dent
Staffordshire University, Stafford (UK)

Louise Fitzgerald
De Montfort University, Leicester (UK)

Call for papers

The purpose of this SWG is to provide a more thorough and nuanced vision on the developments in public management reform. The organization of the public sector is a very important and relevant topic, both theoretically and practically. We consider the formation of our SWG a timely opportunity to maximize the coming together of organizational theorists with analysis of governance and the management of public sector organizations in different socio-economic regimes.

The ongoing developments within the public sector are having differential consequences for the different (sub-)sectors within the public sector as well as for the individual organizations within them, both nationally and internationally. Given the variety and complexity of governance mechanisms in existence within Europe there is an imperative that EGOS has a forum where these issues and challenges can be discussed.

These international developments are visible in the recent shifts in division of roles between the government and society, with government policy in some domains proposing pulling back to give more responsibility to society. Management based on rules and procedures is gradually being replaced by a system based on performance measurement and decentralised decision-making, e.g. the British 'best value' program for local authorities. While some national governments aspire to become more accountable to their citizens, public and semi-public organizations are being required to demonstrate the results of their activities to their customers.

Until so far, governments have made few efforts to evaluate whether management reforms would actually work. Nor was there much effort to 'cherish and build on the potentially positive elements in traditional professionalism' (Foster and Wilding 2000: 157). Instead Ackroyd et al. (2007: in press) conclude that 'the tendency has been to introduce reform in a way that was almost guaranteed to maximize disruption and opposition'. This makes the necessity for research in the public sector even more urgent and this will have consequences for the way research should be carried out.

Public Management reform cannot simply be explained by one specific management concept or discourse but is influenced by diverse ideas and motives of both public and private actors at various levels of change. Actual reforms therefore contain a mix of elements, which refer to complex, sometimes conflicting processes of policy-making, implementation and interpretation. The term governance, originally considered synonymously with government has since the 'Eighties' obtained a new meaning, it 'refers to self-organising, inter-organizational networks characterized by interdependence, resource-exchange, rules of the game, and significant autonomy from the state' (Rhodes 1997: 15). Governance is considered a form of network management and the coordination of the plurality and complexity of hierarchies, markets and networks (Kjaer 2005). In addition, public management reforms have blurred distinctions between the public and private sectors, what have been the implications for the management and delivery of services? Is it possible to speak of a specific type of European Community governance or more accurate to refer to a range of regimes (e.g. Esping-Andersen 1990)?

Research in public management reform and governance has traditionally been carried out in a predominantly national context. Of course, this theme can be perceived at a national or international perspective, for example, whether we can speak of a specific type of European Community governance? Cross-sectional comparison can be very interesting as well. We therefore specifically encourage empirical studies to enable international or cross-sectional comparisons. However, theoretical explanations for crucial reforms or critical reflections are very welcome as well.

About the convenors

SWG 7 is led by Christine Teelken, Mike Dent, Nicolette van Gestel, Ewan Ferlie and Louise Fitzgerald. For this EGOS Colloquium Christine Teelken, Mike Dent and Louise Fitzgerald act as convenors.

Christine Teelken, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, Netherlands, is assistant professor of Organizational Studies, organized a sub-theme at EGOS (in cooperation with Mike Dent and Nicolette van Gestel) 2004, 2006 and 2007, with the same team of convenors.

Mike Dent, Staffordshire University, Stafford, United Kingdom, is professor of Health Care Organizations. Mike Dent has published widely in the field of European health care organizations.

Louise Fitzgerald, De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom, is professor of Organizational Development. Has published widely in the field of new public management and professionalism.