For at least fifty years, ‘one best way’ has been the answer to government’s problems. In the post-war era, when services were delivered by the government’s own employees, the quest was to make them work more efficiently, so managerialist reforms — for example, focusing on results, programme budgets, devolution and performance measurement — were the keys to better government. In the 1980s, the answer changed. Better and cheaper government would come from handing public services over to private enterprise, in a new era of contractualism — separating purchasers from providers, and subjecting providers to classical contracting and competitive tendering. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the answer changed again. More integrated and responsive public services would come from greater collaboration — between government agencies, private firms and non-profits — and network governance was the one best way.
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