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About this book

Winner of the 2014 Academy of Management Public-Nonprofit (PNP) Division Best Book Award

Many public services today are delivered by external service providers such as private firms and voluntary organizations. These new ways of working – including contracting, partnering, client co-production, inter-governmental collaboration and volunteering – pose challenges for public management. This major new text assesses the ways in which public sector organizations can improve their services and outcomes by making full use of the alternative ways of getting things done.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
The devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan on 11 March 2011, and their aftermath in the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, were among those moments when the importance of government came dramatically to the fore. In a sense, it was crucial in the advance warnings provided by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). Even though its Earthquake Early Warning System gave people in Tokyo only a minute’s notice of severe earth movement, this was enough to save many lives. So too were the early warnings of the subsequent tsunami, which first hit north-eastern Honshu ten minutes after the quake and then spread elsewhere along the coast within the next two to three hours. In the short time before the tsunami hit, government’s significance was evident in the frantic efforts of police and fire officers to evacuate citizens to higher ground. And their role became even more noticeable in the aftermath, as they led at times heroic efforts to clear access routes, pull the injured from the rubble, find missing persons, dispense first aid and shepherd shocked and homeless citizens to aid stations and shelter.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 1. Mapping the Changing Landscape of Public Service Delivery

Abstract
The waves of public management reform in developed countries over the last three decades have led to government playing both a smaller and a larger role in our society. It is smaller in that it is now an established truth that public services can be delivered by a wide array of parties external to a given public sector organization as well as by in-house production. Public utilities for services such as electricity, gas, water and transport have been sold off to the private sector. Public sector organizations have contracted out a wide variety of functions, from garbage collection and cleaning to security and employment services. Government agencies establish collaborative arrangements with other government agencies to realize purposes that they cannot achieve on their own. Departments in areas such as human services and conservation enlist voluntary organizations and volunteers in helping deliver some of their services. Agencies responsible for services such as mail or public housing rely on co-productive effort from their clients. And even regulatory organizations seek to call forth voluntary compliance from those they regulate, in the form of positive actions that contribute to organizational purposes.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 2. Benefits and Costs: What Government Organizations Seek from External Providers

Abstract
On 10 September, 2001, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared war on the Pentagon. Describing it as ‘one of the world’s last bastions of central planning’, he called for a wholesale shift from the old defence bureaucracy to a new private sector model. He pledged to ‘pursue additional opportunities to outsource and privatize’. In fact, contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics already accounted for a major proportion of spending on defence hardware, and had done so for decades. But what Rumsfeld was pushing for was the widespread use of private contractors in all aspects of the military, including combat, security and protection (Scahill 2007). This was not about external parties making the missiles, bombs or bullets (or the vehicles that carried them), but rather about them firing them in theatres of war.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 3. Motivations and Mechanisms: What External Providers Seek from Government Organizations

Abstract
Who should pay when the weather forecast is wrong? If the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, had his way weather forecasters would be fined when their predictions were off the mark (Finn 2005). The Mayor had been so unimpressed with the federal weather bureau’s predictions that he funded the creation of a local bureau in 1999, but when they failed to predict the exact timing and severity of a major snow storm which caused mayhem in Moscow in 2005 he threatened to start fining them for incorrect predictions. In retaliation, the head of the weather bureau said he would be happy to pay the fine if the Mayor would agree to give them a bonus every time they got it right, some 90–99 per cent of the time.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 4. Outsourcing and Contracting to Other Organizations

Abstract
In June 2004, the Department of Justice in the state of Western Australia took back control of the holding cells at the Supreme Court, following a dramatic breakout by nine violent prisoners. It pointed the finger at ‘systemic failure’ of the private firm it had contracted to deliver security at the courthouse, including guards propping open steel-plated doors to enable freer movement of staff, cell keys and perimeter keys being kept on the same key ring, failure to activate the alarm following the breakout, and not complying with the minimum number of staff prescribed (Taylor 2004). In the aftermath of the breakout there were calls for the Minister to resign and for a major investigation into contracting practices to work out just how these prisoners managed to escape. But was this as simple as a lazy or sneaky contractor? A series of reports and investigations identified a litany of problems: the publicly owned infrastructure was outdated, costs were blowing out, the contract failed to adequately specify the treatment of high security prisoners, and the relationship between AIMS, the provider, and the Department of Justice was ‘turbulent’.1 This was a case where it seemed that contracting was causing headaches rather than providing solutions.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 5. Partnering and Collaboration with Other Organizations

Abstract
On Christmas Day 2009, a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear while on board a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Fortunately, he had trouble setting the bomb off and was overpowered by fellow passengers and aircrew. If he had succeeded, the plane would have been blown apart, killing 290 passengers. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attempt.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 6. Calling on Volunteers

Abstract
At a certain point in their ageing, many elderly people find it difficult to do the shopping and cooking they need in order to eat proper meals. At the same time, they are not so frail that they need to be in nursing home care, and can otherwise cope in their homes. In these situations, a local council service called Meals on Wheels fills the gap, providing home-delivered meals to the frail housebound elderly, for a modest charge.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 7. Regulatees as Contributors to Social Outcomes

Abstract
Regulatees — the people or organizations subject to obligations imposed by government authorities — seem at first sight to be unlikely candidates for external providers of services. Take the restaurateurs who are regulated by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, whose job includes protecting human and animal health (Mascini and Van Wijk 2009). Far from being contributors to the Authority’s purposes, at least some of them seem more like obstacles. They have to be compelled either to do things they find inconvenient or costly to do, such as to keep foodstuffs cooled to a particular temperature, or to refrain from doing things they want to do, such as hanging Peking roast ducks in their windows (which the Authority’s scientific research has found to be unhygienic). A sizeable proportion of restaurateurs are seen by the Authority’s inspectors as reluctant to meet their obligations, seeking to hide from or find ways around the law by exploiting loopholes.1 Indeed, to the extent that they break the law or avoid their obligations, these regulatees are quite the opposite of contributors to Authority purposes. Far from serving those purposes, they detract from or undermine them, and therefore have to be compelled to comply.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 8. Clients as Co-producers

Abstract
Children’s ability to cope and succeed in school and later in life is affected by their development in their first four years. This happens through several mechanisms, including their diet (affecting obesity), their learning, and the affection they receive from their parents — all of which are in turn affected by the socio-economic circumstances of the family. Put simply, children in poverty fare worse on these and other factors, which thereby act as transmitters of disadvantage. They are ‘at risk of doing poorly at school, having trouble with peers and agents of authority (that is, parents, teachers), and ultimately experiencing compromised life chances (for example, early school leaving, unemployment, limited longevity)’ (DfE2010).
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 9. Managing in Multiparty Networks of Providers

Abstract
Despite being the world’s leading superpower, the United States has a surprisingly mediocre level of performance in infant health: its infant mortality rate ranks 30th in the world, and 28,000 American children die each year before their first birthday (Bornstein 2011a). One important cause is that some mothers — especially those of low income or minorities and without health insurance — lack easy access to doctors and other sources of information about childbirth and infant health. Thus, they are unaware of the risk to their babies before birth of such factors as poor nutrition, or smoking or drinking too much, or high blood pressure or diabetes. And after birth, they are poorly informed about breast-feeding, getting immunized, safe sleeping positions and the need to make regular doctor visits. Moreover they are without internet access from which they might learn these things, whereas over 90 per cent of Americans have a mobile phone.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 10. A Contingency Framework for Decisions about Externalization

Abstract
This book has considered a variety of types of external providers available to government organizations, both organizational — private companies, voluntary sector agencies, and other government organizations — and individual — volunteers, clients and regulatees. We have explored the various forms they take, the types of circumstances in which it is most appropriate to utilize them, and how their contributions can best be elicited. This chapter seeks to draw them together, by laying out a framework for making decisions among them. It argues that whether to utilize an external provider, and what type, is a contingent matter: it depends on the circumstances. This requires judgements about purposes, identification of who might be involved, and analysis of several types of benefits and costs.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Chapter 11. Organizational Capabilities for Managing External Provision

Abstract
Although the focus of this book has been on work done by parties external to the government organization, it is obvious that this significantly changes the work done by public servants within that organization. In addition to, or sometimes even instead of, delivering services themselves, these public servants are also engaged in the work of getting external parties to deliver. Instead of having direct managerial control over the people and other resources needed to produce services, they have to exercise influence on the external providers indirectly. As a consequence, they have to engage in new tasks and develop new skills and knowledge. At the same time, if they are to be successful, the organization within which they work has to change its systems, structure and culture, to facilitate the new roles the staff adopt, and also has to relate to its environment in new ways. Moreover, these external relationships have to be managed in a context where the very structure and processes of government puts obstacles in their way.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn

Conclusion: The New World of Public Service Delivery

Abstract
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.
John Alford, Janine O’Flynn
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