Today we must ask 'What is of value to the public?'
This is a world of social pluralism, institutional complexity and technical uncertainty.
New issues reveal the limits of public administration, as problems emerge beyond the scope of existing organisational capacities or administrative boundaries. This creates new political geographies and fragmentation of interests.
When it comes to public sector projects, the project management triangle is not just about time, cost and quality. It’s about dealing with increasing demand, greater expectations and more limited resources. Increasingly, successful delivery in the public sector will need to have regard to the public accountability of large-scale projects and the resolution of complex policy problems.
Proper public engagement in the process is key to this. In the course of public projects, we should create opportunities for individuals and communities to have a voice. To achieve success there is an imperative to focus upon the locality, on tailoring policy to fit in with the local social and macro-political context.
But who actually are ‘the public’ and what do they value?
It used to be a lot clearer. Just look at how the old monolithic political parties on both sides of the Atlantic are riven by the splintering of electorates into factions, sometimes without any clear beliefs or values apart from anger and frustration.
Without a clear view of “the public”, there may be no clear resolution to many problems, just courses of action in response to them. There may be no wrong or right answers or decisions, neither good or bad - nor black or white, just shades of grey and the engagement and consultative processes need to accommodate this range.
Lateral thinking and flexible and collaborative solutions will be required in order to engage the public in all its forms - and to accommodate a plurality of perspectives without disappearing into a quagmire of compromise.
There are no simple, straightforward project planning and policy solutions.
Partnerships may emerge out of relationships involving producers and users of services in complex processes of co-creation which blur the distinction between practitioners and the public. New governance architectures may need to take a wider perspective beyond the narrow individualism of rational choice.
A one-day conference is being held on Friday 1 July 2016 to discuss public value and public projects. The University of Central Lancashire’s Applied Policy Science Unit will host the event at its campus on Westlakes Science and Technology Park near Whitehaven in Cumbria. Sponsored by the Samuel Lindow Foundation as part of its charitable activities, this free-to-attend event will be recorded and streamed live on-line to a wide audience.
To reserve a free place call 01946 517204 or e-mail RWylie@uclan.ac.uk.
To participate online, simply go to the website on the day and then select ‘Enter as a Guest’ and enter your name. You do not need to reserve a place to participate on-line.
Written by Rick Wylie and Julian Smith.
Professor Rick Wylie is Samuel Lindow Academic Director at the University of Central Lancashire's West Cumbria campus and Executive Director of the Applied Policy Science Unit (APSU). Julian Smith is Head of External Affairs at APM.