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Extending ideas of public value at Wellington IRSPM conference

28 May 2019

News and media


Beehive Parliament in Wellington

Public value has been central to ANZSOG’s work since its inception in 2002. This idea is being extended and expanded as part of a global program of work which draws together practitioners and scholars to integrate notions of value and values. Public value has been central to ANZSOG’s work since its inception in 2002. This idea is being extended and expanded as part of a global program of work which draws together practitioners and scholars to integrate notions of value and values. 

ANZSOG was recently a major sponsor for the International Research Society for Public Management 2019 Annual Conference,held in Wellington for the first time, and hosted by ANZSOG partner, Victoria University Wellington. As well as hosting the opening plenary for the conference, ANZSOG also convened a major workshop to start a global conversation around value and values and kickstart this work. 

Peter Hughes, New Zealand’s State Services Commissioner and chair of the ANZSOG Board, opened the conference with a speech on the ‘spirit of service’. He said he believed that public service is something we should acknowledge, celebrate and reward, as it creates public value in the outcomes and services it delivers.

“For me, public service is about all three things: a total focus on clients, the attitude of service and humility, and being motivated by a higher purpose, the desire to use our skills and talents to make the world a better place,” he said.

He said that in his 35-year public sector career he has felt many things – frustration, disappointment, even disillusionment – however, he has never once felt that it was not worthwhile. 

The reforms in New Zealand during the 1990s, alongside the implementation of a more corporate market-based model, shifted the focus away from the public service and towards individual agencies. Mr Hughes talked about how, “we lost that sense of being part of something bigger, with a higher purpose. A moral purpose. I think, in some ways, we lost our heart.”

This value makes the public service an asset to society. However, Mr Hughes also discussed how the public service delivers value in a more fundamental way: “it is a part of the constitutional architecture that guarantees our form of government and its legitimacy”.

After his speech Mr Hughes joined a panel facilitated by ANZSOG’s Professor Janine O’Flynn and featuring some of the world’s leading thinkers on the topics of value and values. Panellists included Professors Wolfgang Drechsler, Michael Macaulay, Catherine Needham and Rosemary O’Leary, and Dr Daryn Bean, all of whom were also part of a full day workshop, held prior to the conference.  

Building new foundations

ANZSOG’s Dr Lisa Carson and Professor O’Flynn led the workshop which is part of a multi-year research program to explore the ideas of values and value and which will inform ANZSOG’s future work. This research is building on the strong foundations of public value that have been central to ANZSOG since its creation and is a key part of ANZSOG’s Strategy 2025.

Session one focused on ‘Value and Values: The State of Play’ and opened with Professor O’Leary, from the University of Kansas, reflecting on how the ideas of value and values had been woven through her research on various topics including: guerilla governance; women in leadership; and collaboration in the public sector.

Professor Helen Dickinson from UNSW, Canberra and Professor Yijia Jing, from Fudan University, both offered their perspectives on the state of play, covering topics as diverse as technological evolution, AI, robotics, and motivation. 

The second session asked the question of ‘Whose Values?’ with Dr Bean opening the session with an in-depth discussion of Maori leadership. Professor Catherine Mangan, from the University of Birmingham and Associate Professor Pablo Sanabria-Pulido followed with perspectives from the UK and Latin America and challenged us to think more broadly about whose values we focus on in public administration. 

In the final session on paradigms of administration, Professor Drechsler from Tallinn University of Technology drew out the themes of value and values in his work on Western, Islamic, and Confucian systems of administration. Dr Lhawang Ugyel, from the UNSW Canberra and Associate Professor Catherine Althaus, from ANZSOG, followed on from this with perspectives on value and values in Bhutan as captured in the unique Gross National Happiness framework, and contributions emerging from First Peoples knowledge.Speakers focused on challenging the notion that there is one global best practice version of public administration, and the value of researchers opening themselves up to different versions of public value.

A range of themes, tensions and insights came from the workshop and an ambitious agenda is being sketched as ANZSOG moves forward with its work on public value.