Context in Public Policy and Management
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Context in Public Policy and Management

The Missing Link?

Edited by Christopher Pollitt

‘Putting into context’ is a very common phrase – both in the social sciences and beyond. But what exactly do we mean by this, and how do we do it? In this book, leading scholars in public policy and management tackle these issues. They show how ideas of context are central to a range of theories and explanations and use an international range of case studies to exemplify context-based explanation. The book uncovers the complexity that lies behind an apparently simple notion, and offers a variety of approaches to decipher that complexity. Context is indeed a missing link, which enables us to make sense of the vital relationship between the general and the particular.
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Chapter 12: The service-dominant context of public services: a suitable case for treatment?

Stephen P. Osborne, Greta Nasi and Zoe Radnor


Public services are intangible, process driven and based upon a promise of what is to be delivered. The capacity of governments to meet citizens’ expectations in the service delivery process depends on multiple elements such as the service design and their internal choices on functioning mechanisms, but more importantly, on their capacity to engage in interactive and continuous relationships with their stakeholders and the external environment. Governments and public service organizations (PSOs) have been undertaking multiple innovations to enhance their capacity to increase their public service performance. For example, many governments decentralized the provision of public service delivery to a more local level with the aim to enhance opportunities to capture and address local needs and contextual differences. In addition, PSOs have adopted new forms of public service delivery and introduced managerial tools to become more efficient and effective. Most of the innovations they undertook are grounded in public management theory that focuses on managerial approach to public services delivery, efficiency and effective utilization of public resources, and an especial attention to the lessons from product manufacturing in private sector management (Hood, 1991).

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