SCG Seminar on 10/1/2018 – Dr. Toby Lowe – Complexity & Public Management

SCG presents a special seminar by Dr Toby Lowe (Newcastle University Business School, Open Lab).

TItle: “Why trust helps us to manage better in complex environments: exploring a complexity-informed Public Management paradigm”

Date, Time, Venue: 10/1/2018 @ 4pm-5:30pm in Alway M106 (Medical School). 

Description

Currently, public management (sometimes called public administration) is dominated by a paradigm based on linear notions of change. This paradigm, called “New Public Management”, rests on the idea that work towards the achievement of social goals is best undertaken by setting targets for desired outcomes (like “higher rates of employment amongst a target group” or “fewer recorded crimes in a neighbourhood”), and then managing the performance of those who are tasked with delivering those goals by measuring the amount of progress which has been made, using agreed proxy measures. It seeks to hold people/organisations accountable for achieving desired outcomes.

This paradigm is failing. Rather than create real improvements on the ground, evidence suggests that instead it promotes “gaming” amongst those who are managed in this way – it turns social action into a game which is ‘won’ by producing data which makes it look like your programme is succeeding. In other words, this paradigm turns everyone’s job into the production of good-looking data, rather than addressing complex, real-world social problems.

A new complexity-informed paradigm

Complexity explains why this paradigm fails. The social outcomes we seek (like higher employment rates, or less crime) are not delivered by organisations. They are emergent properties of complex systems. Complexity explains why proxy measures are not effective substitutes as performance feedback mechanisms. And it explains why it is folly to hold people/organisations accountable for producing desired social outcomes, when those outcomes are beyond the control of particular actors in those systems.

Consequently, a new complexity-informed public management paradigm is emerging (https://collaboratecic.com/a-whole-new-world-funding-and-commissioning-in-complexity-12b6bdc2abd8 ) This new paradigm asks: how do we shape and influence the behaviour of complex systems in order to produce desired results?

This new paradigm places trust at the heart of the distribution and performance management of resources for social action. It is based on three key shifts:

  • Recognition of the intrinsic motivation of people who undertake social interventions
  • Using learning (rather than vertical accountability) as the driver of performance improvement
  • Funders/Public bodies taking responsibility for the health of the eco-systems from which positive outcomes emerge

If you would like to join in with others who are exploring this new paradigm beforehand, you can become part of the conversation at: https://khub.net/group/complexity-friendly-system-oriented-commissioning-pilot-project

4 Responses to “SCG Seminar on 10/1/2018 – Dr. Toby Lowe – Complexity & Public Management”

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