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Article

The Crisis Cycle  

Christer H. Pursiainen

While crisis management is a well-developed institutionalized activity in public administration and private organizations, it is less developed and notably fragmented theoretically. Without any grand theories, the field is characterized across a range of disciplines by middle-range theories and discourses on one element of the process or another. These discourses seldom communicate with each other and effectively develop in isolation. The result is a fragmented field of theoretical concepts. The traditional “crisis management cycle” nonetheless provides a holistic framework of sorts for both theoretical and practical reflection, including pre-crisis, during-the-crisis, and post-crisis components. Capturing the salient themes of crisis management, this framework is useful in identifying the most important middle-range scholarly debates within the field. Through its holistic and almost all-encompassing scope of existing and potential new dimensions in crisis research, the crisis management cycle also lends credence to the perspective that the field will evolve from its current multidisciplinary character towards more genuinely interdisciplinary scholarship.

Article

Crisis Development: Normal Accidents and Beyond  

Jean-Christophe Le Coze

Our current era is one of profound changes and uncertainties, and one issue is to understand their implications for high-risk systems and critical infrastructures (e.g., nuclear power plants, ships, hospitals, trains, chemical plants). Normal Accidents (NA), Perrow’s classic published in 1984, is a useful guide to explore the contemporary epoch, in the third decade of the 21st century. One reason is that this landmark book has triggered a sustained interest by scholars who have debated, challenged, rejected, refined, or expanded its core thesis over almost now 40 years. With La Porte’s, Sagan’s, Vaughan’s, and Hopkins’s contributions into what can be described as the “standard NA debate” in the late 20th century and the more recent “new controversies and debates” by Downer, Pritchard, or Le Coze in the early 21st century, the book can still resonate with current changes in the 2020s. These changes include phenomena as large, massive, intertwined, consequential, and diverse as the advent of internet and of digital societies, the increase of transnational flows of diverse nature (people, data, capital, images, goods) and the ecological crisis captured by a notion such as the Anthropocene. Taking stock, historicizing, and revisiting NA with such debates and changes in mind leads to characterize a post-NA narrative.

Article

Human Resource Management in Public Administration: Key Challenges  

John P. Burns

Human resource management in public administration considers the civil service broadly to include all those employed in mostly noncommercial entities funded by the state. These entities may range from government bureaus and departments to agencies and authorities with varying degrees of uniformity, at both the central and local levels, and include those in such nonprofit services as health and education that are completely or mostly publicly funded. The terms civil servants, government employees, and public servants are used interchangeably. Human resource management may include such functions as planning, recruitment and selection, performance management, training, compensation, and labor relations. Key challenges of managing human resource functions include motivating and compensating public employees to reward passion for public service, managing the political roles of civil servants and their political responsiveness, selecting for salient identities to achieve representation and diversity, and reforming the civil service. These challenges impact individual and organizational performance. Motivation and compensation focus on what binds individuals to organizations and energizes those individuals. One approach, inspired by rational choice, identifies self-interest and extrinsic incentives, including performance-based pay, monitoring and surveillance to manage employees. A second approach, inspired by self-determination theory, focuses on altruism and prosocial values, and prioritizes intrinsic incentives, job design, and careful selection to nurture a passion for public service. A key challenge is to identify and nurture those with public service motivation, and reward competence and passion for public service. Selecting and nurturing those with a passion for public service includes taking care that compensation policies and practices do not crowd out public service motivation. An additional challenge focuses on the political roles civil servants play in government and the extent to which civil servants are politically responsive. Selecting civil servants based on merit, with separate career structures for politicians and civil servants, is generally associated with more effective governance and economic growth, with some important exceptions. The tasks, role perceptions, and behavior of the senior civil service are dependent on historical tradition and political culture, and on structural characteristics, such as the presence or absence of political advisors, and the support civil servants receive or need beyond government from clients and interest groups. The role of senior civil servants also depends on their specialization and the capacity of political appointees. Systems that encourage more explicit political roles for senior civil servants do not appear to sacrifice public interest. Preparing senior civil servants for these roles is a critical human management resource challenge. Authorities also use human resource tools to increase political responsiveness, including training, discipline, and changes to civil servants’ security of tenure. As identities such as race and gender become politically salient, representation becomes another key challenge for human resource management in public administration. Passive representation has had wide currency in both Western-style democracies and in the developing world. Passive representation has symbolic effects and may increase citizen trust in the bureaucracy, making bureaucratic action more legitimate in the eyes of minority communities. Moreover, minority civil servants may affect outcomes directly—for example, by influencing the implementation of a policy—or indirectly—for example, by influencing minority clients to change their behavior, or influencing nonminority bureaucratic colleagues to change their behavior or influencing organizational policy. Active representation may thus affect overall public service performance. Representation is mediated by a number of variables including discretion, salience of identity, agency mission, socialization, professionalism, and administrative level among others. Human resource managers also need to manage diversity training, which can improve outcomes. The final challenge, civil service reform, cuts across public human resource functions and themes. Civil service reform is a fraught domain, littered with experiments and not amenable to evaluation, which is a long-term enterprise. Still, some radical reforms have fundamentally altered the terms of the public service bargains between politicians and civil servants. Introducing “radical” reform, such as at-will employment, undermines commitment and fails to produce the expected performance payoffs.

Article

Disasters and the Theory of Emergency Management  

David A. McEntire

Disasters and the theory of emergency management are vibrant subjects for scholars. Researchers have focused on a variety of topics, including the definition of disasters, human behavior in extreme events, the nature of emergency management, ways to make the profession more effective, the pros and cons of various paradigms, and new areas of research. In studying these subjects, scholars have employed a variety of methods, including observation, field research, and comparison, among others. Findings from research reveals that humans are responsible for disasters and that vulnerability must be reduced. Studies reveal that antisocial behavior is less likely to occur than more common activities to support victims of disasters. The principles of emergency management have been elaborated, and scholars have argued that the phases of disasters are more complex that initially meets they eye. Research also reveals that bureaucratic approaches to emergency management are based on false assumptions and are too rigid. Scholarship also explores how to make emergency management functions more effective, and a number of articles have been written to explore paradigms to guide research and practice. Theoretical work on disasters and emergency management has examined planning, improvisation, and spontaneous planning. Research has also explored humanitarian logistics, the use of social media, the scholarship of teaching and learning, cultural competency and the culture of preparedness. Going forward, more research is needed on the complexity of disasters and the use or impact of technology in emergency management. A greater understanding of public health emergencies is warranted due to the challenges of Covid-19.

Article

Key Actors in the Management of Crises: International and Regional Organizations  

Eva-Karin Gardell and Bertjan Verbeek

In crisis-ridden times, when events like the COVID-19 pandemic, acts of terrorism, and climate change-induced crises are making constant headlines, states, businesses, and individuals alike look to international organizations (IOs) to help them weather the storm. How can the role of IOs be better understood in the context of crisis and crisis management? For a start, it requires a distinction between objective and subjective crisis perspectives in studying IOs. From an objective perspective, IOs are examined as unitary actors that have the aim of contributing to the stability of the international political system. On the other hand, in a subjectivistic approach, IOs’ actual crisis management is the focus. In this perspective, the emphasis is on an IO’s internal life, that is, its perceptions, bureau politics, and decision-making. In the exploration of these issues, IOs can no longer by studied as entities but have to be unwrapped into small groups and individuals, such as members of secretariats or member state’s top politicians. As borne out by theories developed by scholars of crisis management and foreign-policy analysis, centralization and cognitive bias are of special interest in the study of IOs. IOs’ crisis management has four crisis phases and tasks: sense-making, decision-making, meaning-making, and crisis termination. Finally, crises may prove a threat to, or an opportunity for, IOs. Transnational crises may usher in IOs’ foundation and flourishing, or they may contribute to IOs’ demise.

Article

Collaboration Constructs and Institutions  

Elise Boruvka and Lisa Blomgren Amsler

Collaboration, the act of “co-laboring,” takes place when actors come together to achieve common goals. Collaborative efforts can take many forms, working across sectors and involving many actors. When these efforts involve the government or public purposes, they represent collaborative governance. Collaborative governance provides opportunities for voice and participation among the public (both citizens and residents) and stakeholders regarding solutions and services that would otherwise be challenging for a single unit, actor, or sector to create. Collaborative public management, new public governance, public–private partnerships, network governance, and participatory governance all fall within collaborative governance. Among these literatures, 10 categories of constructs appear: governance, structure, interaction continuum, motivations for entering arrangements, member roles, within network characteristics, performance, value creation, public role, and public engagement.

Article

Crisis Governance, Emergency Management, and the Digital Revolution  

Patrick S. Roberts, Shalini Misra, and Joanne Tang

Digital technologies have fundamentally altered emergency and crisis management work through increased potential for role ambiguity, role conflict, distraction, and overload. Multilevel approaches to improve congruence between crisis managers and their environments have the potential to reduce cognitive and organizational barriers and improve decision making. The future of crisis management lies in reducing the misalignment between personal, proximal, and distal environmental conditions.

Article

Civilian Coup Advocacy  

Drew Holland Kinney

Available scholarship on civil–military relations, and coup politics in particular, tends to treat military coups d’état as originating purely within the minds of military officers; that is, the overwhelming bulk of scholarship assumes that the idea to seize power stems from officer cliques. To the extent that societal factors (e.g., polarization, economic decline, party factionalism) explain coups, they merely account for why officers decide to seize power. Most research that discusses civilian support for coups does so within single case studies—almost entirely drawn from the Middle East and North Africa. Building on a vibrant wave of studies that disaggregates civil–military institutions, a small body of recent research has begun to systematically and comprehensively consider the theoretical and empirical importance of civilian involvement in military coups. This perspective deemphasizes the military’s possession of weapons and instead focuses on ideational sources of power. Civilians have more power and resources to offer military plotters than existing scholarship has given them credit for. Civilian elites and publics can legitimate coups, organize them, manipulate information on behalf of the plotters, and finance coups for their own economic interests. In short, to fully understand coups, one must seek as much knowledge as possible about their formation, including where the idea for each plot originated. Such detailed analysis of coup plots will give researchers a clearer picture about the motivating factors behind coups.

Article

Ghana: The Military in Transition from Praetorianism to Democratic Control  

Eboe Hutchful, Humphrey Asamoah Agyekum, and Ben Kunbour

With the end of the Cold War and onset of democratization, the academic field of “civil–military relations” (CMR) has arguably gone into relative decline, replaced by the new global template of “Security Sector Reform and Governance” (SSR/G). This is a notable shift in several senses: firstly, from a narrow focus on the military (and coups in particular) to the “security sector” as a whole; and secondly because the two “fields” have been driven by different imperatives, priorities, and methodologies, in part shaped by changing historical contexts. In contrast to the CMR scholarship, SSR/G has been much more of a “policy and operational science” than an academic discipline, primarily oriented toward norm development and formal institution building in response to imperatives of democratization. This “policy praxis”—driven by sovereign actors and often delivered by consultants and private contractors with a primarily technical focus—has not always prioritized evidence-based research or interrogated real power dynamics. And while the nation-state remains the core actor, external powers (bilateral partners and international and multilateral institutions) have emerged as a critical supporting cast in SSR/G, evolving their own normative and policy frameworks and providing the financial resources to drive reforms (paradoxically, these are usually the same powers that conduct humanitarian interventions and extend security assistance to contain the proliferation of terrorist attacks in the region). Nevertheless, there are strong linear links between the two “disciplines,” as CMR legacies have shaped the SSR discourse and agenda. An offshoot of the SSR focus has been the implementation of practical programs to address some of the weaknesses of the defence sector exposed in the CMR literature, evident in a set of technical and “how to” tools, such as defence reviews, security sector public expenditure reviews, the “Defence Anti-Corruption Index” (pioneered by Transparency International), and a variety of “toolkits” designed to enhance military professionalism and strengthen civilian oversight bodies and institutions. Academic research has also reflected this shift by broadening out from the analysis of the military and coups to encompass other agencies in the formal security sector (police and intelligence in particular), as well as looking much more closely at nonstate security and justice providers and their interaction with state security institutions and actors, through the prism of concepts such as “hybridity” and “hybrid security governance.” Even so, militaries per se have never strayed far from the center of the discussion. Militaries have not only remained the focal point of SSR efforts—in the process even acquiring new roles and missions and (undoubtedly) sources of influence—they have even been propelled back to center stage, as the security landscape has shifted and African states and armies (particularly in the Sahel) have struggled against a growing proliferation of armed groups and terrorist attacks, and as coups have threatened to make a comeback. However, both the theory and practice of these African transitions defy neat delineations and linear interpretations. Their many commonalities notwithstanding, these transitions have been multifaceted, ambiguous, and contested, as well as fragile and subject to reversal, nowhere more so than in the CMR arena. Nevertheless, three elements stand out: 1. A growing trend over time toward “illiberal democracies,” as a variety of African leaders have made willful efforts to hollow out democracy, cultivating or (over time) perfecting the tools to evade or erode the strictures of democracy, an activity in which security forces are increasingly implicated. 2. A consensus in both the academic and policy literature about the fragile foundations of CMR in these transitions, which have been replete with “democratic deficits” and operational weaknesses, addressed only selectively by SSR, and likely to be further aggravated by the trends toward “soft authoritarianism” in the region. 3. Importantly, democratization in the region has coincided with (if not spawned) a proliferation of terroristic activity and new forms of armed conflict which African states have been unable to contain, triggering “humanitarian interventions” and security assistance from a variety of external actors. This has been dubbed the new “global militarism,” accompanied by a reorientation (rollback) of SSR in favor of “hard security” and operational capacity building (“Train and Equip”).

Article

Information Processing and Digitalization in Bureaucracies  

Tero Erkkilä

Bureaucracies and their processing of information have evolved along with the formation of states, from absolutist to welfare state and beyond. Digitalization has both reflected and expedited these changes, but it is important to keep in mind that digital-era governance is also conditioned by existing information resources as well as institutional practices and administrative culture. To understand the digital transformations of states, one needs to engage in contextual analysis of the actual changes that might show even paradoxical and unintended effects. Initially, the studies on the effects of information systems on bureaucracies focused on single organizations. But the focus has since shifted toward digitally enhanced interaction with the society in terms of service provision, responsiveness, participatory governance, and deliberation, as well as economic exploitation of public data. Indeed, the history of digitalization in bureaucracies also reads as an account of its opening. But there are also contradictory developments concerning the use of big data, learning systems, and digital surveillance technologies that have created new confidential or secretive domains of information processing in bureaucracies. Another pressing topic is automation of decision making, which can range from rules-based decisions to learning systems. This has created new demands for control, both in terms of citizen information rights as well as accountability systems. While one should be cautious about claims of revolutionary changes, the increasing tempo and interconnectedness characterizing digitalization of bureaucratic activities pose major challenges for public accountability. The historical roots of state information are important in understanding changes of information processing in public administration through digitalization, highlighting the transformations of states and new stakeholders and forms of collaboration, as well as the emerging questions of accountability. But instead of readily assuming structural changes, one should engage in contextualized analysis of the actual effects of digitalization to fully understand them.