An organizational approach to public governance focuses on the organizational architecture of public organizations and contributes to explaining governance processes by the organizational characteristics of such organizations. The dependent variable “public governance” is defined as the process through which the steering of society takes place. Such steering of society can unfold directly (“governance”) as well as indirectly (“meta-governance”), the latter denoting the process of organizing the apparatus within which governance happens. Governance is not only about making formal decisions, but also about agenda setting, development of alternative policy directions, implementation, and learning. In practice, it is about hammering out legislation, budgets, policy programs, and law application (“governance”), as well as organizing, staffing, and locating the machinery of government (“meta-governance”). Organization structure, organization demography, and organization locus make up the key independent variables. Such a partial model is not thought to provide a full account of what happens in governance processes, but the organizational factors are expected to intervene and bias governance processes systematically and significantly. Since these factors are, arguably, relatively amenable to deliberate change, they constitute at the same time potential design tools. However, rational organizational design also depends on knowledge about the conditions under which the organizational factors themselves may be changed (“meta-governance”). Knowledge about these two relationships is, arguably, ultimately a prerequisite for (rational) organizational design. Public organization literature has largely neglected theorizing meta-governance and conditions for institutional (re)design. Organizational factors may influence meta-governance in two ways: first, existing organization structures, demographics, and locations may affect reform processes; secondly, reform processes themselves may be deliberately organized on a temporary basis to achieve particular goals. Organization theory is helpful in dissecting how different ways of organizing reform processes may produce different reform trajectories and outcomes. The idea sees reform processes as decision-making processes that allocate attention, resources, capabilities, roles, and identities. Reform organizations have structures, demographics, and locations that distribute rights and obligations, power and resources, and normally do so unevenly. Yet, when considering organizational (re-)design, its limitations should be considered as well. Organizational designers might benefit from being aware of the potential stickiness of existing organizational arrangements and the influence of environmental demands, as well as temporal sorting of events. Moreover, the limits to design are greater in complex organizational orders with nested rules such as in nation states, meta-organizations, and supranational institutions such as the European Union, than in single organizations such as government ministries and agencies.
Morten Egeberg and Jarle Trondal
Muiris MacCarthaigh and Leno Saarniit
Administrative culture is an established and prominent theme in public administration research. It is frequently used to explain or contextualize a variety of phenomena in the discipline, ranging from differences in governing styles and policy outcomes between national bureaucracies to making sense of the informal norms and values that determine the activities of individual public organizations and how they interact with political and non-state interests. It is also occasionally used to characterize a particular “type” of organizational culture, with features that distinguish it from the private or third sectors. With such varied uses of the term, as well as related concepts such as administrative style, tradition, and legacies, administrative culture attracts multiple interpretations as well as its fair share of criticisms as an explanatory tool. In some contexts, administrative culture is an independent variable that helps explain divergence and variety in policy outcomes within and across national borders, while in others it is a dependent variable that attracts experiments and new measurement tools with the aim of producing more sophisticated understanding of its place in public governance. Early skepticism about the study of administrative culture mainly arose due to the absence of adequate methodology as well as uncertainty about how to begin empirical research into the concept. The emergence of such a methodology and tools for inquiry since the 1970s has meant that administrative culture is now firmly located in the literature and practice of government and a burgeoning literature now exists across the globe. Some of the key contemporary debates around administrative culture concern the interplay between cultures and sub-cultures within bureaucracies, the influence of distinctive administrative traditions and styles on policy outcomes, and the role culture plays in public sector reform.
National broadcasters are a standard feature across Africa. Set up by colonial regimes, they dominate media landscapes with their unrivaled geographic reach. Radio continues to be the main—and often only—source of information outside urban centers, where commercial media struggle to survive and illiteracy remains a challenge. Although access to new media has risen exponentially, use of mobile technology continues to be prohibitively expensive. Some national broadcasters are official state broadcasters: owned, run, and editorially controlled by government. However, many claim to be public broadcasters. By definition, these are accountable to the public rather than the government of the day: accessible to a universal audience, inclusive of a wide range of views; and fair, balanced, and independent in their journalism. This aspiration is reflected in national and supranational policy such as the African Charter on Broadcasting and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa. In reality, these broadcasters lack de jure independence, the basic condition for them to be considered “public.” They are, in law and in practice, state broadcasters—owed to a range of historical, social, financial, and political determinants despite attempts by journalists and civil society to change this. Principally, the political will has been lacking—in colonial as well as postcolonial elites—to relinquish control of newsrooms and open up space for dissent. There is one exception: the South African Broadcasting Corporation was granted de jure independence following apartheid and enjoys unrivaled (though contested) legal guarantees and journalistic freedom. Its ongoing difficulties to fully meet its public broadcasting mandate despite this relatively conducive environment demonstrate that de jure independence is a necessary but not sufficient condition for successful broadcasting transformation, and that organizational culture is an important variable to be taken into account.