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Blog by Max Everest-Phillips

The ‘Now’ and Future of Effective Institutions for Public Service

Feb. 8, 2016
by Max Everest-Phillips

At the Effective Institutions Platform (EIP), we focus making public service more effective in fast changing environments around the world. Profound social, economic, political and technological trends are re-shaping ways in which governments think and act, and the contexts they operate in. 

In parts of the global North, rising demand and financial constraints are driving a mix of austerity, innovation and the need to do more with less. In rapidly-growing parts of the global South, governments are responding to increasing populations and rising citizen expectations by building innovative service infrastructure that exploit new technologies to  ‘leapfrog’ traditional service models. For parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia, the politics of high debt and ‘Washington Consensus’ adjustment are evolving into new initiatives focused on institution-building, integrity and adaptive governance.

Each of these trends implies a different concept of ‘effective institutions.’ It also means a different relationship between citizen/taxpayer and the state, including between politicians, the public, civil service (meaning central ministries and sub-national equivalents), public services, and the people responsible for delivering them. 

During the first phase of work (2012-15) at the UNDP Singapore Global Centre for Public Service Excellence, we identified four relatively neglected but critical themes for development – motivation, leadership, foresight and innovation in public services.

Our research in Phase 1 also confirmed that public service is key to development. Yet how or why an impartial, ethical, fair and meritocratic public service comes about and how it can be promoted and fostered remains perhaps the biggest puzzle ...

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