A new view to assist public agency development

David L. Schwarzkopf, Sean M. McDonald
  • Journal of Organizational Change Management, October 2014, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/jocm-09-2013-0174

What is it about?

Public agencies face pressure to adopt evidence-based approaches that include the use of standardised measurement methods to improve comparability between program choices. We examine the intra-organisational effects of efforts to adopt standardised measuring techniques in a large British economic development agency (EDA). Based on interviews with 19 key managers and staff, we re-characterise an EDA’s work using the model of a ‘centre of calculation’ from studies of science development. While the EDA focused on standardised measurement as part of evidence-based operations in its desire to improve accountability for the use of public money, participant comments revealed organisational issues impeding accountability efforts and delaying agency growth. These issues included the need to reconcile differing perceptions of the importance of measurement, a desire to improve organisational learning, and a tension between analysts eager to use their skills to improve assessment and project managers continuing to rely on experience in the field.

Why is it important?

The model we introduce better reflects the reality public agencies deal with by showing that the technical aspects of agency work that provide the tools for evidence-based policymaking are part of a larger social concern. It also shows how standardisation for the sake of accountability paradoxically helps build agency power.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor sean mcdonald and Dr David L Schwarzkopf