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Redefining Public Administration Through Civic Participation

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Dr. Tzung-Shiun Li 
October 28, 2014

Businesses, nonprofits and citizen groups have become essential partners in government, contributing resources to community problem solving and public service delivery. When we discuss the role of the public administration, the core issue focuses on the participation levels and participation across sectors. What we care about is the value of the public administration, not the efficiency of the public administration.

Li octWhen we discuss the issue of citizen participation, we need to connect with the issue of open government. The real focal point is on only when government is open to welcome citizen participation, is transparent in the ways to participate and pays attention to citizen participation contribution. Then, the role of the public administration can be more open and more cross boundary participation. This paper will discuss the case of post-disaster recovery and reconstruction in Taiwan to show how to transform form protection to promotion and development and asset-based policy, an urgent transformation issue of government role.

The government only focuses on the post-disaster provision of high-level reconstruction funding and assistance payments for remedial work. How can government agencies and private organizations become more active to ensure common disaster mitigation and preparedness? The government utilizes the appropriate social safety network to deliver disaster assistance in times of crisis as well as basic living condition. However, government should provide disaster training for citizens to encourage produce long-term reconstruction of the self-help rehabilitation of basic skills.

How to Transform From Protection to Promotion

In its 2008 report, “For Protection and Promotion: The Design and Implementation of Effective Safety Nets,” the World Bank said safety nets are part of a broader poverty reduction strategy. They interact with and work alongside social insurance, such as health, education, and financial services, the provision of utilities and roads and other policies aimed at reducing poverty and managing risk. A good safety net system is more than a collection of well-designed and well-implemented programs; it also exhibits the following attributes—appropriate, adequate, equitable, incentive compatible, sustainable and dynamic. Good safety net programs require investments in their administrative systems.

New Frontiers of Social Policy: Assets, Livelihoods and Social Policy

In 2008, the World Bank published the report “New Frontiers of Social Policy: Assets, Livelihoods and Social Policy,” which discussed social development through systematic attention to the underlying social context and the social outcomes of development interventions and public policy. It compels readers to think of social policy in terms of increasing access to productive assets, infrastructure, goods and services; strengthening governance and accountability; enabling the rights and obligations of citizens to promote equitable access to development opportunities and managing the social dimensions of conflict, natural disasters and climate change. To be successful, an asset-based social policy needs to address several challenges such as initial inequality, informality, imbalance in asset building opportunity, and inadequate state effectiveness— all of which are endemic in many developing countries. 

Social-ecological Resilience and Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration    

These disasters are as much the result of human decisions as of nature. Land use, building codes, the engineering of critical infrastructure, distribution of wealth and poverty and many other social decisions and actions shape the impacts of extremes and subsequent recovery. Resilience to disasters is built at the community level. No community is immune to disasters, and no community is an island unto itself. The emerging role of critical infrastructure, just-in-time manufacturing and the globalization of the economy means that all individuals and communities are interdependent.

Post-disaster reconstruction begins with a series of decisions that must be made almost immediately. Despite their urgency, these decisions—and the manner in which they are implemented—will have long-term impacts that will change the lives of those affected by the disaster for years to come. The 2010 World Bank report, “Safer Homes, Stronger Communities: A Handbook for Reconstructing after Disasters,” outlines how to develop and assist policy makers and project managers make decisions about how to reconstruct housing and communities after natural disasters. There are some guiding principles to achieve people-centered reconstruction including:

1. A good reconstruction policy helps reactivate communities and empowers people to rebuild their housing, their lives and their livelihoods.

2.Community members should be partners in policy making and leaders of local implementation.

3.Reconstruction is an opportunity to plan for the future and to conserve the past.

4.Civil society and the private sector are important parts of the solution.

Sustainable Disaster Recovery Strategy Must Increase the Resilience of Individuals and Communities

Government only focuses on the post-disaster provision of high-level reconstruction funding and assistance payments for remedial work. How can government agencies and private organizations become more active to ensure common disaster mitigation and preparedness?

This research found that a sustainable disaster recovery strategy must increase the resilience of individuals and communities so that they can adapt to future disasters. However, the central government cannot achieve this goal by itself. Rather, success requires the acknowledgment that disaster risks and responsibilities must be shared among individuals and communities. This finding explores how reconstruction efforts affect communities’ long-term coping capacity and preparedness to face future events. It also highlights the communities’ active roles in self-advocating and working with the various governments and public and private agencies in the reconstruction process.

The role of the central government should be to provide the safety net that protects citizens from failure due to disruptive events and to promote the capacity of impacted individuals to become self-sustaining. Disaster recovery should be a collective action that is carried out by multiple actors, including the government at all jurisdictional levels, nonprofit organizations, private business, individuals and communities. The findings also indicate that, while it is widely accepted that the disaster recovery measures and services should not be carried out by the government agencies alone, there is a need to review current post-disaster recovery policies and to develop a bottom-up decision-making process that engages various actors and enables them to generate survivor-centric disaster recovery measures after disaster events.

This study will continue to provide evidence-based cross-nation and cross boundary compare analysis on post governance reconstruction and recovery. My study will enhance my home (Taiwan) and my own professional development, learning from Japan’s self-help, co-help and public help, as well as learning from the United States all hazard approach on post governance project.


Author: Dr. Tzung-Shiun Li is a professor at the Department of Administrative Management, National Central Police University. He is also a chairman (2009.05-2010.05) of Taiwan Association for Schools of Public Administration and Affairs (TASPAA),and now serves as Chairman, Chinese Association of National Competition.His research areas include public-private collaborative, contracting out government services, crisis management and risk governance, leadership and invigorate and public philosophy. Dr.Li can be reached at [email protected]

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