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Changing Focus for Service Delivery

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

By Evelyn Trammell
November 11, 2016

Public administration has seen several shifts in service delivery since the time of Max Weber’s traditional bureaucratic model. Max Weber’s description of bureaucracy is that of an organization that is rule-bound, systematic, employs specialized professionals, hierarchical and impartial. Since the time where Weber’s ideal-type bureaucracy was the dominating structure, the nation has changed socially, economically and environmentally. Such change in the world calls for a shift in values and service delivery.

The first Minnowbrook conference established a new direction for public administration and the resulting New Public Administration. New Public Administration developed and included values of social equity into public administration practice. According to Frederickson, practice exemplifying social equity should “provide the best possible public service with the costs and benefits being fairly distributed among the people.” Service delivery was no longer a routinized and neutral practice. Instead, it became more value oriented and people focus.

In response to public outcries for smaller and more efficient government in the 1990s, New Public Management shifted the structure of service delivery once again. People were viewed as customers. Government agencies steered while market mechanisms rowed. As the reinventing government movement died down, Denhardt & Denhardt proposed New Public Service as the necessary shift in service delivery. In this model, people are citizens. There is a collaborative effort for policy creation and shared values.

Service delivery models such as New Public Administration and New Public Management generalize the needs of society and attempt to address broader interests. Unfortunately, there is an element of impracticality with service delivery and policymaking in this regard. Individuals in society are unique and have issues that vary from each person. Therefore, policy cannot possibly address every single person. There will always be issues left unaddressed and individuals that fall through the cracks.

A service delivery model with a New Public Service framework and a realignment of public service values may be the answer or at least offer guidance for addressing the needs of all individuals in a way that is more catered. This model assumes that public administrators are motivated by public service values. It is important to note the limitations of this assumption, though. Not all public servants will be motivated as such. However, organizational leadership can aid in developing and fostering such a culture. As discussed by Box, public service values include, but are not limited to, accountability, benevolence, courage, dedication, honesty, humaneness, inclusiveness, integrity, pluralism, representativeness, social justice and transparency.

seniors-1505935_640Public service values and the New Public Service framework can be especially helpful for service delivery in support of older adults and seniors. It is important for the mindset of the public professional to be in the right place so that proper and effective service delivery can take place. Public service in the heart should motivate public professionals to go that extra step in providing optimal service to a population with more difficulty in obtaining services. Collaborative efforts and open discourse with seniors are important to understanding their needs. The public sector should provide programming that will aid them in accessing service.

Local governments are best equipped to support older adults in their cities. They may aid them with specialized programming such as tax assistance, informational seminars on new issues they may not have dealt with several years ago (e.g., identity theft), technology tutorials, elderly-friendly transportation services (i.e., railings, easily accessible storage areas, vehicles that lower so seniors can board with ease). In addition, the ability to engage in an open discourse with elected officials and public administrators is also necessary to develop a collaborative relationship which can help guide public servants in program development. Public service motivation and related values are paramount to making such a model work for a targeted population.

In conclusion, service delivery in public administration has evolved throughout the last several decades. However, the field is in need of a model that is better equipped to cater to individuals with different realities and differing needs. This brief piece asserts that organizational leadership should develop a culture where New Public Service is a model for practice and public service values become a model for the heart. There is a necessary change in mindset and values, which needs to occur in the organization and with public servants. This may be able to set the stage for a more service-oriented establishment that can meet the needs of all demographics but is especially prepared to meet the needs of older adults and seniors. 

Author: Evelyn is a doctoral student in the Public Affairs program at Florida International University. Her educational background consists of a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in International Relations and Religious Studies, a Master in Public Administration from Florida International University, and a Certificate in Public Procurement from Florida Atlantic University. She has five years of experience in municipal government employed with the City of Sunny Isles Beach. Email: [email protected].

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