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Co-Relative Areas of Public Management: Democracy, Public Service and Recruiting

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

By Lisa Saye
September 26, 2022

@Re-city the City. Photo and Title by Lisa Saye

Democracy is co-relative to equal representation, voting and civil debate. Proof of this lies in the strands of its history. Public service is a companion to democracy’s history. It is the permanent way to administer democracy to our citizens who are our permanent shareholders. Public service is a governance network informed by policy and authenticated by the same. When operational, it represents the government’s formal and informal response to citizen needs and concerns. 

Without a democratic structure in which to administer policy and programs, public service would be homeless. What public service does for a democracy is tilt its intentions toward mercy. It intentionally expands the tent of the original benefactors of democracy to include the marginalized, the forgotten—the citizen. Public service moves beyond socially determined politics and reframes the outcomes of service delivery by changing the inputs.

To be sure, democracy has an embedded return policy nestled in its next popular election. Elections are pillars of democracy and the single greatest way to reengage the citizenry. As such, democracy itself is a cratered rock—a bit bruised—but it is a rock nonetheless. It resists the tendencies to be categorized as historical fiction because public service is such an active part of its construction. Democracy stabilizes the chaos of mismanagement without which public service disappears into the folds of time. Democracy must be practiced and as they say practice makes perfect.

Public Service is so prominent in democracies. It changes the locks on the past and rekeys the future. It is public-facing leadership that must be immediate, proximate and in all instances it has to be locally administered. For public administration to deliver this, the selection of administrators must come from a host of moral talent derived from a diverse and accurate pool of individuals. In this sense, recruitment is vital and recruitment strategies have to be flexible, attractive, practical and provisional. Instituting new recruitment strategies helps to build trust that the government is attempting to meet the public where they are.

Public sector recruitment sirens have been going off for a long time. Many have argued that the public sector has experienced a recession, specifically one of talent with the desire to serve. Addressing recruitment under these circumstances is important for many reasons. One very real reason is the need to find and hire public administrators who use market thinking to determine efficient public service delivery and not for ill-fated programs that look good on paper. Sincere recruiting strategies narrow past personnel errors that many times have negatively impacted service delivery to the citizenry.

Recruitment is physical and virtual because public administration is physical and virtual. The expansion of government’s digital infrastructure as it relates to recruitment and selection means acquiring talent from new and emerging fields. It also means providing stable and flexible workspaces that grow along with government’s changing environment. Recruitment and selection in the public sector must help to decrease inequality in staff as well as inequality in service delivery.

COVID-19 challenged the public sector in ways unheard of. Government has emerged from it with a new sense of work while understanding that consistent recruiting means being ready for all kinds of work disruptions. Governments have learned to plan better, specifically in filling positions that call for rapid quality hires should the need arise. Today’s strategically aligned recruitment allows us to correct selection mistakes that have led to indifference and disengagement of some public administrators.

Recruitment goes hand in hand with continuous improvement through education and training. We discover what our citizens need when we start with the curiosity to ask questions that are interconnected to our mission to serve and to value the inputs of those we serve. The recruitment and subsequent selection of public administrators should be deliberate attempts, on our part, to supply the government with individuals who want to address the ills and deficiencies in the dissemination of public goods. This would be the best investment of our time and the greatest benefit to societies and citizens going forward.

I hope that time eventually reveals the degree to which public sector recruiting actively affirms the human spirit of kinship. Where we find our next employees is shaped by the spaces that they inhabit. We must remember that those spaces are in and within local, state, regional and national labor markets. If we adopt a more visionary attitude toward recruitment, we then build bridges to those we serve instead of constructing roundabouts that lead us back to ourselves. We need public administrators that understand that citizen requests are public needs.

The copyrighted ‘@Re-city the City’ image was taken by Lisa Saye.

Author: Dr. Lisa Saye is OSO Director at America Works in Washington, D.C. She served as Fulbright Specialist in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and as International Consultant for the United Nations Development Program in The Maldives. She served as Chair of the Division of Social Sciences and Humanities and as Associate Professor of Public Administration at American University Afghanistan. Dr. Saye can be reached by email at [email protected].

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