On April 6th, 7th and 8th MindLab is participating in the annual conference of the International Research Society for Public Management, IRSPM. The conference takes place in Denmark at the Copenhagen Business School, and is thus an obvious opportunity to share our perspectives on the future of the public sector and, not least, our current Ph.D. research.
MindLab is now hosting a total of three Ph.D. students – all of them with a background in anthropology and ethnology. Their fields of interest are quite different, however, ranging from sick leave reform to tax compliance, to public-private innovation processes.
Why do we believe that anthropological research can improve our understanding of what it takes to create more effective public services and policies? Let me just offer a single but powerful reason:
Anthropology can offer an outside-in perspective on the public sector. Anthropologists have a highly developed ability to immerse themselves in the subjective reality of life as it is lived. Not least, they go behind immediate attitudes, and examine actual practices, for instance through observation. Viewing the world of public sector interventions through the lens of citizens and enterprises holds a promise of showing us a different reality – a reality we need to understand if we want public policies to be sufficiently relevant to the groups they target. Although our projects are far from finished, I’ll try to share a taste of the themes they might address:
How does a major public sector reform unfold from top to bottom of the implementation chain, and how are the political objectives translated into concrete interactions between citizens and front line staff?
What are the concrete practices that shape tax compliance in small and medium sized enterprises, and how are they created?
Under what circumstances can cooperation between public and private actors unleash new social innovations?
I hope and expect that, in due course, you can read about the answers (and new questions) that this research raises. So stay tuned.