Public Participation: Involving Citizens in Designing Public Services
‘There is nothing so practical as a good theory’, the famous maxim of Kurt Lewin, has particular relevance for the reform of our public services. In that challenging task, there is need for a coherent theoretical perspective and clarity as to the fundamental goals we as a society wish to strive for in the coming decades. I want to argue for a radical new paradigm for public services and to describe such a paradigm. I will discuss the implications of this paradigm using the case example of health services and will seek to draw some broad applications for the community and voluntary sector in relation to the design and delivery of public services.
I believe that the OECD Public Management Review, Ireland: Towards an Integrated Public Service, completed in 2008, has a failed paradigm at the heart of the thinking it presents. The very opening sentence of the report is illustrative of this:
Ireland’s economic success story is one that many OECD countries would like to emulate. While the reasons underpinning Ireland’s success are varied, the Irish Public Service has played a central role in ensuring that the right economic, regulatory, educational and social conditions are in place to facilitate growth and development.1
Even without the benefit of hindsight, this would have to give rise to serious questioning.