The concept of public value has become a hot topic in public administration. However there has been a lack of clarity about how to measure the public value that organisations are producing. This brief explores a promising framework and its four key components.
At a glance, Nicholas Faulkner (Monash University) and Stefan Kaufman (Environment Protection Authority Victoria) conducted a review of the literature on public value measurement to identify and evaluate available measures. They identified four components to measuring public value.
In 1995, Mark Moore from Harvard’s Kennedy School posited that the task of public sector managers is to create public value.
Public value refers to the value created by government through services, laws, regulation and other actions. It is produced by public managers successfully navigating a strategic triangle encompassing the following:
According to Moore, the aim of managerial work in the public sector is to create public value just as the aim of managerial work in the private sector is to create private value. This is distinct from public values which refer to personal judgements about the social standards, principles and ideals to be pursued and upheld by government officials.
The researchers undertook a systematic review of the literature on public value measurement from 1995 to 2016.
Quantitative, qualitative, and conceptual studies were included if they met the following criteria:
The initial search yielded 543 studies based on title and abstracts. These were then reviewed against the inclusion criteria and this narrowed the pool to 19 studies.
Dimensions of public value
The studies identified a broad array of public value dimensions, including
The researchers synthesised these themes to four domains.
1. Outcome achievement
2. Trust and legitimacy
3. Service delivery quality
Although all reviewed studies identified dimensions of public value, very few made recommendations about how to turn these qualitative dimensions into quantitative scores. Several studies noted difficulties associated with developing quantitative measures.
This is the first known systematic review of research on the measurement of public value. It suggests it may be possible to develop universal measures of public value that could be used across a variety of policy and national contexts.
However for public managers, the question remains about how to operationalise the measurement framework and practically apply it. The researchers themselves acknowledge this when they suggest several areas where further research is needed. This includes the need for more quantitative research to develop and validate measures of public value.
Avoiding Theoretical Stagnation: A Systematic Review and Framework for Measuring Public Value – Nicholas Faulkner and Stefan Kaufman, Australian Journal of Public Administration, Volume 77, Issue 1
Public admin explainer: What is public value? – The Australia and New Zealand School of Government (2017)
This article originally appeared in The Mandarin as part of The Mandarin and ANZSOG's ongoing special Research Series. Sign up to receive The Mandarin's research newsletter today.