In this video Stephen describes how his work focuses on understanding the nature of public services and its implications for reform. To date, public services have often been treated as tangible goods, like manufactured goods. In fact though they are intangible processes. His work is concerned both with understanding the importance of this for designing and delivery public service and for working with public service managers on the implications of this for their practice.
Stephen P Osborne is Professor of International Public Management in the University of Edinburgh Business School. He is also Associate Dean for Quality in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences in the University.
He is Director of the Centre for Public Services Research in this School, as well as Co-Director of the ESRC Research Centre on Charitable Giving and Philanthropy and Associate Director for Scotland of the ESRC Third Sector Research Centre. He had fifteen years experience of working as a social work practitioner and manager before moving to work in the higher education sector in 1990. His research and teaching interests include service-dominant logic in public services, innovation and change in public services, the role of the third sector in providing public services, co-production, and public service reform. He is currently directing the Scottish Government’s longitudinal study of the third sector and public policy in Scotland. He is editor of the journal Public Management Review and former Founding President of the International Research Society for Public Management.
His current work explores public services delivery through the lens of service-dominant logic and theory. It seeks to understand public services as ‘services’ rather than as manufactured goods, as much previous public management theory has done. This means emphasising them as intangible processes rather than tangible goods, understanding that their production and consumption occur at the same time rather than separated by time and place, embracing knowledge as a key element of a public service and realising that service users do not just ‘consume’ public services but also co-produce them. Consequently his work uses service-dominant theory both to evaluate the process of delivering public services and to explore how best to promote innovation in public services, and to work with public managers on considering the implications of this shift of emphasis for the practice of public services management – whether these services are based in the public, third or private sector.
His approach has four implications for public services management. First, it is important to understand the need to clarify the service promise being offer to public service users and what processes are necessary to deliver this promise. Second it is necessary to understand and work to frame the expectations of a public service – this will condition their experience of that service, their satisfaction with it and its performance. Third public service managers need to embrace the idea that service users are not just passive recipients of these services but help to co-produce them through their involvement in the service process – and that they are a major source of innovation in public services delivery. Finally the management of public services needs to be oriented outwards towards the effective delivery of the service promise and meeting social/economic needs, not simply internally focused on creating an efficient organisation. Internally efficient public service organisations are not ‘fit for purpose’ if they are not externally effective.
Find out more: