Creating citizens while creating public value

By Theo Camps | June 28, 2019 | 2 min read
Professor Mark Moore of the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) is one of the most prominent faculty members of HKS and over the past 15 years TIAS closely cooperates with him and his team. Participants of various courses and programs of TIAS such as the Program for Directors in the Public and Non-Profit Sector (PBNB), the Executive Master of Public and Non-Profit Management (MPM) and the Executive Master of Management in Education (MME) are familiar with the public value theory of Mark Moore and applied these thoughts in their own environment.

During his TIAS Kennedy lecture on 15 May 2019, Mark Moore addressed a large audience. The event took place in the main lecture theater of The Cube, the brand new educational building of Tilburg University.

The title of Mark’s Kennedy Lecture was ‘Citizen-centric public value’ with the accompanying subtitle, ‘Creating citizens while creating public value’. The starting point of the lecture was the original ‘strategic value triangle’. Ever since its publication in the book title “Creating public value” in 1995 it has served as a source of inspiration for both public managers and researchers.

Mark underlines the observation that the model needs to be re-evaluated in view of societal developments regarding citizenship. This is an awareness that has developed over time. It accelerates by developments in society in which citizens manifest themselves in various ways.

Community actions for keeping a public library, the Occupy movement, support for health care insurance, the MeToo expressions are all examples of citizen concerns.

The second part of the lecture started with concept of the citizen as ‘consumer of public products’, introduced by new public management thinking; a limited way of perceiving the citizen. This introduces the question how to bridge the ‘governance gap’ that results from this limited view on the relationship between the individual and the public realm. Opposite to the new public management approach, Mark introduces the concept of a variety of appearances of citizens; citizens defining, supporting, producing and enjoying the creation of public value.

Citizens are consumers and co-producers of public value and at the same time they are the arbiters of value. The judgement at individual level originates from four different angles. The homo economicus (own material wellbeing), de homo altruisticus (wellbeing of others), de homo civicus (moral and legal duties towards others), homo politicus (vision of a good and just society). From a collective perspective this judgement results in: strong economy, needs of citizens, rights and duties of citizens and a good and just society.

Why is it so important to gain insight in these various appearances of citizens? What is the importance of defining te public perspective?

Because ultimately the legitimacy of government depends on the value that citizens assign to the activities of that same government. “Calling a public into existence; is a necessary condition for legitimacy of government and that is done by creating citizens while creating a public”.

This quest can be considered to be one of the hardest ones for a government that is very much used (and perhaps addicted) to a government-centered logic. To consider citizens as consumers is a clear demonstration of this logic. The citizen in all varieties does not fit into this government-centered format. Government is obliged to ‘call a public into existence’. This obligation reflects the necessity of a redefinition of government. A redefinition of government that parallels a redefinition of public value, judged through the four individual and collective public lenses.
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