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Context in public management, the missing link

06 February 2018 — 06 February 2018 Open University

At a time when Brexit negotiations reveal the potential confusion of assuming a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach across Europe, an OU academic describes the perils of this approach worldwide.

Edoardo Ongaro, OU Professor of Public Management, highlights the dangers of assuming that one standard solution can be rolled out across Europe or the world.

In his inaugural lecture, Context in public management, the missing link, which he will deliver on 6 February 2018 at the OU in Milton Keynes, Professor Ongaro will consider the importance of taking distinctive contexts, such as local culture and practices, into account in public management. He claims that such an approach may be of broader significance for the social sciences at large, rather than adopting a more generic approach.

He will highlight the importance of context and demonstrate examples of why a certain policy or practice could work well in one place, but not in another one and why certain ‘solutions’ produce very different results when transferred from one country to another.

He will endorse the dramatic shift in the approach to reforming the public sector adopted by international organisations like the World Bank or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and acknowledge that nowadays, most approaches to reforming the public sector tend to be context-sensitive.

In his lecture, Professor Ongaro will discuss how through research in this field, these contextual approaches can be improved further.

“A context-sensitive approach is no longer new,” said Professor Ongaro. “But what is new, is the fact that many of the recipients of public sector reforms worldwide are now more powerful than they were in the past, so they insist on their context being taken into account rather than generic recipes being imposed upon them.

The previous ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach made huge mistakes in terms of how public organisations should be managed and came from a quite arrogant, assuming place. In order to sustain these new context-sensitive trends, academics have needed to do more research to understand contexts.”

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