DSA2016: The Politics of Public Sector Transformations

DSA2016 is upon us, and if you are around Oxford on 12 September you might want to drop by our afternoon panel (2-5:30pm) on The Politics of Public Sector Transformations, which includes 7 papers from senior and junior scholars on both big theory and detailed cases, all with the goal of answering the following question “What is the next frontier in the analysis of public sector transformations?”

Here is the list of papers, authors and short abstracts:


Session 1: Theoretical frontiers in the politics of the public sector (2-3:30pm)

  • “Institutions as living mechanisms: rethinking institutional and political economy analysis”
    Marina Buch Kristensen (Nordic Consulting Group) & Goran Hyden (University of Florida). This paper, using recent data, applies an alternative approach to doing institutional and political economy analysis with the objective of showing how these can be carried out to strengthen public sector reforms that in accordance with the emerging donor policy paradigm.
  • “Motivation, identity and values: a turn to a more individual-focused public sector management” –  Sumedh Rao (University of Birmingham). This paper outlines an emerging and distinct public sector reform and management paradigm in policy and academia, which focuses very much on the individual and their intrinsic or internal psychological drivers, rather than on systems and extrinsic rewards.
  • “The politics of leadership and elite interactions in bureaucratic reforms:  Why relational leadership matters for sustainable organisational change– Kelechi Ekuma (University of Manchester). This essay advances insights into the idea of ‘relational leadership’ and what it might portend for public sector transformation in DCs. It examines the politics of trust in policy decision-making in a developing context and argues that public leadership should be a relationship-based social process.


Session 2: Levels and dynamics of transformation in the public sector (4:00-5:30pm)

  • “The politics of civil service reform in Pakistan” – Maryam Tanwir (University of Cambridge). The paper proposes an objective and apolitical performance evaluation system for Pakistani bureaucrats and highlights the significant political economy factors that could hinder the introduction of a new performance management system.
  • “Amplifying accountability by benchmarking results at district and national levels” – Alice Evans (University of Cambridge). This multi-level ethnography of the Zambian health system illustrates the importance of top-down accountability, and how it has emerged in a historically neglected sector. Maternal health care indicators are prioritised when they are benchmarked, at district and national levels.
  • “Transnational agency and mechanisms in the adoption of social protection in Kenya” – Marion Ouma (University of South Africa). Drawing from the policy transfer theory, in considering the process of adoption of social protection in Kenya, the paper brings new evidence on the mechanisms of transfer that have been employed by international actors in influencing the adoption of the cash transfer programmes.
  • “’Municipal entrepreneurs’: Local political interests in the delivery of urban public goods in Kumasi, Ghana” – Matthew Sabbi (University of Bayreuth). This paper discusses the interests and strategies of local politicians in the design and delivery of public goods to urban dwellers. These strategies are seen as specific responses to contest and shape the hegemonic structure of their municipal government which is dominated by the central regime.