SUBTHEME 1: ‘Legitimacy, Performance, Satisfaction and Trust’

The perspective of performance is crucial in the debate about government legitimacy. Governments are often heavily criticized for underperforming, which is said to be the reason for their legitimacy problems in the eyes of the public. But do governments really underperform—and according to which measures and standards of evaluation? And moreover, is government performance the root cause of legitimacy problems—or are ethical, procedural, cultural and political factors equally if not more important? Finally, how do citizens make sense of government performance, and how do they form their satisfaction and trust judgments? What can governments do to better communicate with citizens in order to restore trust and legitimacy?

This workshop aims to explore the relationship between government performance and legitimacy (broadly understood) along with the related questions of how to communicate performance information and influence citizens’ satisfaction and trust. We especially encourage submissions addressing one or more of the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between government performance on the one hand and citizen satisfaction and trust in government on the other?
  • How do actors at different levels of government (citizens, civil servants, politicians) reason about and perceive performance? How do reasoning and performance perceptions vary across different institutional and cultural contexts?
  • Are levels of trust and satisfaction decreasing, and what are the main reasons for that? Are the reasons the same on both sides of the Atlantic and in various institutional contexts?
  • How can we measure the value and performance of government? What is the relationship between subjective and objective performance measures?
  • How can the performance of government be explained, what can be done to boost performance, and what are the trade-offs of doing so?
  • How can the legitimacy of government be maintained in an era of crisis and cultural change?

This workshop welcomes a range of methodological approaches, but we encourage submissions based on the growing use of rigorous experimental methods in public administration research.

SUBTHEME 2: ‘Legitimacy, democracy and citizen engagement’

This workshop will explore how strategies of citizen engagement and mechanisms for democratic action contribute to and are influenced by the legitimacy of government, particularly in the current climate of fiscal austerity and, in many parts of the world, hostility to government (both national and supra-national) and divided citizen loyalties.

The legitimacy of government is often reduced to the budgetary position, particularly in terms of budget deficits and national debt levels. However, current levels of disillusion with government (or perhaps more with politics and politicians), raise fundamental democratic questions that affect all groups in society – and clearly impact some groups (e.g. immigrant groups and refugees) and some countries (e.g. Greece) more than others.

A more lean government that retreats from service provision in certain areas might empower some players, in the private sector and in civil society, but it might also harm the interests of weaker groups. A government that thinks in terms of slick process and low cost operations might seek to abolish the ‘unnecessarily time-consuming’ processes of stakeholder involvement in decision-making. It might also seek to reduce the voice and ignore the needs and capabilities of those who don’t vote, or whose votes are unlikely to influence electoral outcomes.

This raises questions about how the principles, instruments, and practices of citizen engagement and democratic action can help to improve government’s legitimacy within a system of representative democracy? How can we avoid the pitfall of choosing ‘strong leaders’ without disregard for democratic rules or practices? Is it likely that government in times of crisis can actually use citizen engagement to strengthen democracy and legitimacy, by (re-)engaging with civil society sector to tackle wicked issue or deliver services, e.g. through user and community co-production. Or is it likely that such bottom-up, community-based approaches will simply undermine further the legitimacy of elected politicians and their appointed bureaucrats?

We particularly welcome papers that explore how citizen engagement and democratic action are affected by and, in turn, can help to tackle key current public issues such as:

  • Regulation of financial markets;
  • Boosting of economic development by public investment;
  • Dealing with migration and reducing human trafficking;
  • Ensuring intergenerational understanding, interaction and fairness;
  • Ensuring sustainable development;
  • Fostering social inclusion in fragmented societies and polities.

We are also keen to have papers that contribute to some of the main questions posed in the overall 12TAD conference, such as:

  • Is there really a confidence crisis in government or is more a confidence crisis in politicians or in public bureaucrats? In order to address these different confidence crises, are different approaches to citizen engagement and democratic action required?
  • How does citizen engagement and democratic action impact on the legitimacy of government in playing its specific roles of government, such as regulating, stimulating, sanctioning and delivering services? And how do they relate to the overarching governmental role of ‘meta-governing?
  • To what extent do citizen engagement and democratic action help to achieve social gains and public value? What evaluation criteria and mechanisms can be used to ensure such achievements are given appropriate weight in comparison to financial and economic performance indicators of government and governance systems? Does achievement of social gains and public value affect the perceived legitimacy of government or does it simply bolster the position of the other stakeholders who contribute to these achievements?
  • To what extent do citizen engagement and democratic action help to achieve key governance principles such as transparency, accountability, fairness and due process, inclusiveness and the equalities agenda, resilience, etc.?

The workshop welcomes papers that provide theoretical overviews or conceptual models for understanding these issues, as well as papers providing empirical evidence on these issues. We intend to have participants discuss a set of papers after the presentations, and a final roundtable will consider the current ‘state of the art’, bringing together the various contributions to the workshop, and will explore implications for the future research agenda and potential collaborative working.

SUBTHEME 3: ‘Legitimacy, discrimination and social equity’

The legitimacy of government depends, in part, on the extent to which it can successfully provide social opportunities for all (Sen, 1999). Not surprisingly, then, discriminatory processes and practices tend to undermine governmental legitimacy and diminish public support for the state. In efforts to restore and maintain legitimacy in government, discrimination and social equity have become well-established themes in the field of public administration. There have, for instance, been studies of representative bureaucracy (Meier, 1984), representation biases in citizen participation and coproduction, pay discrimination within government agencies, and equity in accessibility to public service providers.

Despite this well-established literature, there is still a great deal that we do not yet know about the causes, consequences, and the long-lasting effects of discrimination and inequality in public service. Indeed, Susan Gooden has concluded from a review of work published in Public Administration Review that we need to devote more attention to the “black box” of agency practice, organizational structure, and organizational culture to identify why inequalities persist.

Thus, the purpose(s) of this panel is to explore how public organizations (both government and nonprofit) can avoid discrimination and strengthen social equity in their quest for legitimacy. Specifically, we will discuss the black box of discrimination and administrative mechanisms of exclusion by focusing on questions such as:

  • How do frontline workers respond to a greater diversity of their clients?
  • Are there any differences between public, nonprofit, and private sectors organization in terms of discrimination and social equity?
  • Is performance management hampering, or helping inclusion?
  • What (if any) administrative barriers are faced when seeking to promote social equity in public services?
  • Are vulnerable populations and disadvantaged groups worse-off in accessing well performing public services?
  • Are mechanisms of exclusion embedded in seemingly neutral administrative procedures such as grant management, contracting, or budgeting?

With these questions in mind, we invite theoretical and/or empirical (all methodologies) contributions on the administrative mechanisms of discrimination and exclusion in the public sector. Contributions from a variety of fields of practice (health care, education, housing, etc.) as well as from a variety of fields of discrimination (race, class, gender, and beyond) are encouraged. We hope to discuss a future research agenda based on a thorough discussion of on-going research and standing scholarship.

SUBTHEME 4: ‘Managing for legitimate public officials’

The key question we want to address in this workshop is: in the search for legitimate government by legitimate public servants: how can we organize institutional ‘trickle-down’ by creating public value? Legitimacy of government is undisputedly tied to the concept of public value. After all, government does not only deliver product or services but this should always be done in relation to what is expected, and based upon standards that have popular acceptance. In order to be legitimate, government should therefore deliver public value. However, in its definition, the concept of public value as ‘the achievement of the politically mandated mission of the organization and the fulfilment of the citizen aspirations that were more or less reflected in that mandate’ tells us very little about what this public value actually consists of. To fully grasp what this elusive concept actually means, it should be supplemented by other concepts such as public values.

As public value is a higher-level concept, the question is how this can be translated into individual level behavior. Theory and empirical research suggests that public service motivation plays an important role in this process of creating ‘institutional trickle-down’ enhancing legitimacy at the individual level. However, since it consists of an entire value-chain, other elements, such as transformational leadership, HRM and ethical decision-making play an equally important role.

The organizers of this workshop seek papers that theoretically or empirically make the connection between the institutional-level concept of public value as a source of legitimacy and the individual-level behavior of public servants that puts this concept into practice. In particularly, we are interested in papers that assess the above-mentioned mechanisms in relation to public value.