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Iwona Sobis

Abstract

Reforms of the public sector, conducted in the spirit of NPM since the 1990s, are frequently studied by Western and Eastern scholars. The research shows national variations in how the NPM idea was translated and adapted into a country’s context and regulations. Care for the elderly is an interesting example of reforms conducted in the spirit of NPM, because it relates to welfare and health care and to the competences of provincial and local authorities in most European countries.

This paper addresses the following questions: What do we know about the reforms conducted in the spirit of NPM and its practical implication within the field of care for the elderly during 1990 - 2010? What kind of knowledge about care for the elderly is still missing and should be developed in the future ? Th is paper conducts comparative research on what is known about the effects of the Swedish and the Polish reforms regarding care for the elderly. It argues that most literature points to negative effects, but also to the fact that there are still gaps in our knowledge about the effects of reforms concerning elderly care, especially regarding its organization. Hence, despite all the research done, we do not know what kind of social and health-care services for seniors represent the best practices for the future.

Open access

Anna Cregård and Iwona Sobis

Abstract

According to Action Agenda 21, which was adopted at the Rio Conference in 1992, sustainable development is a major objective for local and global development. Economic growth, good living conditions, and protection of the earth’s natural environment are important to all people in the world. This article focuses on one aspect of sustainable development, i.e. on environmental sustainability. Research shows that local government can take a leading position in protecting the natural environment and disseminating information on it among stakeholders. However, our knowledge about the dissemination of environmental information practices among stakeholders is limited. The purpose of this research is to fill a gap in current knowledge, to describe and compare the practical work with dissemination of such information among stakeholders in Swedish and Polish municipalities. The questions to be answered are: What environmental information is collected and produced by the local government ? At what stakeholders is such information targeted ? and What effects does it have on decision-making by stakeholders in the investigated municipalities ? The study is based on state regulations, the homepages of municipal offices, and policy documents, official reports, and semi-structured interviews with key managers responsible for the protection of the natural environment in the studied municipalities. Data were collected from late 2015 to early 2017. This research indicates that dissemination of environmental information has a positive effect on the decision-making of internal stakeholders. In both countries, the municipal authorities follow the EU recommendations, resulting in innovative work and growing environmental awareness among the municipal authorities, the residents, and other stakeholders. Improvement of the natural environment is perceived as “a must” for the future. Nonetheless, especially larger municipalities face challenges because the production and dissemination of environmental information is time-consuming. In the long run, however, surprisingly positive effects on the local protection of the natural environment appear.

Open access

Iwona Sobis and Offolome Guepie Victorien Okouma

Abstract

Management by objectives (known also as performance management) has been perceived as a promising steering method in the public sector since the beginning of the 1990s (Smith 1993, 1995; Kravchuk and Schack 1996; Ballantine et al. 1998; Ferreira and Otley 2009 Verbeeten 2008). However, working out operative goals of public organizations seem to be a challenge because major objectives formulated by politicians are oft en unclear and difficult to measure (Rombach 1991; Lundquist 1992; Gray and Jenkins 1995; Lapsley 1999). It is known that public organizations’ services like school, health care, welfare care, collective transportation, infrastructure and cultural services are usually unprofitable. The Transportation Service for the Disabled in the Municipality of Gothenburg is an exception. It fulfilled most objectives and achieved a profit of 7,890,000 SEK for 2013, while the planned one was scheduled at 5,000,000 SEK. Maybe performance management used as the steering model caused that result but the criticism targeting management by objectives suggests that this method hardly can explain such a positive result. Brorström et al. (2005) and Grönlund and Modell (2006) argue that in Sweden management by objectives is usually used in combination with other control models. The purpose of this study is to describe and explain why the Transportation Service for the Disabled succeeded in 2013 and to provide practitioners nationally and internationally with some pragmatic ideas how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public services. We ask three sub-questions: How were the operative goals created within the Transportation Service for the Disabled? How were the operative goals followed up? What can be learned from this case study? The research is based on the analysis of state regulations, internal policy documents, reports and interviews with key respondents. The study shows that the performance management systems (PMS) in combination with a new organizational culture based on SMART solutions, mutual cooperation among staff, with local politicians and other stakeholders resulted in the increase of efficiency and even partly effectiveness. However, these findings deserve further research if there are other public administrations that succeeded because of using PMS and friendly organizational culture.

Open access

Michiel S de Vries and Iwona Sobis

Abstract

Often a distinction is made between interpersonal and institutional trust, as the former is defined in terms of encapsulated interests, that is the idea that somebody will take your interests into account. Scholars have argued that this cannot be applied to institutions and that generalized institutional trust is therefore not a meaningful concept. This article disputes this reasoning by distinguishing this kind of trust in the governance of capital cities from such trust in non-capital cities. It argues that it can be doubted especially for the local administration in capital cities that they predominantly have the interests of their residents in mind when making decisions. The resulting hypothesis that residents of capital cities have less trust in their local administration than residents of non-capital cities is tested and confirmed through a secondary analysis of Urban Audit data. The analysis shows a significant effect in the predicted direction, which remains strong when controlling for the satisfaction with public issues, the respective region, and poverty of the respondent. The conclusion is that citizens in municipalities do know whether or not local institutions have their interests in mind when making decisions, which makes institutional trust equally meaningful a concept as interpersonal trust.

Open access

Iwona Sobis, Frits van den Berg and Michiel S. de Vries

Abstract

In Public Administration, it is taken for granted that reforms are initiated and conducted by leaders. However, one can wonder whether change is indeed always coming from leadership and whether the concept thereof as the driving force behind change and the panacea for all the problems encountered during reforms is not a bit overrated in recent literature. This paper presents the argument that it is not the leaders but the employees in the teams and working groups and the experienced organizational members in particular who are the real carriers of reforms. It goes through the recent and older theoretical literature as well as through known empirical research regarding the matter and suggests that mainly co-workers are able to provide reform in terms of content, direction and practical solutions. The conclusion is that leadership is indeed an overrated factor in explaining reforms. The emphasis on leadership disregards an old-fashioned but perhaps still relevant concept, namely that working groups / project teams are oft en self-regulating, despite what leaders believe. Although empirical research taking organizational tenure into account is scarce and scattered, there is some evidence that the communities of practice are important for conserving, changing and developing organizational values and norms.

In consequence, theorizing about reforms and especially the implementation thereof needs to pay more attention to horizontal relations in the organization - the role of colleagues and especially the role of experienced organizational members.