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Newcastle Business School
City Campus East
Newcastle upon Tyne


2024 Conference Streams

Managing Complexity and Outcome-orientated Public Service: Max French

Following on from last year’s successful stream we seek to explore deeper theoretical and contextual exploration of outcomes and an outcomes-orientation in public service and movements from the orthodoxy of ‘Rationalist Theory’ (c.f. French et al. 2023) and the emergence of complexity theory informed relational approaches. A number of relational approaches are emerging which potentially respond to complexity and harness relationships including applied developments in capacity, investments, contracting and procurement. Others approach is to emphasise the plurality of means through which an outcomes-focus can operate. Outcomes can function as motivational tools and sensemaking devices in ‘personal outcomes’ approaches in social care, or in using outcome-based evaluation to drive learning.  Additionally, this may involve adopting new modalities of working to market outcomes regimes and influence behaviour in environments where little direct control.

In this theme, we are interested in hosting a range of papers and workshops presentations from policymakers, practitioners, and academics interested invested in a forward-thinking approach to outcome-oriented governance and public service. Contributors can also propose their own thematic session or workshop linking a number of contributions.

Engaged Scholarship – Relational knowledge exchange and learning, and research-policy-practice partnerships: Melissa Hawkins, Helen Watson & Hannah Hesselgreaves

Policymakers and public service managers are working in increasingly complex conditions, and now more than ever before need research which is robust, timely and relevant to pressing concerns. The disciplines best placed to inform this, public policy and public management, have however faced mounting criticism for a retreat into detached scholasticism and therefore run the risk of becoming irrelevant (Carboni et al., 2019; Pollitt, 2017). Engaged scholarship (Van de Ven, 2007) and related action-oriented and relational approaches (French, 2020; Hesselgreaves, 2021), with their focus on making meaningful connections between research, teaching and learning, and knowledge exchange activities, seem well-placed to increase research relevance and narrow the academic-policy-practice gap in relational public services.

We invite researchers, policymakers, and practitioners working in this space to present at the conference (case study, workshop, paper presentation). Focus area can include but not limited to:

  • Making connections between research, knowledge exchange, and learning activities.
  • Relational knowledge exchange/academic-policy-practice partnerships.
  • Action-oriented/participatory/novel methods for reducing the research-practice gap, or for support teaching and learning activities.
  • The role of knowledge brokers, intermediaries, policy engagement institutes and other institutes can play in moving public administration ideas into practice.

Digital Citizens, Communities and Relational Public Services: Rob Wilson, David Jamieson & Martin King

The pervasive nature of technology in our lives as citizens, workers and members of organisations and communities increasingly poses questions about the governance and management of the tools and associated infrastructure.  This has been exacerbated by the monopolistic scaling of large e-commerce on one hand and the integration of public services information systems on the other neither of which deliver the emerging requirement of infrastructures necessary for relational public management

Recent debates in the areas of Digital Social Innovation have highlighted the necessity of foregrounding social issues as opposed to technological artefacts sometimes called a ‘social first’ approach where the creation of societal platforms should have primacy over commercial platforms to meet collaborative social aims. Key to the wider scalability of this approach is the notion of ‘techno-ficing’ meaning that the utility and affordances of the technical artefacts for the societal or community issues at hand should be geared to the social purpose not to technological aspirations that some in the wider information systems communities refer to as ‘Digital Civics’, ‘TechforGood’ or ‘DataforGood’ or from the other perspectives challenges of Community Development; Deliberative Democracy and Participative Planning and so on. the methodological approaches draw on interpretative and participatory action research traditions to foster innovation to address issues of sustainable engagement of local assets to facilitate challenging resource scarcity and social norms (Qureshi et al. 2021).

We invite researchers, policymakers, and practitioners working in this space to present at the conference (workshop or paper presentation). Focus areas can include but are not limited to:

· Making sociotechnical or systemic links between digital tools and platforms and engagement with communities including the role of hybrid approaches.

· Examples of the relational approaches to the design and implementation of digital tools with citizens and communities.

· Action-oriented/participatory/novel methods for addressing challenges of business models and sustainability of ‘techforgood’ or ‘dataforgood’ style activities

Public Service Innovation: Data and Evaluation in Relational Public Management: Hannah Hesselgreaves, Tamara Mulherin & Marco Checchi

Contemporary Public Management approaches to data and information are predicated on the use outcomes as targets for performance management and/or the basis of supporting evaluative judgements on the success/failure of discrete innovation programmes aimed at the improvement of an aspect of services for citizens and communities.

The material complexity of the system and the lives of those it seeks to support means that data and evaluations render innovation programmes measurable to provide the basis of future investment and scalability. There is an emerging sense that a relational approach to the use of data and information and the contribution of evaluation to stakeholders might be key to more co-productive interpretative measurement and evaluation processes which emphasise active learning and the innovation of relationships as opposed to summative processes.

We are interested in a range of papers and workshops presentations from policymakers, practitioners, and academics from theoretical frames and applied contexts who have been exploring the use of innovative methods and approaches to the use of data and evaluation processes which have adopted a relational approach public services.