Pathways to Positive Public Administration


Pathways to Positive Public Administration

An International Perspective

9781803929163 Edward Elgar Publishing
Edited by Patrick Lucas, PhD candidate, School of Business, University of New South Wales Canberra, Australia, Tina Nabatchi, Joseph A. Strasser Endowed Professor in Public Administration and Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, US, Janine O’Flynn, Professor and Director, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Australia and Paul ’t Hart, Member of the Scientific Council for Government Policy of the Netherlands, and Professor of Public Administration, Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
Publication Date: August 2024 ISBN: 978 1 80392 916 3 Extent: 490 pp
This is an open access title available under the terms of a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License. It is free to read, download and share on

Situated in an era of low trust in government and a pervasive negativity bias that has shaped the field, this insightful volume examines the foundations, practices and tools of a distinctly positive strand of public administration (PPA). It advocates for a more optimistic approach to the study of what government does, how they do it, and to what effect.

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In an era of low trust in government and a pervasive negativity bias, this volume goes against the grain. It examines the foundations, practices and tools of a distinctly positive strand of public administration (PPA).

This book asserts that there is a perennial need for social, evidence-based learning on what to aspire to and what works in public administration. Responding to this need, scholars from five continents present research that has been designed to do just that. Employing an array of frameworks and methods, they present studies of high-performing policies and programs and explore what makes them tick and what might be learned from how they were designed and delivered. Taken together, the 27 contributions make a powerful case for the added value of PPA as an intellectual and practical endeavour.

Laying out a future agenda for the field, this book is invaluable for students and scholars of public administration and management, public policy, regulation and governance. Theoretically grounded and conceptually innovative, it is also beneficial to policymakers seeking evidence for their belief that when done well, government does make an immensely positive contribution to society.

Critical Acclaim
‘This compelling collection takes us for a walk on the “bright side” through its elaboration of the core tenets and intriguing case studies of Positive Public Administration (PPA). Contributors provide a strong rationale for a renewed focus on ‘what works’ in public administration with a clear recognition that a PPA perspective requires both rigorous and critical scholarship and an explicit articulation of “what good looks like”. Addressing the question of why some policies, practices and processes produce improved societal outcomes when others fail, the collection aims to promote an open conversation about PPA, drawing on a variety of ideas, approaches, successes and failures, and to speak directly with professional practice.

The first part of the collection explores the foundations for PPA taking us through historical roots and potential pathways for PPA, while the second provides a rich set of PPA cases situated in a variety of national contexts, including studies of PPA during the COVID-19 pandemic. The third section presents a range of tools and drivers linked to PPA such as multi-sectoral partnerships, co-production, political leadership and local citizen engagement, along with an intriguing discussion of “cultural chameleonizing”. The volume is peppered with a series of illuminating ‘insight’ chapters throughout.

By charting a course for this nascent area of scholarship without shying away from problematic aspects of democracies and public services, this volume provides a refreshing and rigorous perspective on positive public administration. It will have a significant impact on the study and practice of public administration and should provoke and inspire in equal measure.’
– Rachel Ashworth, Cardiff University, UK

‘The popular and academic literature is replete with examples of the failure of government, and the public servants responsible for providing services to the public. This collection of studies is a useful counter to that conventional wisdom. The examples contained here point out that governments can and do deliver the goods, and do so in settings where poor governance is assumed to be endemic.’
– B. Guy Peters, University of Pittsburgh, US
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