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Creating public value in the policy advice role

30 November 2012

"As a public servant I live with the tension captured in Richard Mulgan’s question: ‘How much responsiveness is too much or too little?’ (Mulgan, 2008). On the one hand, my job is to be responsive to portfolio ministers and to the prime minister and Cabinet. On the other hand, Westminster conventions of public service imply that I ought not to become over-responsive and merely reactive. The role of a permanent, politically neutral civil service is to be loyal to the government of the day, yet with sufficient independence, knowledge, expertise and experience to influence and shape government priorities and policies, not only to implement these.

In this article I explore Mark Moore’s public value approach as a possible theoretical framework to help manage this tension in ways that are creative, rather than frustrating and destructive. I offer it as a personal reflection ‘from the front line’, as a stimulus to more systematic development of public value theory in relation to the policy advice role in New Zealand."

Dr David Bromell is a Principal Advisor and acting Chief Policy Advisor in the Ministry of Social Development. He lectures in the School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington, and is a Senior Associate of the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies.

This article was first published in Policy Quarterly – Volume 8, Issue 4 – November 2012