The future of public management as we emerge from the acute phase of COVID-19: key themes and future trajectories

Sophie Yates, Janine O'Flynn, Helen Dickinson, Catherine Smith

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The global pandemic reshaped the lives and futures of many around the world. It has also had a profound effect on public management – not just in relation to the practical challenges, triumphs, and failures, which have emerged so strongly through the chapters in this collection, but also in how it has challenged the field of public management. For some it has raised the issue of whether the questions our field has pursued matter, or whether our attention to them has obscured deeper problems that deserve our attention (O’Flynn, 2021). For certain, a global pandemic of this scale has acted as an accelerant for deeply entrenched challenges, but also amplified these in new ways. Across the chapters in this book, authors from around the world have explored a range of important topics and questions, bringing to the forefront critical public management issues. In our final chapter we draw on these contributions to focus on six cross-cutting themes that position us to think about the future of the field. Many more themes and issues are raised by the authors; however, we focus here on six themes that build on their findings and position us to think about the future of the field. First, we consider the challenges and implications of operating in a world where ‘business as usual’ is increasingly marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). We then explore central trade-offs and tensions raised by governing during the pandemic, followed by what has been revealed about government capacity. Next, we consider what various chapters have raised about who is talking and who is listened to during the pandemic era, followed by a related theme about the worsening of entrenched disadvantage precipitated by COVID-19. Lastly, we explore notions of temporality and what has been revealed about our ability to plan for protracted or ‘creeping’ crises. As we noted in the introductory chapter, the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity for the field of public management to reflect and re-orient. In our view it is an opportunity that should be grasped enthusiastically.
    Original languageEnglish
    Editors Helen Dickinson, Sophie Yates, Janine O’Flynn, Catherine Smith
    Place of PublicationMassachusetts
    PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
    ISBN (Print)9781802205947
    Publication statusPublished - 2024

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