Why Do We Need A New Synthesis of Public Administration?

The 20th century industrial model of public administration has served us well. It allowed for the mass production of public services and provided the tools for achieving efficiency. In the 21st century context, however, we are finding that this traditional, top-down approach to public administration is leaving pockets of underserved citizens and unresolved issues. The current model is not wrong, but it is insufficient for addressing the challenges of our times. A New Synthesis is needed to align the role of government with the demands of the modern context.

What is the New Synthesis Project?

The New Synthesis Project is working to expand the circle of people committed to modernizing the role of government in a post-industrial era. While partners hail from different countries, different political systems and different historical, economic and cultural contexts, all share the view that public administration as a practice and discipline is not yet aligned with the challenges of serving in the 21st century.

In 2009, an international collaborative network was formed, consisting of close to 200 officials, scholars and experts from 24 organizations in 6 countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United Kingdom). Referred to as the NS6 network, it produced the findings that have been captured in the NS Framework. This theoretical framework of public administration lays the foundation for future reforms and better equips public administrators to meet the challenges they are facing by bringing together the contributions of government, society and citizens.

What is NS World?

NS World is an ongoing journey to expand the conversation to include public sector leaders from around the world. Its purpose is to facilitate a continued process of learning and discovery that draws from a variety of countries, cultures, and political, economic and historical contexts. The NS World website contains a collection of case studies and examples of what more than 32 countries are doing to address the challenges that they are facing. There is much to be learned from the experiences of others and the challenges faced in differing contexts offer an excellent opportunity to test the robustness of the NS Framework in practice.

What is an NS Lab?

An NS Lab is an experimental tool through which the NS Framework is tested in practical domains. The first NS Lab was held in Singapore during the spring of 2013.

An NS Lab covers topics such as positioning, leveraging, engaging, capacity building, and a dynamic and adaptive state. It emphasizes interaction-based learning that is grounded in the context of the country in which it occurs, and draws on the experience and expertise of senior “master practitioners” from the respective country’s civil service. With the guidance of the NS Project Leader, an NS Lab is an exploratory conversation that seeks to build practitioners’ individual capacities to effectively address the practical challenges they are facing in their domains of work, as well as the collective (institutional) capacity to build resilient organizations, institutions and societies that are fit for the times.

The goal of an NS Lab is to test the robustness of the NS Framework and to help grow practitioners’ capacity to build a dynamic and co-evolving system of governance—to build a “new synthesis” of public administration that is adapted to their particular context.

Moving Forward

Over the coming year, the NS team will develop an NS Lab handbook that will provide practitioners anywhere in the world with the tools and resources needed to guide them through the NS Framework and allow them to apply the findings to their own particular challenges. Opportunities will also be sought to further test the NS Lab approach in other countries and practical domains. In the spirit of experimentation, the design will continue to evolve based on the findings obtained in these new contexts.

And the journey continues…

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