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North Castle Books

Citizen, Customer, Partner: Engaging the Public in Public Management
Authored by: John Clayton Thomas

Best Book Award, Section on Public Administration Research, American Society for Public Administration

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Cloth ISBN: 978-0-7656-2720-9 Paper ISBN: 978-0-7656-2721-6
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Available to all countries
Information: 256pp. Exhibits, cases, references, index.
Publication Date: February 2012.  


Description: For almost fifty years, scholars and practitioners have debated what the connections should be between public administration and the public. Does the public serve principally as citizen-owners, those to whom administrators are responsible? Are members of the public more appropriately viewed as the customers of government? Or, in an increasingly networked world, do they serve more as the partners of public administrators in the production of public services?

The author starts with the premise that the public comes to government not principally in one role but in all three roles, as citizens and customers and partners. The purpose of the book is to address the dual challenge implied by that reality: (1) to help public administrators and other public officials to understand the complex nature of the public they face, and (2) to provide recommendations for how public administrators can most effectively interact with the public in the different roles. Using this comprehensive perspective, the text helps students, practitioners, and scholars understand when and how the public should be integrated into the practice of public administration.

Most of the chapters include multiple boxed cases that illustrate the content with real-world examples. Included is an extremely useful appendix that collects and summarizes the 40 Design Principles--specific advice for public organizations on working with the public as customers, partners, and citizens.

Selected Contents:


Part I. Introduction

1. Citizen, Customer, Partner, and Public Management
The Public's Three Primary Roles
Purpose and Plan of the Book

2. The Changing Place of the Public in Public Management
Politics and Administration: Contrasting Perspectives
Three Waves of Change
Citizen, Customer, Partner: Three Essential Roles

Part II. The Public as Customer

3. Providing Customer Service in Public Service
A High-Volume Activity
Is It a Mistake to View the Public as Customers?
Providing Good "Customer Service"
Government's Unique Customer Service Challenge: Whom to Contact and How
The Promise of New Technologies
The Benefits of Better Customer Service

4. Learning About the Public's Needs
The Value of Information from Government's Customers
Citizen Contacts and Customer Relationship Management Systems
Citizen, Customer, and Stakeholder Surveys
Focus Groups
Management by Getting Around
The Value and Challenges of Better Information on Customers

Part III. The Public as Partner

5. Coproducing Public Services and Public Value
An Overview of Coproduction and Partnering
The Range of Coproduction: A Sampler
Why Coproduction and Why Now?
Benefits, Costs, and Limitations
The Limits and Potential of Coproduction

6. Managing for Coproduction
Change the Outlook of Public Managers
Simplify the Task
Enhance the Abilities of the Public
Provide Incentives for the Public to Contribute
Use Sanctions as a Last Resort
Toward Expanded Coproduction

Part IV. The Public as Citizen

7. When Is Public Involvement Desirable?
The Evolution of Public Involvement
The Debate over Public Involvement
Assessing the Need for Involvement
Getting Out Front on Issues
Structuring a Supportive Decision-Making Framework
Entering the World of Public Involvement

8. Engaging Representative Participation and Reaching Effective Decisions
The Dilemma of Representative Participation
Defining the Relevant Public
Achieving Open Dialogue and Effective Resolution
The Promise of Public Involvement

9. Techniques for Involving the Public in Decision Making
Public Comment Periods
Public Meetings
Citizens' Advisory Committees
Public Deliberation
An Expanding Array of Options

Part V. Conclusions

10. Implications for Public Managers, the Public, and Democracy
Working with the Public: A Summary Architecture
When Roles Overlap: The Public as Citizen, Customer, and Partner
A Need for New Skills
A New View of Citizenship
A Threat to the Public Interest?
Citizen, Customer, Partner, and Democracy

Appendix. The Design Principles: Guidelines for Working with the Public
Principles for Working with the Public as Customers
Principles for Working with the Public as Partners
Principles for Working with the Public as Citizens

About the Author

Comment(s): "This landmark work will help public managers better understand and engage with the increasingly complex 'publics' they face. It cuts through the 'citizen vs customer' debate, illuminating how members of the public have multiple roles, and it offers practical strategies for government organizations interacting with them." -- John Alford, Australia and New Zealand School of Government

"Citizen, customer, partner! John Clayton Thomas continues to push the public management boundaries in researching the complex relationship between individuals and their government. In this book, Thomas provides a highly useful analytical framework grounded in the social sciences and in evidence to move the field of practice and scholarship forward in thinking about how, under what conditions, and through which forms government and the public engage each other to address collective action challenges. Thomas's book is a critical resource for all those engaged in public service and committed to thoughtful governance." -- David M. Van Slyke, Syracuse University

"John Clayton Thomas's new book is a really useful intellectual and practical resource for public administrators as they seek to understand how to engage with the public in their differentiated (and often overlapping) roles as citizens, customers, and partners. This kind of help has been long overdue!" -- John M. Bryson, University of Minnesota

"Public managers have been asked to treat the public as citizens, customers, and partners. How are they to reconcile these three roles? Drawing on both research and insightful examples, John Clayton Thomas offers a carefully considered set of principles. The result is an exemplary guide for those interested in putting the public back into the public sector." -- Donald Moynihan, University of Wisconsin

"John Clayton Thomas's Citizen, Customer, Partner speaks exceptionally well to today's public service, fully addressing the complexity and variability of roles and interactions which thwart single factor theories and approaches. Public service students, practitioners and academics will all find considerable value in this comprehensive, well-argued treatment of public engagement in public management." -- Guy B. Adams, University of Missouri

Review(s): "Thomas's book makes an important, practice-oriented contribution to the literature on civic engagement, public management, and public policy decisions and implementation. Thomas has offered practitioners and scholars of public policy and administration an opportunity to revisit the current forms and dilemmas of public involvement and provided them with practical, insightful advice to overcome the dilemmas. It is highly recommended for anyone interested in the theory and practice of public management and public involvement." -- American Review of Public Administration

"The strengths of the book are wide and deep. Thomas provides a solid scholarship base. The book's structure works well for his audience. The cases are excellent. The result allows for practical use by managers in several ways described later in this review. ... Thomas has done a service by revisiting the cacophony of how citizens ask, demand, complain, work together, and shape their governments. He is well placed to continue the analysis and synthesis of public participation and provide guidance for public managers for today's new forms of engagement." -- Public Administration Review

"This new book on public engagement's material importance grabs you, and its generic sense of the field-its dailyness, its proximity, whether you are an academic paid to pay attention, or a layperson nursing an opinion about potholes and school district budgets-appeals to multiple audiences. ... This book is a valuable contribution to the political science and public administration literature; the architecture of public engagement right there in a single volume." -- State and Local Government Review

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