What are the challenges that organisations in the public sector face in their efforts to create public value?2021-02-26
That is the question Sara Davoudi has looked into in her doctoral thesis, “What happened with the leviathan of the Public Sector? The challenges of vertical coordination in regional public organizations and its effect on public value”.
Sara Davoudi, PhD in Business Administration, tell us about your research.
- My research is about vertical coordination, which is best described as the communication between public sector actors and the challenges associated with that. Many different private and public actors have participated on different levels. I have examined whether their communication is adequate to create the tax-funded public value that is their raison d’être.
The challenge is the multilevel structure of decision-making entities. There are different goals, different interpretations of laws and policies, visible and invisible barriers, and different relationships and agendas. We are talking about people, after all.
What has been the context of your research?
- I looked at public transport, the area where I have worked. When you take public transport, you see a bus. You want to use that bus to get somewhere. But lots of organisations facilitated your trip. Everyone from the Swedish Transport Administration to snow clearers have enabled you to go on your journey. I want to highlight the fact that complex organisations are the foundation of societal functions like this one. If citizens, practitioners, and researchers learn more about this topic, they can demand more from the public sector.
My research can also be transferred onto topical issues, like elderly care. The issue of accountability is no less interesting there. Is it the regions, the companies, or the regulatory bodies? Who is actually accountable? It may not sound all that exciting, but the public sector concerns all of us. It’s about us.
Do you believe that the complexity you just described is necessary or is there room for simplification?
- The systems are where they are because of international paradigms, and we believe that the current usage is how we best benefit from them. However, to understand the need for coordination, we need to know the challenges involved with the systems we have chosen.
How did it aid your studies to be part of the Regional Public Transport Authority?
- Being part of that context made a huge difference. I was a full-time employee at the RPTA for 2.5 years, devoting equal time to research and to my other duties. That was the key to seeing the organisation’s true colours. I was able to do a deep-dive into the organisation while piquing the Public Transport Authority’s interest in my research. I was actually approached by other regional public transport authorities who asked to be part of the study, and that’s not an everyday occurrence in research. They know that the field needs to be studied and were interested in the fact that someone was looking at these challenges.
Will your research be used to make improvements?
- Definitely. I know that the RPTA have already absorbed my research and entered it into their documents. To give you an example, I used a method to gauge how travellers experience various attributes in public transport. We measured 25 different things at two separate instances, six years apart. Measurements showed that the needs of travellers change, so the service has to be adjusted. If the method is approved and the decision passes, it will be used in follow-up documents and applied regularly. It may sound simple, but bringing citizens in at a policy level in such a concrete and specific way is a huge step. My intention is to spread the method to other organisations in other regions. I also think my thesis can help shed some light on the challenges that exist in the modern public sphere and thus make us better equipped to deal with them.
What will your research add to the Karlstad Business School and CTF?
- Its contribution is twofold. In a practical sense, Karlstad Business School plays a part in adding knowledge to the public sector and thereby increasing public value. In terms of research, a public context is an exciting approach where Karlstad Business School and CTF contributes to the international research on organisation, learning, and management.
What awaits you in 2021?
- I will spend the immediate future teaching at Karlstad Business School and CTF. But I would love to take this research further. We’ve talked about how vertically complex these organisations are, but they are every bit as horizontally complex.