“Assessing the Quality of Governance - Developing the Common Assessment Framework for CEE Countries”
A Report on the NISPAcee-Volkswagen Summerschool in Potsdam/Germany
What is public governance? And how can it be assessed? These were the research questions of a joint NISPAcee-Volkswagen Summer School in Potsdam/Germany. In the first week of July 2002, 25 participants from CEE countries and Germany came together in Potsdam in order to investigate how the abstract concept governance could be operationalised and assessed. In order to have some guidance at hand we used the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) of the EU Member States as case study material (see www.eipa.nl for details of this assessment instrument).
The working programme consisted of three main blocs:
· Keynote presentations providing an introduction to governance issues and the CAF (mainly on the first day).
· Small-sized working groups which dealt with governance evaluation over a three day period.
· Mini-workshop on putting governance evaluation into practice (for re-entry into home countries), followed by a wrap-up session and an evaluative critique of the summer school on the last day.
Eight distinguished speakers from Western Europe and Hungary introduced the various themes tackled in brief speeches and moderated the working groups. In contrast to the CAF training seminars organised by EIPA, the focus of the Summer School was not on how to best use the current and next version of the CAF but on illustrating the contrast between measuring the managerial performance of organisational units and measuring wider governance achievements, therefore focusing on the performance of a network of public, private and nonprofit organisations.
The difference between public management and public governance soon became apparent. Whereas public management focuses on the single organization and organisational efficiency, public governance focuses on problems of coordination between different public organisations and between public organisations and their external stakeholders. But as Werner Jann from the University of Potsdam expressed it in his opening speech “you always need both public management and public governance”. For example, in order to have a clean environment it takes an efficient garbage collection and recycling facilities but it also requires citizens and a business community who behave in environmentally-friendly ways.
Clearly, the CAF belongs more to the category of management assessment instruments, even though the CAF has included some governance criteria such as equal access to public services. Christian Engel from the European Institute of Public Administration and Silke Saatweber from the Civil Service College in Speyer informed the participants that the next version of the CAF will have even more governance criteria but the main purpose and structure of the CAF will remain unchanged.
The participants recognised that there is no assessment instrument ‘for all seasons’. Different instruments have different foci. As Geert Bouckaert from the Catholic University of Leuven said “the weakness of one instrument is the strength of an other instrument”.
The working groups during the Summer School were given the task of adding a governance dimension to each of the nine different themes of the CAF (or for insiders, the headers of the ‘nine boxes’). Usually, one of the speakers would give an introduction to the specific topic to be discussed, point out how it is defined in the CAF and suggest potential governance dimensions which go beyond the CAF. Then the participants were split into 3-4 working groups. Each group had the task of coming up with a structured list of six assessment criteria for each governance topic. The results of this first round were presented by each group, and critically discussed by the parallel working group in a plenary session of the two groups. After this round of mutual critiques, each working group revisited its proposed set of criteria and discussed possible changes. Then the working groups met in a wrap-up session and presented their results to the plenary. The results of the working groups and the summer school reader will be made available to the summer school participants in a CD Rom.
Even though the participants had very different backgrounds, it was surprising – and heartening – how often the working groups managed to come up with a coherent set of governance criteria.
This also showed that is does not need sophisticated tools to carry out governance assessments but as Salvador Parrado from the Distance Learning University in Madrid emphasized in his session “governance evaluations need multiple stakeholder assessments, not just self-assessment”. At the end of the day, the quality of public governance cannot be measured quantitatively but rather in terms of the perceptions of different stakeholders.
Even though the participants and the speakers worked very hard throughout the Summer School (which was somewhat lacking in ‘summer’ as the temperatures very not very warm), there was also plenty opportunity for networking. The German Ministry of Interior provided a reception for the Summer School participants on the first day to be followed by a guided tour of the Reichstag. On the last day, we had a farewell dinner in a Potsdam restaurant which ended in a party at the seminar grounds. And on the other days, the sports facilities and sauna provided good opportunities to build up networks and friendships.
The Summer School not only discussed coordination issues in theory but also experienced excellent coordination through the great work of the NISPAcee Secretariat before and during the summer school. Last but not least our thanks goes to the Volkswagen Foundation in Germany which covered the travel and accommodation costs of most participants.
If you have further questions related to this summer school, please address to
Ms. Elke Löffler, Bristol Business School, UK