European Association for Public Administration Accreditation

WG_News :: About WG :: Coordinators :: Activities :: WG_outputs
Activities: Working Group on PA during Transition, Change and Uncertainty
Activities in 2018
Meeting of the Working Group on Transition, Change and Uncertainty

WG Programme Coordinators:
Gyorgy Gajduschek, Corvinus University of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
Gyorgyi Nyikos, National University of Public Service, Budapest, Hungary
Place: 26th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Iasi, Romania
Date:  May 24-26, 2018

For the conference only four papers were accepted and presented by a small number of participants.
The first paper (by the chairs of the WG) is an attempt to conceptualise the problem the WG attacks: the specificity of change in the CEE region in qualitative and quantitative terms. The paper utilised contributions from papers previously presented at NISPAcee conferences.
"The Hungarian Experiences with Handling Irregularities in the Use of EU Funds”, presented by Ms. Györgyi Nyikos attacks the issue of uncertainty generated by the discrepancies between the EU and the national law regarding implementation of EU funded projects.
"Public Administration, the Citizen and adaptive Management” by Ms. Gogu Madalina-Cristina, represented a multi-layered analysis of the possibility of applying the principles of adaptive management in order to decrease the uncertainty in public administration-citizens relationship.
"Women in the Transition in Hungary 1985-1995” by Ms. Ágnes Horváth presented a general overview of major fields that may need further scholarly investigation.
Each presentation was followed by a short discussion based on questions from the audience and fellow-presenters. 

Activities in 2017

Meeting of the Working Group
WG Programme Coordinators:

György Gajduschek, Corvinus University, Budapest, Hungary

Albena Taneva, Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, Sofia, Bulgaria

Place:  25th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russian Federation
Date:  May 18-20, 2017

The WG focused on answers to the following questions:

1) Is there indeed a significantly higher level of change and subsequent uncertainty in the CEE region?

Our hypothesis is that there is a much higher level of change and uncertainty in the region than in Western countries.

2) Is there a linear relationship between the amount of change and the level of uncertainty; or alternatively, do some types of change cause less uncertainty than others?

Our hypothesis is that some types of change (e.g. change decided in a deliberative process; or change that fits to a longer, strategic plan) may cause less uncertainty than others.

3) What are the potential causes of frequently large-sale changes in the region?

4) What are the identifiable effects of these changes?

Activities in 2016

Meeting of the Working Group on Transition, Change and Uncertainty
WG Programme Coordinators:

György Gajduschek, Corvinus University, Budapest, Hungary

Eva Zemandl, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Place:  24th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Zagreb. Croatia
Date:  May 19-21, 2016
A brief summary
The Working Group, now in its third year, addresses the problem of omnipresent change and sticky uncertainty in the CEE region, especially in the case of the executive and of Public Administration.
At the start, we provided a brief overview of the issues that were further elaborated this year, based on the previous years’ discussions and experience. We also indicated the major research questions that could be specifically relevant for this year’s discussion.
Following the practice of the previous years, we attempted to select only highly relevant and presumably high quality papers. For this reason, out of the fourteen applicants, we accepted only seven papers, of which only 6 were presented at the conference.
Since it was a problem in earlier years that WG participants did not read each other’s papers, we assigned a discussant to each paper, which was accepted by all participants. Taking this into account, ten minutes were available for presentation, ten for the discussant to raise questions and issues for discussion, and an additional ten minutes for open discussion, including the presenter’s answer to some of the issues raised. The detailed programme was as follows (name of presenter underlined and used for reference to the paper):

Panel 1

1)    Mapping Omnipresent Change and Sticky Uncertainty in Public Administration in Central and Eastern Europe: A Concept Paper for Future Research
Gyorgy Gajduschek and Eva Zemandl
Discussant: Sandor Sorin Dan and Ciprian Raul Tripon

2)    Policies without Politics. Politicization of Public Administration in Poland
Trochymiak Mateusz and Lukasz Widla-Domaradzki
Discussant: Eva Zemandl

3)    Uncertainty, Quality of Governance and the Level of Trust in Public Administration in European Union's Member States
Sandor Sorin Dan and Ciprian Raul Tripon
Discussant: Lukasz Widla-Domaradzki  

Panel 2

4)    Rational Tax System in the Light of the Management’s Perception in Poland and Croatia – Evidence from the Field
Bogovac Jasna and Jaroslaw Marczak
Discussant: Ropret Marko

5)    Public Image of the State Administration as a Factor for the Sustainable Development of New Democracies in the EU
Taneva Albena
Discussant: Bogovac Jasna

6)    Factors of Innovation in Public Administration: The Case of Emerging Market Economies in Eastern Europe
Marko Ropret, Maja Klun, Janez Stare and Aleksander Aristovnik
Discussant: Taneva Albena

Due to this arrangement, presenters received valuable feedback that could be useful for further improvement before publishing. Meanwhile, the open discussion allowed the raising of more conceptual issues, generating a really lively debate.
Briefly on the content and method of the papers
The number of papers relying on quantitative data has increased greatly for this year; that may probably indicate an improved methodological sophistication. All, except for the first papers referred to quantitative data, although to a different extent and with different levels of ambition. Widla-Domaradzki presented research relying on cutting edge statistical methods used to assess the role of political adaptation in various types of public administration (PA) organisations (the typology for the research was elaborated by the authors). As it turned out during the discussion, the presented research is part of a larger project addressing the issue of administrative adaptation in the face of political change—an issue evaluated differently by bureaucrats and politicians.
Sandor and his colleague addressed the relationship between uncertainty avoidance (a major dimension of national culture), trust and uncertainty as perceived by the actors and the governance indicators, relying on three existing datasets, using country-level data as a key for analysis. The authors find intricate relationships between these three major factors.
Bogovac and her colleague relied on survey data collected from managers and tax advisors from Poland and Croatia in search of more effective taxation systems, while testing five hypotheses. Out of the several presented findings, perhaps the most relevant – at least from a normative point of view – is the importance of the stability and predictability of the tax regulation.
Taneva used three sources of survey data, mostly as a reference, to substantiate her main arguments. She finds that the image of PA organisations, specifically, and PA, more generally, is unreasonably low and is exploring the reasons behind this situation, identifying negativism as a major attitudinal attribute. She suggests that PA organisations should more actively communicate their processes and results.
Ropret and his colleagues analysed scholarly publications in search of explanatory indicators of innovation in public administration. They found that the post-communist countries (emerging market economies, according to the terminology used by the authors) are influenced by similar innovation factors as the developed economies (i.e. the West), but they experience much greater unexploited potential. The authors conclude that the management support may be seen as the most important factor for innovation in both country groups.
The paper presented by Zemandl attempts to capture the ultimate question behind the WG. Namely, if the region may indeed be characterised by continuous high levels of large scale change (vs. the West) and organisational uncertainty, then what does this phenomenon look like and what are the factors behind it? (The paper was improved on the basis of the discussion at the previous NISPAcee conference and some other occasions.)
All the presentations were followed by questions and debate. In the case of papers relying on quantitative methods, the debate frequently centred on the validity and reliability of the available data for the purpose of the study. The presentations, discussion, and subsequent reflection for this report also raise a set of questions concerning the WG’s more conceptual issues, including:
•    "Who else” is to blame for major changes and organisational uncertainty besides the executive politicians? What about the role of public administrators/civil servants themselves? Media? International organisations?
•    Can we conceive the CEE as a single unit or are there several units with different experiences?
•    In CEE, uncertainty runs deeper because of a crisis of trust in government, but "why” is there this crisis?
•    How does a department’s level of political adaptation following a top-level political appointment lead to organisational uncertainty?
•    Does the change-uncertainty dichotomy represent a linear process? Why or why not?
•    Which are the main challenges of decision makers for sustainable improvements and innovation? Which methods can provide transparent and clear guidelines?
•    What are the implications of improved state image for uncertainty in public organisations or public life in general?

While this WG is still relatively new and 2016 produced relevant research, we propose to run the WG at next year’s conference in 2017 with the same set of guiding questions as the 2016 call. Thereafter, it will be important to consider whether the WG’s topic is relatively too specific and, therefore, whether some of its research questions should be folded into another WG, such as that on PA reform.

Activities in 2015

Meeting of the Working Group on Public Finance and Public Financial Management
WG Programme Coordinators:

György Gajduschek, Corvinus University, Budapest, Hungary

Eva Zemandl, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary


Place:  23rd NISPAcee Annual Conference, Tbilisi, Georgia
Date:  May 21-23, 2015

The activities of WG X was divided into two main sessions. The first session approached the issues at hand from a European perspective, whereas the second concentrated on the impact of continuous large scale reforms.

Transition, change and uncertainty - The European perspective

The EU session was devoted to discussion of three papers:

Ionut-Bogdan Berceanu addressed the widely discussed issue of how the economic crises changed the Romanian government and administrative system. In his holistic approach Mr. Berceanu investigated a specific South-East European reaction to the crises.

Egle Gaule, Jolanta Stanislovaitiene, Jurgita Siugzdiniene and Jolanta Stanislovaitienė attempted to identify the characteristics of Smart public administration, and pinpoint its major indicators in order to measure change in this regard in Lithuania in a wider, European context.

Erkki Karo and Rainer Kattel raise the question if in the new technological environment one specific type of organizational setting is adequate for developmental agencies or more heterogeneous organizational arrangements may be beneficial.

After about fifteen minutes of presentation an additional fifteen minutes was devoted to discussion and debate over the papers. A major issue frequently addressed referred to the North-West and South-East divide within the EU.

Transition, change and uncertainty

Three papers were discussed in our first session (May 21st, 16:30-18:00):

Eva Kovacs systematically analysed the Hungarian reform attempts between 1990-2012 regarding county-level administration in Hungary, looking for general trends (or the lack of them).

Sorin Dan Sandor investigated the question of resistance to change. Based on a brief theoretical overview he provided extensive empirical evidence on the issues based on questionnaire survey.

Ludmila Stanova attacked the widely known problem that policy decisions are frequently made in the CEE region without the necessary information; moreover: information is not even requested by the decision makers. Ms. Stanova investigated the case of civil service workforce planning.

After about fifteen minutes of presentation an additional fifteen minutes was devoted to discussion and debate over the papers.

On our second (Friday) session only one paper was presented written by Gyorgy Gajduschek and Eva Zemandl. The paper provides a preliminary literature review on the problem of change and uncertainty in the public administration. The subsequent debate pointed out some crucial issues that require further research.

The participants discussed the future of the research. The original idea to form stable research cooperation to produce comparative papers devoted to certain issues did not succeed. However, participants agreed on research questions that should be in the focus of the WG in 2016.

Activities in 2014

Meeting of the Working Group on Public Finance and Public Financial Management
WG Programme Coordinators:

György Gajduschek, Corvinus University, Budapest, Hungary

E-mail: gajduschek@gmail.com

Eva Zemandl, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

E-mail: zemandl_eva@phd.ceu.edu
Place:  The 22nd NISPAcee Annual Conference, Budapest, Hungary
Date:  May 22-24, 2014

I. Overview

The 2014 NISPAcee conference in Budapest provided the occasion to inaugurate the Working Group XI on Transition, Change, and Uncertainty. This new working group deals with the often unpredictable nature of the CEE/FIS transitional context. It explores the consequences of large-scale changes and prolonged uncertainty (i.e., in a political, economic, and systemic sense, etc.) in CEE/FIS countries on administrative behavior and, thus, on the wider governance environment. The working group convened during two sessions on Friday, May 23rd. Sessions featured papers presented by participants from Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, and Afghanistan, covering key cross-cutting areas of research including the role of "governance” and "network” paradigms in CEE/FIS and civil society-government relations. Three of the papers also dealt with policy sector reforms in education and economy.

The discussion periods—running 30 to 40 minutes each—generated a great deal of lively debate and information exchange. With regard to the working group’s key themes of change and uncertainty, participants raised and debated the following questions: What is uncertainty? If we are always surrounded by uncertainty anyway, is it really a matter of concern? How much uncertainty can one society tolerate? What are paradigms for dealing with uncertainty? In response to the latter question, one presenter promoted the notion of "strategic governance” and proposed that a panel be devoted to this topic at next year’s NISPAcee conference. Another participant floated the notion of a "search for a national idea” as a way to address uncertainty during phases of transition.There was another extensive debate concerning the role of civil society in Russia and FIS countries, as well as information being exchanged about the nature of civil society-government relations in different countries. More generally, participants also debated the importance of western governance paradigms and participation in the consolidation of CEE/FIS societies and political systems.

The remainder of the report is structured as follows: the second section presents the premise and key aims of the working group; the third section maps out the main points and common threads raised in the papers with regard to each of the working group’s four questions; and the last section proposes an agenda for advancing the working group in the frame of the 2015 NISPAcee conference.

II. Working group background: premise and aims

Classic bureaucratic theory (e.g., Weberian), scholars examining development (e.g., Amsden et al., 1994; Evans, 1995; Evans & Rauch, 1999; Nelson, 1994), and transnational bodies (e.g., OECD and EU) argue that economic development necessitates stable and professional administrative systems. But what are the opportunities for this normative realization in an environment of frequent change and prolonged uncertainty? This proposed working group intends to deal with this question in the context of CEE/FIS countries, exploring the implications of prolonged uncertainty on administrative behavior and governance.

This investigation is particularly pressing in light of the fragile state of transition throughout much of the region—marked by (to name a few) frequent large-scale changes, unpredictable flux, and deep political and societal divisions. This phenomenon has been most recently and considerably accentuated by the global economic and financial (Euro) crisis. Undoubtedly, this chaotic environment carries implications for the internal resilience and stability of both newer and more established public organizations. Some examples of large-scale change and sources of prolonged uncertainty may include high political polarization, low economic performance and recession, major fiscal constraints, transnational pressure and influence (e.g., EU, IMF), government centralization or decentralization, turnovers in personnel and leadership, institutional reorganization and restructuring, expansions or reductions in organizational autonomy and independence, changing legal regulations and frameworks, new public administration reform programs, etc.

This pattern of regional vulnerability to unpredictability begs the questions: how do public organizations manage in this environment? What are the coping mechanisms of administrative personnel and leadership? And what are the wider implications for governance and governance models? The idea to explore these questions more directly and collaboratively was born out of a research project concerning appointed elites and personnel turnovers in public organizations in Hungary (Zemandl, 2013). A pilot study linked to this project identified the phenomenon of frequent change and subsequent prolonged uncertainty as a major concern in terms of performance quality and capacity for those working in public organizations. Other contributions have touched on the change and uncertainty phenomenon in various ways, e.g., Heywood and Meyer-Sahling (2008); Meyer-Sahling & Veen (2012); and Evans & Rauch (1999). At the same time, a more extensive exploration of these behavioral questions could inform debates about administrative/governance paradigms in CEE, as well as the appropriate balance between stability and flexibility (e.g., see Randma-Liiv in NISPAcee Winter 2008/2009, Vol. 1, Issue 2). It is difficult to know how models like the Neo-Weberian State are relevant if we are unclear about the capacity and cultural inclination of administrations to manage both change and stability.

The working group focuses on the following four questions:

What are the large-scale changes prolonging uncertainty in CEE? What are the causes?

What are the behavioral implications of frequent change and prolonged uncertainty on administrative personnel and leadership in CEE/FIS public organizations? What are the effects on administrative behavior, culture, and ethos?

Are large-scale changes and prolonged uncertainty compatible with the implementation of different governing models (e.g., Weberian, NPM, governance, etc. etc.)? Is change necessarily undesirable?

If and when deemed necessary, how can organizations foster internal stability in a climate of sustained uncertainty? What best practices exist in the region?

III. Addressing the working group’s questions: what did the contributions reveal?

1. What are the large-scale changes prolonging uncertainty in CEE? What are the causes?

To varying degrees, most of the papers addressed this question, which is the point of departure for exploring the following three questions. Together, they comprised a broad and rich list of sources of prolonged uncertainty. They include: "unanswered questions” about the kind of societies, policy models, and political systems which developed during the 1990s/2000s (Leonid Smorgunov); the prevalence of "partially implemented” models, a lack of "mature institutional structures; ” an adaptation attitude which ceases to advocate further, broader, and deeper democratization, resulting in reform/adaptation failures (Tamás Horváth); reforms lacking continuity due to both a lack of political consensus and a lack of appreciation for previous government efforts; the "radicalization” of political decisions marked by the fast pace of "unprepared” decision-making; and the resulting sudden and swift changes which sideline stakeholders, leading to uncertainty, lack of trust, and conflicts (Lilla Bauer); in the case of Afghanistan, the vulnerable transition from Taliban rule and a long war coupled with the government’s constitutionally limited role and low capacity (Firooz Jahani); and short-termism and lack of "grand” strategizing resulting in chaos and unpredictability in policy areas such as energy, ecology, sustainable economic development, and education (Todor Tanev). The contributions by Bauer and Horváth also identified the pattern of oscillation from centralization, to decentralization, to re-centralization, particularly with respect to Hungary’s transition environment.

In general, the identified sources of prolonged uncertainty in the CEE/FIS context can be distilled down to the following overarching themes—each presenting an opportunity for further exploration within the NISPAcee framework: unresolved issues concerning fundamental political, societal, and institutional systems and structures, lack of continuity and maturity of reforms, short-termism, lack of political consensus and long-term strategizing, radicalization, lack of trust (political and societal), conflict (political, societal), radicalization, and low government capacity. The call for papers in the frame of the 2015 NISPAcee conference could build from these observations in order to reinforce the WG’s aims and, thus, invite papers to expand on these themes.

2. What are the behavioral implications of frequent change and prolonged uncertainty on administrative personnel and leadership in CEE/FIS public organizations? What are the effects on administrative behavior, culture, and ethos?

In general, many of the identified themes stemming from the first question are applicable here, including short-termism, lack of continuity and long-term strategizing, lack of trust, and conflict. The contributions by Leonid Smorgunov and Lilla Bauer were best positioned to answer this question. Smorgunov refers to the post-socialist context in Russia, where the transition to a liberal market economy and democracy has never been fully realized and, to a great extent, has gone astray thanks to crises and a return to the "former socialist ways of living.” Civil society is thus based on a post-socialist ideology whereby a policy of the "nationalization” of elites prevails and whereby the concept of government openness and transparency is rather about "awareness” raising than "participation.” Smorgunov argues that the deepening of civil society has been thwarted more generally by a lack of trust in society and a lack of citizen participation. In other words, the relationship between society and state institutions has not been defined. This would imply that a deep and prevailing lack of trust pervades CEE/FIS societies, which most likely extends to the realm of government institutions and the social atmosphere within them. Bauer’s empirical observations lend further weight to this notion. She found that the government’s radicalization and centralization of the implementation of Hungarian education policy hampered institutional dialogue, which eventually led to conflicts and a prevailing lack of trust among sectoral actors.

In general, this question remained underexplored during the conference, yet it remains important to assess how organizational actors dealing with policy agenda, design, and implementation are coping in an environment of prolonged uncertainty.One way to address this problem is to rephrase the question so that it is rendered more straightforward and understandable, e.g., what are the effects of prolonged uncertainty on administrative behavior and culture? Furthermore, the call for papers in the frame of the 2015 NISPAcee conference could explicitly call attention to this question, particularly since it presents a logical transition from the first question (which was more thoroughly covered this year).

3. Are large-scale changes and prolonged uncertainty compatible with the implementation of different governing models (e.g., Weberian, NPM, governance, etc. etc.)? Is change necessarily undesirable?

The introduction and implementation of western models in the CEE/FIS context was widely covered and extensively discussed. A number of papers, as well as the discussions, dealt with the applicability of the western notion of "governance,” including networks and civil society participation (Leonid Smorgunov, Firooz Jahani, Palina Prysmakova & Robert Smith). Smorgunov explained how the notion of "collaborative governance” or governance-driven democratization mixed with "older models” of governing, which did not account for the historical path dependencies of post-socialism in Russia. Along similar lines, Horváth argues that we cannot assume an "organic link” between eastern Europe and western-European institutions, which are the "obviously the outcome of a specific civilization.” He contends that CEE is a social context more or less resistant to these received models.Jahani’s paper implicitly advocated for the concept of governance as a way to better address deep problems with economic growth against a background of low government capacity. Contributions by Prysmakova & Smith, as well as Bauer, were somewhat more optimistic. Prysmakova & Smith observe the potential for NGOs and civil society actors to close the gap between formal and informal ethics paradigms in government organizations (Belarus, Georgia, Poland). They note that western or transnational support remains "indispensible” for the improvement of ethical standards in Central and Eastern Europe. Bauer contends that the neo-Weberian model could be a promising solution but that we cannot avoid the Weberian phase of development. However, this requires a stable political context and a strong consensus among the political parties in supporting the process.

In general, the papers and subsequent discussions recognized the merits of western models (e.g., Weberian public administration, governance), but also highlighted the incompatibility between the political and social institutional reality on the ground and the wholesale implementation of these models. These contributions and the ensuing debates left the question unanswered rather than resolved. Nevertheless, this presents a great opportunity to build from this year’s conference and revisit the debate next year.

4. If and when deemed necessary, how can organizations foster internal stability in a climate of sustained uncertainty? What best practices exist in the region?

This question is closely linked to the third question, since best practices are often inspired by western models. Inspired by the governance paradigm, Smorgunov offers a twofold solution: (1) the predictability of civil servant activities can be improved through stronger administrative regulations; but (2) this needs to be embedded in a culture of citizen participation and collaboration.Following the theme of wider participation and collaboration, Tanev advocates a new approach to strategizing which engages in the design of the future rather than trying to extend "the realities of today to tomorrow.” In other words, it is a paradigm which is about the search for a "greater common political project.” Tanev contends that this necessitates a culture of "strategic networks,” where strategic decision-making is based on a culture of consent rather than consensus. Naturally, this raises important questions about the power and legitimacy of various participating actors.

There is great potential to explore this question even further. We think it would be useful to combine questions 3 and 4 since the papers and discussions demonstrated the extent of their inter-relatedness. In other words, best practices are often (but not always) western models. And yet, as most of the papers demonstrated, western models have their limits and new approaches which are arguably better suited to the CEE/FIS context should be debated. For example, Tanev proposed that a panel for next year’s NISPAcee conference could be devoted to exploring the notion of "strategic governance.”