Understanding Public Service Systems: Is there a role for Complex Adaptive Systems Theory?
File Type:Microsoft Word
Item Type:Conference Paper
Citation:Rhodes, ML, Understanding Public Service Systems: Is there a role for Complex Adaptive Systems Theory?, Managing the Complex IV, Ft. Myers, FL USA, Dec 7-10, 2002
Rhodes MacKechnie 2003 ECO Article.doc (Microsoft Word) 124Kb
In this paper the problem of delivering public services is considered as a potential area for the application of complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory. While complexity and public administration theorists suggest that CAS theory may have a role to play in formulating alternative and potentially improved analyses of organisational phenomena such as public service systems, it is far from obvious how the analytic tools incorporated in CAS theory can be applied successfully in this context. In the first section, we describe the five elements of a CAS framework and define what we mean by a public service system (PSS). In the second section we describe public service systems in terms of our CAS framework through the application of existing organisational and public administration theory. Of the five CAS elements identified, we explore three in depth: agents, schemata and fitness functions, leaving connections and system state for future consideration. In section 3 we apply the conceptual elements developed in the previous section to a case study of the housing system in Dublin, Ireland to further explore how a particular PSS may be described as a complex adaptive system. In the last section (section 4) we explain how the application of a CAS framework to public service systems will contribute to an improved understanding of these systems through: 1) the integration of existing public administration theory as it applies to PSS, 2) the incorporation of adaptability measures into the evaluation of policy interventions in PSS, and 3) the application of existing CAS theory to PSS.
Author: Rhodes, Mary-Lee
Other Titles:Managing the Complex IV
Type of material:Conference Paper
Availability:Full text available