The Public Management Research Group analyses how organisational resources in public and non-profit organisations can be used so that public needs are met. Examples of public management questions are: how can we improve performance and patient quality in hospitals? How can we develop more innovative schools without increasing budgets? To what extent do municipal organisations discriminate against minorities and how can this be countered? How do public professionals cope with competing logics? How do public organisations cross boundaries and collaborate, despite strict performance requirements?
We combine insights from public management, public administration and public policy with knowledge from design science, sociology, psychology, economics and related disciplines to tackle the organisation and management of public organisations. Our group values an interdisciplinary and multi-method approach. We collaborate both nationally and internationally. We invite relevant practitioners and esteemed international public management scholars to our meetings and as ‘research fellows’. Several PhD-students are ‘hybrid’: they combine appointments in partner organisations with their PhD-trajectory at USG.
In our research we focus on key public management topics, specialising in (1) public management and behaviour, (2) public management and public innovation, and (3) public management and public professionalism. In addition, we contribute to related themes, such as networked collaboration, leadership, design, sustainability, technology and digitalisation.
- Public Management & Behaviour
- Public Management & Innovation
- Public Management & Professionalism
- Educational value and societal impact
- Research Staff
Public Management and Behaviour
The public management and behaviour team combines insights from public management with psychology and the behavioural sciences more broadly for education, consultancy and research purposes. We analyse – among else – how public and private managers negotiate in public-private partnerships, how governments can invoke behaviour change that is also supported by citizens, and how administrative burdens hinder citizens from receiving public services.
In terms of theoretical focus, we use and test theories and concepts from psychology and the broader behavioural sciences in political-administrative settings. Such concepts and theories include bounded rationality, prospect theory, motivated reasoning, and nudges. We also test the micro-foundations of public administration theories and concepts, like representative bureaucracy, coproduction, discretion, and isomorphism.
In terms of methods, we often use experimental methods (for instance regarding changing professional behaviour or improving safety in hospitals), but also employ surveys and qualitative methods. We emphasise multimethod approaches, such as using qualitative interviewing to develop relevant field experiments.
Public Management and Public Innovation
The public management and innovation team aims to provide insights in processes of social and technological innovation in the public sector. Key examples of research include smart city governance, algorithms in healthcare and innovative housing for asylum seekers. These projects aim to enhance our theoretical understanding of drivers, forms, impacts and legitimacy of innovation processes.
This research builds upon theories on (public) innovation but also on a variety of other perspectives from the social sciences such as collaborative governance, actor-network theory, structuration theory, critical theory and design theory. We focus on interdisciplinary collaboration within Utrecht University and collaborate with various colleagues in the research focus area Governing the Digital Society and the strategic research themes Institutions for Open Societies and Pathways to Sustainability.
This group emphasises the use of both traditional qualitative and quantitative research methods but also innovative approaches such as design research and living labs. Many of the researchers collaborate in the Governance Lab Utrecht (GLU), an expert centre for innovative research in governance research.
Public Management and Public Professionalism
The public management and professionalism team focuses on public professionalism in organisational contexts, set against changing societal and institutional landscapes. We highlight transitions in public professional work, such as medical work, welfare, education, policing, law courts, and we contribute to academic understanding. We study the reconfiguration of professionalism, becoming more hybrid, organising and connective.
Together with other researchers we collaborate within the Utrecht University research focus area Professional performance, as well as in the strategic research theme Institutions for Open Societies, especially in the hub Security in Open Societies (SOS). Internationally it is linked to specialised networks, such as EGOS, ISA RC 52, ESA RN 19, as well as journals such as the Journal of Professions and Organization (JPO).
In terms of methods, we mainly use qualitative methods including ethnographic research approaches in which colleagues are ‘immersed’ in professional practices, but we also use surveys, for instance to study ‘professional capabilities’ and antecedents and their effects.
Educational value and societal impact
The Public Management Research Group provides education, in Bachelor’s, Master's, Research Master and Executive Master's Programmes. It contributes to the research community, with a focus on PA and public management journals, such as Public Administration Review and Public Management Review; and consultancy via USG Consultancy. Our group aims to generate educational value and societal impact on the basis of high-quality academic research.
In addition to academic reflections, we contribute to practical developments by ‘public interventions’, such as interventions in public and/or professional debates, and by small- and large-scale projects, including academic consultancy projects.