Citizen empowerment in public services

This elective course deals with customer-oriented policies in the public sector, as one of the manifestations of citizen empowerment in service delivery. Classical citizen participation in decision-making, as another expression of citizen empowerment, is not the focus of this course. The implementation of customer-focused policies, also labeled as quality management schemes,  raises several controversies. First, many practitioners adopt quality management policies as a technical fix without grasping their political underpinnings: in particular, the implications of citizens turned into clients, the application of universal service standards, and the personalization of services to meet individual needs.  Second, some practitioners treat instruments and systems of quality management as ends in themselves, often forgetting the real purpose of implementing those systems: the improvement of the quality of services and (of life) of users and citizens. Finally, quality of service should foster theoretically an increase of performance of public sector organizations. However, this claim is controversial as citizens may be more concerned about the process of government and service delivery than the particular outputs.

The major aim of this course is to offer students an analytical and practical ‘tool-kit’ that allows them to apply customer focused policies at governmental and agency level. By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • understand how to assess the quality of a public service
  • propose results-oriented objectives that address the satisfaction of service users
  • consult and identify the satisfaction of users with service delivery
  • reflect on contested issues regarding the implementation of quality management policies
  • draft an improvement plan on quality management for a public agency

This course is for 2nd year MIA and MPP students only.