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Public Value Theory in the Context of Public Sector Modernization

Public Value Management, Measurement and Reporting

ISBN: 978-1-78441-011-7, eISBN: 978-1-78441-010-0

Publication date: 11 November 2014



This conceptual article aims primarily to illustrate the impact of public value thinking on the process of public sector modernisation. Public value management (PVM) is analysed from two perspectives. First, the principles and features of PVM approaches are detailed, including a comparison of the literature on the other approaches characterizing the modernisation process, that is, traditional public administration (TPA), new public management (NPM) and new public governance (NPG). Then PVM is contrasted with NPM and TPA. Subsequently, the elements connecting PVM with NPG are explored. Second, the theoretical and methodological frameworks within which public value has been operationalized are investigated. One of the core topics is the measurement of public value, which is illustrated focusing on the link between public value (in the singular) and public values (in the plural). The impact that the adoption of public value thinking exerts on the multiple performance objectives for public sector organisations is also investigated. Ultimately, the article aims to highlight the potential of the public value view – considered in conjunction with performance measurement and performance management systems – without neglecting the challenging and problematic aspects of this wave of reform. The comparison with other waves of reform is intended to provide a clearer picture of the way forward for PVM.


Theoretical and methodological investigation, elaborating on the relevant literature on the process of public sector modernisation, is carried out.


The approaches that have emerged during the last two decades (PVM, NPG) are other than alternative solutions. But also less recent waves of change have left, or are expected to leave, their own legacy for public administration over time. This could be the case for NPM, although, according to many scholars, it is in trouble and has lost its driving force, while others see it as simply ‘dead’ and doomed to give way to the ‘digital-era governance’. Several core elements of NPM are no longer in evidence either in PVM or in NPG. Different distinguishing elements have been brought into the foreground. For instance, the idea of the public as citizens characterises PVM and NPG, instead of the public as customers, qualifying NPM. What we are seeing is a progressive expansion of the public’s involvement, through co-production and participation. Contemporary public officials interact with members of the public in ways that involve all of their possible roles: as citizens, customers, partners. There are two salient aspects under which public value thinking can contribute. First, a focus on public value can – better than other approaches – represent a ‘glue’ capable of bringing together debates involving ‘values, institutions, systems, processes, and people’ (Smith, 2004, p. 18). Second, such a focus makes it possible to link insights from different analytical perspectives, fostering a broader view on the determinants of public sector change. This could be of decisive importance for the purpose of reshaping performance measurement and performance management systems, which is a crucial step in public sector reform.


Significant contributions are offered under two aspects. First, in terms of exploration of the concepts of public value (also in relation to public values) and private value. Second, in terms of analysis of the impact that PVM can exert on the logic of performance measurement and performance management.



Marcon, G. (2014), "Public Value Theory in the Context of Public Sector Modernization", Public Value Management, Measurement and Reporting (Studies in Public and Non-Profit Governance, Vol. 3), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 323-351.



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