The New Public Service (NPS) approach is perhaps the most coherent of these approaches. It starts with the premise that the focus of public management should be citizens, community, and civil society. In this conception, the primary role of public servants is to help citizens articulate and meet their shared interests rather than to control or steer society (Denhardt and Denhardt, 2000). This is in sharp contrast to the philosophical premise of the NPM approach in which transactions between public managers and customers reflect individual self-interest and are framed by market principles. It is also distinct from the old public Administration by approach where citizens related to the bureaucracy as clients or constituents and were treated as passive recipients of top-down policy making and service delivery mechanisms (Bourgon 2007). Control and hierarchy rather than plurality and engagement characterized these relationships.
The New Public Service model approaches public management from the vantage point of democratic theory, premised on the notion of active and involved citizenship. citizens look beyond narrow self-interest to the wider public interest and the role of public officials is to facilitate opportunities for strengthening citizen engagement in finding solutions to societal problems. public managers need to acquire skills that go beyond the capacity for controlling or steering society in pursuit of policy solutions to focus more on brokering, negotiating, and resolving complex problems in partnership with citizens. In seeking to address wider societal needs and develop solutions that are consistent with the public interest, governments will need to be open and accessible, accountable, and responsive, and operate to serve citizens. Prevailing forms of accountability need to extend beyond the formal accountability of public servants to elected officials in the management and delivery of budgets and programs to accommodate a wider set of accountability relationships with citizens and communities.
Finally, the NPS approach also asserts that importance of public service ethos, emphasizing the values and motivations of public servants dedicated to the wider public good (Denhardt and Denhardt, 2000, pp. 556-57).
Similarly, Bourgon (2007) uses the concept of democratic citizenship to open up fresh perspectives, where the role of public administration is not confined to responding to the demands of users for carrying out orders. Her proposed approach to new public administration contains four elements:
- Building collaborative relationships with citizens and groups of citizens;
- Disseminating information to elevate public discourse and to foster a shared understanding of public issues;
- Seeking opportunities to involve citizens in government activities.
Denhardt and Denhardt have pointed certain characteristic features of New Public Service that distinguishes it from New Public Management and the old public administration. Some of these are:
1. Serve, rather than steer:
An increasingly important role of the public servant is to help citizens articulate and meet their shared interest rather than to attempt to control or steer society in new directions. In this world the primary role of government is not merely to direct the actions of the public through regulations and decree, nor is it to simply establish a set of rules and incentives through which people will be guided in the proper direction. Rather the government becomes another player in the process of moving society in one direction or another in coordination with public and private operators.
2. The public interest is the aim, not the by-product:
Public administrators must contribute to building a collective, shared notion of the public interest. The goal is not to find quick solutions driven by individual choices. Rather, it is the creation of shared interest and shared responsibility. The New Public Service demands that the process of establishing a vision for society is not something merely left to elected political leaders or appointed public administrators. Instead, the activity of establishing a vision or direction is something in which widespread public dialogue and deliberation are central. In addition to its facilitating role, the government also has a moral obligation to assure solutions that are generated through such processes are fully consistent with norms of justice and fairness. The government will act to facilitate solutions to public problems, but it will also be responsible for assuring those solutions are consistent with Public interest – both in substance and in process.
3. Think strategically, act democratically:
Policies and programs meeting public needs can be most effectively and responsibly achieved through collective efforts and collaborative processes. To realize a collective vision, the next step is establishing roles and responsibilities and developing specific action steps to move towards the desired goals. Again the idea is not merely to establish a vision and then leave the implementation to those in government; rather, it is to join all parties together in the process of carrying out programs that will move in the desired direction. Through involvement in programs of civic education and by developing a broad range of civic leaders. The government can stimulate a renewed sense of civic pride and civic responsibility.
4. Serve citizens, not customers:
The public interest results from a dialogue about shared values, rather than the aggregation of individual self-interests. Therefore, public servants do not merely respond to the demands of “customers”, but focus on building relationships of trust and collaboration with and among citizens. The New Public Service recognizes that the relationship between government and its citizens is not the same as that between a business and its customers. In the public sector, it is problematic to even determine who the customer is because government serves more than just the immediate client. Hence every policy must be framed keeping in consideration long-term interest serving maximum people.
5. Accountability isn’t simple:
Public Servants should be attentive to more than the market; they should also attend to statutory and constitutional law, community values, political norms, professional standards, and citizen interest. The matter of accountability is extremely complex. Yet both the old public administration and the New Public Management tend to oversimplify the issue. The New Public Service recognizes the reality and complexity of these responsibilities. It recognizes that public administrators are involved in complex value conflicts in situations of conflicting and overlapping norms. It accepts these realities and speaks to how public administrators can and should serve citizens and public interest in this context. For this, it is essential that public administrators do not make the decision alone but in dialogue with the citizen. While public servants remain responsible for assuring that solutions to public problems are consistent with laws, democratic norms, and other constraints but citizen participation helps develop a discourse on the issue and achieve accountability.
6. Value people, not just productivity:
Public organizations and the networks in which they participated are more likely to succeed in the long run if they are operated through processes of collaborations and shared leadership based on respect for all people.
7. Value citizenship and public service above entrepreneurship:
The public interest is better advanced by public servants and citizens committed to making meaningful contributions to society rather than by entrepreneurial managers acting as if public money were their own.
Thus as Denhardt and Denhardt write, in the New Public Service the mindset of public administrators is that public programs and resources do not belong to them. Rather, public administrators have accepted the responsibility to serve citizens by acting as stewards of public resources (Kass 1990), conservators of public organizations (Terry 1995), facilitators of citizenship and democratic dialogue (Chapin and Denhardt 1995); King and Stivers 1998; Box 1998), catalysts for community engagement (Denhardt and Gray 1998; Lappe and Du Bois 1994), and street-level leaders (Vinzant and Crothers 1998). This is a very different perspective from that of a business owner focused on profit and efficiency. Accordingly, the New Public Service suggest that public administrator must not only share power, but also work through people, and broker solutions, they must reconceptualize their role in the governance process as a responsible participant, not an entrepreneur. This change in the public administrator’s role has profound implications for the types of challenges and responsibilities faced by the public servants. Two of these are:
Firstly public administrators must know and manage more than the requirements and resources of their problems. To serve citizens, public administrators not only must know and manage their own agency’s resources, but they must also be aware of and connected to other sources of support and assistance, engaging citizens and the community in the process.
Second, when public administrators take risks, they are not entrepreneurs of their businesses who can make such decisions knowing the consequences of failure will fall largely on their shoulders. Risk in the public sector is different. In the New Public Service, risks and opportunities reside within the larger framework of democratic citizenship and shared responsibility. Thus it is essential that dialogue and citizen engagement should be ongoing. This will give the option to explore new opportunities and potential risks can be timely explored.