All posts by Steven Van de Walle

Input legitimacy and public participation

Public officials can be reluctant to use citizens’ input in decision‐making, especially when turnout is low and participants are unrepresentative of the wider population. Using Fritz Scharpf’s democratic legitimacy approach, we conducted a  vignette experiment. The study shows that turnout and participants’ representativeness have a positive and significant effect on public officials’ attitudes toward public participation. Specifically, participants’ representativeness influences public officials’ willingness to use citizens’ inputs more than turnout. Full paper on the Public Administration Review website.

The effects of NPM reforms

In this new article in IRAS, Gerhard Hammerschmid (Hertie), Rhys Andrews (Cardiff), Ahmed Mohammed Sayed Mostafa (Leeds), and I look at the relationship between five key NPM reforms (downsizing, agencification, contracting out, customer orientation and flexible employment practices) and four dimensions of public sector performance: cost efficiency, service quality, policy coherence and coordination, and equal access to services. We use data from a 20-country survey among top public executives. Results suggest that policy-makers seeking to modernize the public sector should prioritize managerial reforms within public organizations over structural transformations.

Why do public managers use management tools?

In this new paper in PAR – “Institutions or Contingencies? A Cross‐Country Analysis of Management Tool Use by Public Sector Executives” – Bert George, Gerhard Hammerschmid and I look into the wide variation in the extent to which public organizations use management tools. Drawing on normative isomorphism and contingency theory, this article investigates the determinants of both organization‐oriented and client‐oriented management tool use by top public sector executives in 18 countries. We show that contingency theory is a better explanation for this variation than is isomorphism.

New book! Inspectors and enforcement

With Nadine Raaphorst, I edited a new book that explores the social dynamics of the interaction between inspectors and their inspectees in the public sector.9783030040574 Using insights from public administration, regulation and sociology, this book looks at the daily work of a diverse group of inspectors such as tax inspectors, veterinary inspectors, school inspectors, environmental inspectors or health inspectors.

Signaling in bureaucratic interactions

In this article “A signaling perspective on bureaucratic encounters: How public officials interpret signals and cues” in Social Policy and Administration Nadine Raaphorst and I look at public officials’ interpretive frameworks to make sense of client characteristics. We use a signaling perspective and illustrate this to trustworthiness judgements made by social workers and police officers. Access the article or preprint here.

Public managers make equity-efficiency trade-offs

In this article in Public Administration Review, Marcos Fernandez-Gutiérrez and I analyse the positions of top public officials on an equity‐efficiency trade‐off and the determinants of those positions. We use data from the COCOPS Top Public Executive Survey. Results show that differences in public officials’ positions on equity‐efficiency are related to the context in which they work and to their personal background. Read more here or check the free preprint.

Prosocial compensation & service failure

When a public (or private) service fails, how do you want to be compensated as a citizen? Does a charity donation on your behalf work? In this paper with Leliveld, Thomassen and Ahaus in the Journal of Business Ethics we launch the concept “prosocial compensation” and run a series of experimental tests. Full paper ‘Prosocial compensation following a service failure: Fulfilling an organization´s ethical and philanthropic responsibilities’. Free preprint here.

Managerial autonomy and politicization

Public sector reforms aimed at ‘making the managers manage’ granted public managers autonomy and tried to depoliticize the administration. In this new paper in IRAS, we show that top public managers perceive different levels in the extent to which politicians try to influence senior-level appointments, as well as in the extent of management autonomy (see figure) that they have (preprint version via Lirias).


managerial autonomy index