Dealing with Dysfunction: Innovative Problem Solving in the Public Sector – A Book Talk with author Jorrit de Jong – April 12, 2017

Join us for a discussion on April 12th with Jorrit de Jong, Lecturer in Public Policy and Management at HKS, Faculty Director of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, and author of “Dealing with Dysfunction: Innovative Problem Solving in the Public Sector” (Brookings University Press).
Julie Boatright Wilson, Harry Kahn Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, HKS, and Matt R. Andrews, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, HKS, will provide responses. Tony Saich, director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and Daewoo Professor of International Affairs, will moderate. Book cover of Dealing with Dysfunction by Jorrit de Jong

About Dealing with Dysfunction

How can we intervene in the systemic bureaucratic dysfunction that beleaguers the public sector? De Jong examines the roots of this dysfunction and presents a novel approach to solving it. Drawing from academic literature on bureaucracy and problem solving in the public sector, and the clinical work of the Kafka Brigade — a social enterprise based in the Netherlands dedicated to diagnosing and remedying bureaucratic dysfunction in practice, this study reveals the shortcomings of conventional approaches to bureaucratic reform. The usual methods have failed to diagnose problems, distinguish symptoms, or identify root causes in a comprehensive or satisfactory way. They have also failed to engage clients, professionals, and midlevel managers in understanding and addressing the dysfunction that plagues them. This book offers conceptual frameworks, theoretical insights, and practical lessons for dealing with the problem. It sets a course for rigorous public problem solving to create governments that can be more effective, efficient, equitable, and responsive to social concerns.

De Jong argues that successfully remedying bureaucratic dysfunction depends on employing diagnostics capable of distinguishing and dissecting various kinds of dysfunction. The “Anna Karenina principle” applies here: all well-functioning bureaucracies are alike; every dysfunctional bureaucracy is dysfunctional in its own way. The author also asserts that the worst dysfunction occurs when multiple organizations share responsibility for a problem, but no single organization is primarily responsible for solving it. This points to a need for creating and reinforcing distributed problem-solving capacity focused on deep (cross-)organizational learning and revised accountability structures. Our best approach to dealing with dysfunction may therefore not be top-down regulatory reform, but rather relentless bottom-up and cross-boundary leadership and innovation. Using fourteen clinical cases of bureaucratic dysfunction investigated by the Kafka Brigade, the author demonstrates how a proper process for identifying, defining, diagnosing, and remedying the problem can produce better outcomes.

Date:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017, 4:15pm to 5:30pm

Location:

Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Suite 200N, 124 Mt Auburn Street, Cambridge

Announcing the Social Innovation & Change Research Seminar Series

The Social Innovation and Change Research Seminar is a venue for researchers of social innovation and social change to present and receive feedback on their research. The seminar is explicitly multi-disciplinary; work may draw on fields as diverse as sociology, political science, psychology, economics, and other social science approaches.

On behalf of the recently launched Social Innovation and Change Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School, we invite you to join our inaugural research seminar.

THE FIRST SEMINAR IS TUESDAY, MARCH 7, 2017, featuring
Maureen Scully, Associate Professor of Management at the University of Massachusetts – Boston
on “Mobilizing the Wealthy: Doing “Privilege Work” and Challenging the Roots of Inequality”
Time: 12:30-2:00pm; Location: 124 Mt. Auburn, Suite 160, Room 105

Summary: Wealthy individuals stand to gain materially from economic inequality, and moreover, have shaped many organizational and societal practices that perpetuate economic
inequality to their advantage. Thus, they are unlikely allies in the effort to remedy economic inequality and indeed likely to contest systematic policies to reduce inequality. In this paper, however, we study the mobilization of a small group of wealthy activists who join allies from lower socioeconomic strata to expose and redress the root causes of wealth consolidation. They offer an instructive alternative to “philanthrocapitalism,” whereby the wealthy present their wealth accumulation as a superior qualification for addressing societal problems and do not address the root causes of how their wealth was amassed. Our study contributes to the growing literature on inequality and organizations, which are the vectors for distributing wages and investment returns, by examining how the wealthy may sometimes wrestle with the sources of their wealth. Advocacy from wealthy allies is unexpected and may jolt attention and change. We derive the concept of “privilege work” from our observations of an often awkward and fraught process that enables the wealthy to engage with their own privilege, use their insider knowledge of wealth accumulation as a lever for change, and work respectfully alongside underprivileged allies. Privilege work represents a new type of ally work along the dimension of socioeconomic class, with potential, even if limited, to disrupt escalating inequality. 

We hope to see you there!

Learn more about the Social Innovation and Change Initiative (SICI ; pronounced “sigh-see”)  and see listing of upcoming seminars at: http://sici-hks.org/