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The Service State

Rhetoric, Reality and Promise

Patrice Dutil, Cosmo Howard, John Langford and Jeffrey Roy

Publication Year: 2011

In the past ten years, Canadians have witnessed a renaissance in the delivery of government services. New service organizations are cropping up across the country and accomplishing extraordinary things. Efforts are being made to consult citizens on how to improve and integrate services. Considerable resources are being invested in measuring and showcasing performance improvement.

This book probes the central dimensions of service reform efforts from a variety of perspectives and answers some pressing questions: How can we make better decisions about service delivery? How should we measure service delivery performance? How should we engage users of government services? How can we create a service culture? How can we use the internet more effectively? Approaching service delivery as not merely technical but inherently political and controversial, the authors look beyond the rhetoric to see what has actually been achieved and what obstacles confront further improvements.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Series: Governance Series

Table of Contents

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xiv

Although service improvement has long been on the public sector agenda, the advent of the Internet has greatly accelerated its importance as governments confront a more networked, instantaneous world where duplication and fragmentation are synonymous with dysfunction and dissatisfaction...

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Introduction: Service Transformation in a Citizen-Centric World

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pp. 1-11

A decade ago, service delivery was perceived as something done by trolls labouring at the bottom of impenetrable and boring ‘line’ departments— even the modifier ‘line’ suggests the tedium of production. Many public servants were trying to escape the world of front-line service delivery (metaphor: death in the trenches...

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1. Serving Whom: Customers, Clients or Citizens?

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pp. 12-30

As suggested in the introduction, service transformation encapsulates a complex and somewhat disjointed collection of reforms. It is driven by multiple objectives such as increasing responsiveness to the public; enhancing efficiency and value for money; improving access and convenience...

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2. Are We Satisfied and Is That the Point?

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pp. 31-51

Surveys of citizens’ satisfaction with public services have become popular in recent decades. The rise of citizen surveys reflects several mega-trends in governance and administration, including neo-liberalism and new public management, and their appeal arguably stems from their apparent...

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3. Can We Create a Service Culture?

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pp. 52-85

In the Government of Canada, the earliest, most eloquent cry for improved services was made by the highest ranking executive in the bureaucracy, the Clerk of the Privy Council in the late 1980s. Paul Tellier even made improving services to the citizenry a cornerstone to the famous PS 2000 vision (Kernaghan 1991; Rawson 1991) that was designed to establish a public...

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4. Can We Meet the Governance Challenge?

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pp. 86-105

Our reviews of service transformation initiatives across Canada suggest that the accommodation of contemporary, integrative, network-based and increasingly electronic public service transformations with traditional, hierarchical governance models is becoming a particularly pressing challenge...

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5. Can We Work Across Jurisdictional Boundaries?

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pp. 106-127

Service transformation transcends jurisdictional boundaries across levels of government. Whether the public is demanding a fully seamless public sector, for any given country, or even significant movement in this direction, is a more complex and contested notion (Turner 2004; Dutil, Langford and Roy 2007). Yet there is evidence to suggest that the public is demanding..

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6. Will Web 2.0 Change Everything?

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pp. 128-146

Over the past decade service transformation and e-government have been closely intertwined. One widely circulated definition of e-government formulated by several countries is as follows: “…the continuous innovation in the delivery of services, citizen participation, and governance through the transformation...

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Conclusion: Now the Real Work Begins…

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pp. 147-158

As this book neared completion, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) aired television ads that evocatively illustrated both the promise and realities of the ‘service state’. The commercial aimed to inform citizens on how they could take advantage of tax credits...


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pp. 159-178


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pp. 179-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780776619163
E-ISBN-10: 0776619160
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776607436
Print-ISBN-10: 077660743X

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Governance Series