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May 28, 2013

Mark Moore: Recognizing Public Value

My UM Extension colleague Neil Linscheid has alerted me to this recording of Harvard Kennedy School's Mark Moore discussing his new book, Recognizing Public Value. moore.PNGI haven't read the book yet, but I've ordered it from the library, and I'll write more once I've read it. However, I can share some quick impressions from having listened to the recording of Moore's talk.

Both Moore and his discussant, Tiziana Dearing of the Boston College School of Social Work, commented on the limitations of monetizing public value created by service providers. Starting around 28:00 of the recording, Moore explains that to measure the value created by government, we are often challenged with "describing material conditions that are hard to monetize....We don't know how to convert them into some kind of cash value." He doesn't give examples, but it's easy to imagine changes in civic or social conditions as falling into this category. Moore then decries the amount of effort that goes into trying to monetize these effects and says that effort "mostly distorts the information rather than clarifies." For clarity, he would prefer a concrete description of the effect (presumably something like units of pollutant reduction or increase in graduation rates) to "somebody's elaborate method to try monetize it."

Dearing shares Moore's skepticism of monetizing government and nonprofit benefits, and around 42:00 of the recording says, "It's a very dangerous thing outside of the private sector to have the same enthusiasm for the bottom line." Later she warns that "it's so easy to follow the metrics that follow the dollar that it becomes shorthand for a theory of change."

In this post, I also urged caution about monetizing the impacts of Extension programs. Nevertheless, when they are carefully framed and rigorously executed, dollar-denominated metrics such as cost-benefit analyses allow for comparison across programs. I wonder how Moore and Dearing would advise a local government that is choosing between anti-pollution and education investments when the only impact data they have is a "concrete description of the effects"? How would they balance units of pollutant mitigation with a percentage change in the graduation rate?

Have you read Moore's new book or at least listened to his talk? What do you think about what Dearing calls our "enthusiasm for the bottom line"? Do we go too far in trying to translate program impacts into dollars? What other contributions of the new book are particularly relevant for Extension?

August 30, 2012

Public value conference papers available

My paper, "Creating Public Value with Tax and Spending Policies," for the Center for Integrative Leadership's Creating Public Value Conference is now available online, along with the other foundation papers for the conference. And my contributed paper for the same conference, co-authored with Lisa Hinz and Scott Chazdon, is available with the other contributed papers here. Please keep in mind that the papers are all conference drafts and shouldn't be cited or quoted without the authors' permission. So, if you are interested in how a wide range of scholars view the creation of public value, register for the conference (September 20-22 in Minneapolis), read the papers, and come ready to discuss them with the authors and other conference participants from around the country. See you there!

October 31, 2011

Looking back at public value in Journal of Extension

I was browsing through this blog and noticed that, while I had highlighted the April 2011 issue of Journal of Extension that featured articles on public value, I never highlighted my original JOE article.

In April 2004, I outlined how University of Minnesota Extension's public value work began in a JOE article titled "Identifying the Public Value of Extension Programs". Here is the abstract:

Government budget crises have compelled state Extension Services to defend their receipt of state and county funding. A key to that defense is persuading citizens and policymakers of Extension's "public value": the benefit from Extension programs to those who are not directly served. This article uses the principles of public sector economics to help formulate that defense and describes how Extension staff have applied economic principles to identify the public value in their own programs. The approach, developed into a workshop for program teams, serves to both sustain programs that have strong public value and identify programs that do not.

May 3, 2011

Public Value in the Journal of Extension

Check out the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Extension for three articles that reference Extension's public value.

Here is the abstract for my article in that issue, "Spreading the Word about Extension's Public Value":

In recent years, the idea that Extension can build support for its programs by highlighting how they benefit people who have no contact with the programs has taken root in the Extension system. Providing Extension program teams with resources, training, and leadership can lead to a body of public value messages that can infuse Extension's stakeholder communications. Hundreds of Extension professionals have received public value training, and survey results suggest that many trainees are following up with actions. Many trainees see positive effects from the public value approach, but measurable impacts will take more time.

The issue also includes an article by Nancy Franz of Iowa State University Extension on "Advancing the Public Value Movement: Sustaining Extension During Tough Times." Nancy's abstract is here:

Extension must more fully and adeptly embrace the public value movement to be sustainable as a publicly funded organization, or our demise as an organization will continue. The public value steps outlined here and piloted with several Extension systems and national work groups can be informative for others interested in capturing and sharing the public value of Extension work. Overall, the Extension public value banner needs to be held high as we struggle to change the perception of our work by addressing this as a "movement" in our organizational development and not a "response" to the economic environment.

Finally, George Morse's article "Regionalization with or without Specialization: A Call for a National Research Agenda" discusses the role of public value work in Extension reorganization. Here is George's abstract:

More research is needed to help states evaluate Extension delivery model alternatives. Given funding trends, access to all programs requires regional systems with county offices. The traditional county model provides access to an office but only to some programs. While there will be many differences, only states with specialized educators can make sufficient program investments to increase public value and funding. Stakeholders exploring regionalization need to know about the successes and failures of the early adopters. The implementation of a national agenda of high-quality research on regionalization and specialization is needed to protect Extension's historic mission.