Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative

State Capabilities for Problem-Oriented Governance

Perspectives on Public Management and Governance

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  • Quinton Mayne staff headshot Jorrit de Jong, Center director and faculty co-chair, headshot Fernando Monge headshot
    Quinton Mayne, Jorrit de Jong, Fernando Fernandez-Monge
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Research summary

Governments around the world are increasingly recognizing the power of problem-oriented governance as a way to address complex public problems. As an approach to policy design and implementation, problem-oriented governance radically emphasizes the need for organizations to continuously learn and adapt. Scholars of public management, public administration, policy studies, international development, and political science have made important contributions to this problem-orientation turn; however, little systematic attention has been paid to the question of the state capabilities that underpin problem-oriented governance. In this article, we address this gap in the literature. We argue that three core capabilities are structurally conducive to problem-oriented governance: a reflective-improvement capability, a collaborative capability, and a data-analytic capability. The article presents a conceptual framework for understanding each of these capabilities, including their chief constituent elements. It ends with a discussion of how the framework can advance empirical research as well as public-sector reform.

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