Citizens Want More-Sophisticated Relationship with Their Local Governments, Including Greater Engagement and Input, Accenture Study Finds
New governance framework emerges from Accenture Global Cities Forum to help public-service organizations achieve stronger, more-effective relationships with citizens
LONDON; May 2008 – Citizens of major cities are becoming even more knowledgeable, savvy and vocal about what they expect from their public-service agencies and want a more sophisticated relationship with their governments in return for their votes and taxes, according to a new global research report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
The report, “Exploring People’s Perspectives on the Role of Government,” is based on research conducted by the Accenture Institute for Public Service Value as part of the Accenture Global Cities Forum, in which Accenture convened full-day panels of citizens representing a wide range of demographic backgrounds in London, Sydney, Singapore, Berlin, New York, Paris, Madrid and Los Angeles. The purpose of the research was to solicit citizens’ views on how effective their governments are in delivering services that meet their needs and improve their quality of life.
Among the key findings: People around the world want greater input into, and more active roles in, improving public services.
“People want more active, participatory relationships with their governments and greater involvement in the decision-making that drives the public services affecting their lives,” said Greg Parston, director of the Accenture Institute for Public Service Value. “They want a greater say so they can become ‘co-producers’ of public-service value in collaboration with not just government agencies, but also private businesses and nonprofit organizations.”
Accenture identified several common principles that emerged from the discussions in the eight cities and drew upon these to develop a new governance framework for achieving public-service value. Called the Accenture Public Service Value Governance Framework, the model presents four key components of a strengthened relationship between people and their government:
1. Outcomes — focusing on improved social and economic outcomes.
2. Balance — balancing choice and flexibility with fairness and common good.
3. Engagement — engaging, educating and enrolling the public as co-producers of public value.
4. Accountability — clarifying accountability and facilitating public recourse.
The framework is intended to help public-service entities engage their constituents so that they can design and deliver services that more closely meet the needs of the public; facilitate a more effective relationship between people and their governments; and ultimately deliver greater public value. Accenture will continue to refine this framework as it convenes additional Global Cities Forum panels in Oslo, Dublin, Rome, Tokyo and Toronto later in 2008.
Among the findings featured in the report:
· People want high-quality, timely and efficient services that meet their needs – and this requires better integration and collaboration among government departments, private businesses and nonprofit organizations.
· Many citizens believe that narrow applications of “fairness” and “choice” in public service delivery actually are widening the gaps between disadvantaged people and those who are more affluent or better educated and able to take greater advantage of public services.
· Citizens seek greater engagement with government on issues related to quality of life and quality of public service.
· Government can and should do much more to educate citizens – helping people to articulate their own needs and perceptions of government and harnessing their energies as co-producers of public value.
· Citizens want much more clarity and accountability from government; the absence of it fuels perceptions of waste and inefficiency.
A predominant view emerged from the citizen feedback that the basic values of transparency/accountability and equality/fairness should be the guiding principles for government. More than 50 percent of participants across all eight cities, however, said that they would not be willing to pay more taxes to improve public services.
Comparative results across the eight cities included:
Critical public service issues
* Participants in Los Angeles, Madrid, New York, Paris and Singapore viewed cost of living as the most pressing social concern.
* Sydney participants felt that health was a more important concern – though only slightly – than cost of living.
* Berlin participants identified employment (in the context of improving the economy) as the most critical issue in their city.
* Londoners were alone among Forum participants in placing crime and public safety as the most pressing issue.
Citizen satisfaction with public service
* Singaporeans rated their city highest in terms of their perception of their public services, with 86 percent indicating they were at least satisfied.
* Madrid, New York and Sydney comprised a second tier of cities whose participants rated their public services favorably, with 72 percent, 67 percent and 67 percent of participants in those cities, respectively, saying they were at least satisfied with their cities’ public services.
* Berlin, Los Angeles and Paris formed a third cluster that ranked in the lower half of all cities in terms of their satisfaction with public services, with 60 percent, 57 percent and 53 percent of participants in those cities, respectively, saying they were at least satisfied with their cities’ public services.
* Fewer than 50 percent of London participants said that their city provides good-quality public services.
* At least 80 percent of participants in each of the eight cities said that government agencies should treat users more like customers.
* The definition of “customer focus” varied somewhat among the cities, however. Participants in Madrid and Los Angeles were focused on services being more responsive and timely – for example, quicker emergency services response times and/or faster judicial system processing of criminal cases.
* Participants in Paris and Berlin called for better access to services and more delivery channels, including both physical and electronic.
* London Forum participants placed more emphasis on the need for flexibility in the way government provides services. For example, some participants indicated that they felt stymied by constraints on where their children could attend school and expressed a desire for more leeway in selecting schools that might be outside the assigned districts.
“Armed with data from the Forum, we believe that governments will be better able to tailor services, spend their limited budgets more strategically and, ultimately, be more responsive and provide greater value to the citizens they represent,” Parston said.
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