Participation: Add-on or core component of public service delivery?

Stephen P. Osborne*, Kirsty Strokosch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on a systematic review of the literature, this paper explores the factors which have enabled and/or constrained the transformative potential of public service user participation within the five most influential recent narratives of public service reform. It argues that these narratives have failed either to offer a holistic conceptualisation of such participation in theory or to achieve its enactment in practice for four main reasons: participation is framed as polemic, with limited evidence of efficacy; public service delivery has been conceptualised as a linear process, with participation at its margins; structural changes have been insufficient in embedding participation; and power asymmetries have been reinforced through successive reforms. To combat these long-standing challenges, a value-creation approach is presented, which starts from an assumption of participation as a defining feature of public service delivery and considered how its import can be maximised to create value for individuals and society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-200
Number of pages20
JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
Issue number1
Early online date23 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • participation
  • public service reform
  • value and value-creation
  • service delivery


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