Governing Backwards

June 30, 2014
By Jenny Li Fowler

“What governments do rather than how they do them” — this is the lens Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Associate Professor Matt Andrews is using to develop a fresh view of governance. His new HKS Faculty Working Paper, “An Ends-Means Approach to Looking at Governance,” is intended to stimulate discussion about the functionality of governments in nation states, especially in developing countries.
“I think that revealed capabilities and ends are ignored in much of the current governance discussion because of a bias towards questions about form and preferred means of governing,” writes Andrews.
Andrews argues that focusing on ends as a starting point reveals what states can actually do. He suggests that governance questions should center on the product of state engagement: How is the public infrastructure? What is the state of defense, pubic safety, law and order? How about economic progress? Andrews believes these questions reveal a government’s capabilities – or a lack thereof. Once you see and describe what a state can or cannot do, Andrews argues, you can work from there and think about the means or processes by which governments achieve their results.

When the focus is primarily on the processes or means, Andrews contends, there is often a failure to make the critical connection to the ends, or even to demonstrate which ends matter. Referring to common ways of looking at governance, Andrews notes that, “We [the international community] focus on the means of being rather than the product of doing.” Andrews contends that, “I believe that means also matter, but should only be discussed once we have decided on the ends that matter.”
Andrews admits that his method is an unconventional way of assessing governance.
“It is vital that readers recognize that governance is still something with a working and emerging definition and with to-be-completed approaches to measurement and analysis. I hope this paper helps make this point and provide some fodder for discussion as we strive for a better understanding of governance in the future, especially in developing countries.”
Matt Andrews is associate professor of public policy. His recent work examines alternative approaches to public sector reform in development. These works include the 2013 book The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development(Cambridge University Press).

Matt Andrews, associate professor of public policy

Matt Andrews, associate professor of public policy

Photo Credit: Martha Stewart

“I think that revealed capabilities and ends are ignored in much of the current governance discussion because of a bias towards questions about form and preferred means of governing."

 


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