Recognizing Public Value

Event Recap

April 17, 2013
By Claudia Newman-Martin, PCJ Academic Year Fellow, MPP 2015

On Wednesday April 17 the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) co-hosted an incredible event featuring Mark Moore, who has recently published a book titled 'Recognizing Public Value'.  Moore spoke about the major themes of his book, which confronts one of the most challenging public policy questions of our era: How can the government set performance targets, what should those targets be, and how do we measure success? He began by outlining the way in which the private sector measures the bottom line, and the relative ease with which private entities can measure the value of their operations by looking at revenue and, in particular, profit. However, as Mark explains in his book, the public sector faces unique challenges in measuring the social value of services and programs the government delivers. Moore proposed a bottom line model that focuses on:

  1. Public Value Account;
  2. Legitimacy and Support Perspective; and
  3. Operational Capacity Perspective

Professor Moore then outlined some approaches to measuring the public value of particular programs and the importance of measuring government success in order to maximize the return we, as a society, generate from public spending. One issue he raised, crucial to the criminal justice field, is how to measure value from a service when you do not have a community of 'customers' who can be surveyed about their satisfaction with the process. In particular, he alluded to the challenges of measuring the success of police, courts, and prisons when those who come into contact with these services tend not to do so voluntarily.

Moore's talk was followed by responses by Tiziana Dearing and Stephen Goldsmith. Dearing applied many of Mark's comments to the not-for-profit sector, warning against 'monetizing' every aspect of an organization's performance, thereby jeopardizing the chance of organizations to engage in innovative programs that can produce real social change but may not look attractive on a balance sheet. Goldsmith then applied Moore's thinking to his experiences in New York, describing the perfect as the enemy of the good when it comes to measuring success and creating a public balanced scorecard and emphasizing the need for all public agencies to strive for perfection but recognize that some measurement of public value while imperfect, is clearly better than not engaging in a balances scorecard exercise at all.

The event was incredibly well attended with people from all sectors in attendance. The discussion following the formal presentation was insightful and productive. Overall, this event emphasized the difficulty in applying private sector frameworks to public problems and highlighted the importance of public sector thinkers dedicating themselves to the creation of good government.

Audio Recording

This event was recorded and audio download is available (AshCast) 

About the Participants

Mark H. Moore is the Hauser Professor of Nonprofit Organizations and founding chairman of the Harvard Kennedy School's Committee on Executive Programs, serving in that role for over a decade. From 1979-2004 he was the Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy and Management at HKS and also faculty chair of the Program Criminal Justice Policy and Management. His research interests are public management and leadership, civil society and community mobilization, and criminal justice policy and management. His publications include: Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government; Dangerous Offenders: The Elusive Targets of Justice; From Children to Citizens: The Mandate for Juvenile Justice; Beyond 911: A New Era for Policing; and Creating Public Value Through State Arts Agencies. Moore's work focuses on the ways in which leaders of public organizations can engage communities in supporting and legitimatizing their work and in the role that value commitments play in enabling leadership in public enterprises (featured author);

Tiziana Dearing, incoming Associate Professor of Macro Practice, Boston College Graduate School of Social Work; former CEO of Boston Rising,  first woman President of Catholic Charities Boston, and Executive Director, Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at HKS (discussion);

Stephen Goldsmith, Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government at HKS (discussion);

Tony Saich, Director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at HKS (introduction).


Book cover:  Recognizing Public Value

Audio download from this Event:
Recognizing Public Value (AshCast)

This event was co-sponsored by:

Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

Professor Mark H. Moore

Professor Mark H. Moore