School of Policy Studies

School of Policy Studies
School of Policy Studies

Queen's Contagion Cultures Lecture Series

August 18, 2020  

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The Coronavirus Challenge: A Public Service as Good as It Proved it Could Be: Three Challenges 

Andrew Graham
Adjunct Professor, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University

The public service, from frontline personal care to workers to procurement officers to military personnel working in long-term care facilities, rose to this crisis adopting new technologies, accelerating decisions and getting things done. It proved its capabilities, as stressed as that has been for some. Much has been learned about the capacity to adapt facilities to receive patients, remote work and communication, speeding p procurement, taking risks to get results, and also systemic gaps and weakness. Out of all this, this crisis brought three themes to the forefront, all challenges to all governments:  

  • Breaking the Risk Averse Stagnation: This crisis has shown that public servants, backed by political will, can take risks and produce results quickly. The risk averse culture that has emerged in the past 20 years can be overcome.  
  • Sherpa to the Policy Process, Not Controller: Public sector leadership has to broaden its role in assisting the many policy actors that emerged in the crisis continue to be engaged.  
  • Design for Delivery: Way Beyond Working from Home: Public policy design and delivery has to be faster, more technically competent with modern systems, effective capacity to respond and new ways of working, be it in an office setting or on the front line, where most public servants actually work.