So, back from the IRSPM conference in Prague (http://www.irspm2013.com/) I’m somewhat wiser but also more humble (as it is, with knowledge also comes knowledge about how much you don’t know blabla…see, I’m not even sure if its “more humble” or “humbler”), not to say dumber.
Anyways, let’s roll with some impressions:
- First of all IRSPM was a very good and international conference. Internationality often goes hand in hand with a more general, arbitrary, and broader program, which also coincides with (large) size. This is certainly true here because IRSPM IS definitely a big conference, probably one of the biggest in the field of public management. My educated guess says that there were several hundreds of researchers present (maybe between 300 and 500 but don’t nail me on that). Therefore, the presentations and panels necessarily have to be varied and you can easily lose yourself in the sheer amount of possibilites; something that also happened to me at times. But I’m honest here: Sometimes I like the cosy “panic” of sitting in a panel that is coming to and end, and not having a clue where to go and what to do next. Such moments can lead to serendipity by just randomly (and hastingly) chosing a panel, which turns out suprisingly good and insightful.
- How do I know it was a good conference and how do I determine goodness? As alyways I try to use “goodness of fit” indicators. Here the IRSPM scores very well. I detected a RMSEA of 0.038, a SRMR of 0.028, a CFI of 0.952 and a TLI of 0.963. Such values already point to a great goodness. But how can I justify this qualitatively?
- Let me give a brief account of some interesting sessions that still stick in my mind: the first great session was on “Government Corrpution and Global Crisis” and Pablo Sanabria from Colombia gave a great account of what low-level corruption (mainly bribery) in his country looks like. Interestingly, the phenomenon is not as widespread as many might believe: only about 12 percent of the population have experienced bribery. Especially in the big cities (Medellin, Bogota) public and prominent cases of corruption have sensitized the citizens and lead to lower numbers than the national average (especially in Bogota).
- Great stuff was presented in a panel on Innovation in government and public administration. This is really a hot topic right now and terms like co-creation, participation, and co-design appeared everywhere – which is a sign that public agencies have to open up and let citizens have a stronger voice. Especially interesting was Alexandra Collm’s presentation on an open innovation project/idea contest in a big Swiss city. Leassons learned include that the rules of the game need to be specified and communicated clearly from the beginning on. In the said case, the city missed the opportunity (to some extent) and only used a miniscule part of all ideas (3 out of about 1500) – which were complemented by 3 “own” ideas, i. e. propositions by city employees, public managers, and similar internal people. Of course such an approach didn’t please many idea providers and might even scare them away from participating in similar contests in the future. Another interesting fact: the participants in this idea contest – and in similar participation projects as well – are mostly young, i. e. between 20 and 35, male and highly educated. So, only a very small part of the population takes the chance to raise its voice and thus profits from the emerging opportunities (Matthew effect).
- A final sticky moment – the last for this post but more will possibly follow in future posts – I experienced in a panel session on health data sharing between science and public agencies. Often conflicts of interest emerge between these parties. Researchers want as much data as possible but the public agencies are often hesitant to provide them – for reasons of privacy and protection of the individual in terms of not being identifiable. In the discussion after the presentation someone asked why these (public health) data are not made publicly and freely available for everyone to use – of course subject to anonymization… For me there is not one single reason not to do so: (public) health data should definitely be made freely available.