Professor Huw T.O. Davies
Dr Mark R. Dibben
Trust is one of the fundamental governing mechanisms for the social interaction that drives our lives. It underpins all non-trivial relationships, determining the rate at which they develop and thereby enabling co-operation in the absence of certainty without incurring crippling transaction costs. The concept of trust has received renewed attention over the past decade, as some of the difficulties inherent in markets and hierarchies have become evident.
Trust in the Public Sector is a series of seminars with an initial schedule to run throughout 2002 and 2003. The purpose is to explore the role of trust in developing effective and efficient public services in a range of public sector domains, such as health care, education, criminal justice service and social care. They are funded by the ESRC and The Nuffield Trust.
Services largely delivered in the public sector (e.g. health care, social care and education) possess common characteristics that make market trading of these as ‘commodities’ problematic. Crucial among these problems is asymmetry of information and a relative lack of measurability. These characteristics in turn mean that transactions cannot readily be policed by explicit contracts and thus trust takes a prominent role in the relationship between service deliverer and client (e.g. doctor-patient, social worker-client, probation officer-offender, teacher-pupil). Political and managerial control and accountability in public sector organisations is similarly problematic because of the same core difficulties: asymmetry of information and immeasurability. Thus trust also lies at the heart of the intra- and inter- organisational relationships (e.g. in service commissioning; in professional accountability; or in exerting management control). MORE… Social Policy Focus article
Trust in the Public Sector is a newly formed seminar group aimed at developing research capacity and capability in a major interdisciplinary theme: inter- and intra- organisational trust in the public sector.
Issues likely to be the focus include:
1. Explorations of interpersonal trust in the professional-client relationship.
2. Explorations of the role of trust in manager-professional relationships.
3. Examination of the linkages between interpersonal trust and the development of ‘high trust’ organisations.
4. Examination of trust between organisations in the development of partnership working.
5. Policy and managerial implications of trust in various specific public sector domains.
Trust in the Public Sector has its own JISC mail listing, entitled: trust
“Trust in the Public Sector: A virtual college discussing research activity concerning the nature, role and impact of trust primarily in the public sector.”
Live joining information: http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/trust.html
· Seminar at SIHCM, St Andrews, April 2002
· Trust and Health Care Management, York, November 2002
· Trust, Post-Communist Transition and Doctor-Patient Relations, St Andrews, March 2003-03-17
Upcoming Seminars Confirmed
· Trust and Public Sector Governance, Scottish Executive, Marhc 28th 2003
· Seminar Track at Trust Management Conference, Crete, May 28-30th 2003 http://www.ebusinesscity.org
Abstracts invited for
· Seminar Track at Communication, Medicine and Ethics Conference (COMET), Cardiff 26-28 June 2003
· Seminar Track at 2nd Workshop on Trust Within and Between Organisations, Amsterdam, 24-25 October 2003
UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS 11-13 APRIL 2002
SPECIAL SUB-FORUM IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE ESRC AND THE NUFFIELD TRUST
PAPERS ARE INVITED CONSIDERNG THE FOLLOWING ISSUES
· Trust in the patient-physician relationship
· Trust in the manager-doctor relationship
· Considerations of trust in the policy process
· Issues of trust in developing devolved public services
Abstracts not more than 250 words (no tables or figures) are required by 30th December 2001. Authors whose papers are selected for presentation will be notified by 10th January 2002 – conference fee will be subsidised. Submissions are welcome by e-mail and on disc (PC with paper copy). Abstracts and papers should be sent to Dr Mark R. Dibben firstname.lastname@example.org or the CPPM address.
Huw Davies and Mark Dibben
University of St Andrews
“Delivery, delivery, delivery!” may well be the mantra of new Labour’s second term. Chastened by a low turnout and the heavy public emphasis on core services such as health care and education, Tony Blair is staking much on a revitalisation of public services – even to the extent of invoking greater use of private enterprise.
Yet services largely delivered in the public sector (e.g. health care, social care and education) possess common characteristics that make market trading of these as ‘commodities’ problematic. Crucial among these problems are asymmetry of information and a relative lack of measurability. These characteristics in turn mean that transactions cannot readily be policed by explicit contracts and thus trust takes a prominent role in the relationship between service deliverer and client (e.g. doctor-patient, social worker-client, probation officer-offender, teacher-pupil).
Political and managerial control and accountability in public sector organisations are similarly problematic because of the same core difficulties: asymmetry of information and immeasurability. Thus trust also lies at the heart of the intra- and inter- organisational relationships (e.g. in service commissioning; in professional accountability; or in exerting management control).
Indeed, trust underpins all non-trivial relationships – enabling co-operation in the presence of uncertainty without incurring crippling transaction costs. It has also been seen as social capital and a kind of ‘social glue’ binding people into collective endeavours. Trust has received renewed attention over the past decade, as some of the difficulties inherent in markets and hierarchies have become evident. Yet the benefits of trust must be weighed against its potential risks – especially in the light of recent manifest public service failings in health care (e.g. Bristol, Harold Shipman), the police (e.g. Stephen Lawrence), rail transport (e.g. Paddington, Hatfield) and, most recently, food policy surrounding BSE.
While the importance of trust in developing and maintaining interpersonal relations has long been recognised, research into its role and impact within and between organisations has a less coherent history. Perhaps in consequence, the latest Thematic Priorities produced by the ESRC lay heavy emphasis on explorations of the nature and role of trust. Trust figures in no less than five of the seven key themes (Economic Performance & Development; Governance & Citizenship; Knowledge, Communication & Learning; Social Stability & Exclusion; and Work & Organisations).
Because exploration of trust can take place from many theoretical stances (e.g. economic, sociological, philosophical, ethical) and in many settings (public services, private sector, communities), there is a consequent difficulty in meeting and maintaining contact with researchers carrying out analogous work. Thus opportunities for cross-fertilisation are missed and productive collaboration happens only sporadically. That trust is such a cross-cutting theme also means that there is no obvious disciplinary or learned society base. In spite of this, a number of key issues do need to be addressed, including:
1. A critical examination of the role of trust in public sector policy and management and, in particular, its relationship with risk.
2. The bringing together of academics from diverse disciplines (e.g. economics, sociology, social policy, public administration, organisation studies and political science) to encourage cross-fertilisation across perspectives and the development of research synergy.
3. The assessment of the practical relevance of academic models of trust to public policy formulation and implementation (in discussions with leading practitioners and key policy stakeholders).
4. Cross-sectoral learning and policy transfer between key public sector areas (most especially, health care, social care, education and criminal justice services).
A new ESRC-funded research-based seminar series seeks to address some of these issues, with additional support from The Nuffield Trust. The aim is to develop the research capability and capacity to tackle conceptual and empirical issues around the role of trust in public sector service organisation and delivery – and to do this by fostering a ‘virtual college’ of researchers that will explore and share ideas on the role of trust in public sector policy and management.
This initiative is being developed by Professor Huw Davies and Dr Mark Dibben (University of St Andrews), along with Dr Russell Mannion and Professor Pete Smith (University of York). Other fellows include Dr Sandra Nutley (University of St Andrews), and Professors Mike Lean (Glasgow), Onora O’Neill (Newnham College Cambridge), Neva Haites and Hugh Pennington (University of Aberdeen). Anyone interested in contributing to this initiative in any way should, in the first instance, get in touch with Dr Mark Dibben (email: mailto:email@example.com).