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Consulting in the public sector

Published on February 29, 2016   44 min

Other Talks in the Series: Management Consultancy

My name is Helen Gunter, and I'm Professor of Education Policy at the University of Manchester in the UK.
When we want to think about study and examine consulting in the public sector, we need to look at the way in which the State, when it constructs public policy, draws on particular kinds of knowledge and particular kinds of knowers. I've been studying this and experiencing it professionally for the last 35 years. I began life as a school teacher, moved into higher education, and now I undertake research that examines the role of professionals.
Let's look at the issue of what it means to examine consulting in the public sector. For example, you could look at a policy statement, something like a green paper or a white paper, or you might listen to a ministerial speech. And we need to think about the knowledge that's been drawn on to frame the ideas and the processes that are outlined. It's very clear in regard to what is known as public sector services in the post World War II world, and there's been a huge change in the knowledge claims, that is the types of knowledge in the ways in which people within the public sector have justified their decisions on what they intend to do. And people tend to have very clear preferences for certain types of knowledge and they tend to privilege particular kinds of knowers, as I call them. I once recall a professor who'd been appointed into government to lead a major change, returning from a meeting in the Cabinet Office where he espoused how ministers and civil servants expected research to be turned around in six weeks, and then communicated in a few slides using bullet points. This of course is very different to the world in which many of us inhabit, even those of us who are consultants would probably want to inquire into something for longer than six weeks, and we'd want to talk about it in ways other than a few slides.