Our research is informed by an (evolving) normative framework that assesses public services on factors such as equity, accountability and participatory decision making. We do not expect all services to excel equally at each criterion, with different sectors and locations evaluated on their own local terms, but we do seek to identify universal factors that can inform progressive public service practices across place and time with the aim of contributing to a more consistent and explicit dialogue around the meanings of 'success'.
We utilize an intersectional approach in our assessments of public service models, with a particular focus on the gendered and racialized impacts of public service reforms and the roles that women and other marginalized groups play in the building of new progressive public service alternatives. This approach includes the participation of a wide range of voices in the design, implementation and dissemination of research findings, including the development of ‘popular’ publications in multiple formats and languages.
After decades of failed privatization, cities around the world are returning services back to public ownership and control. We document and assess the processes around remunicipalization, the actors involved, competing ideas and discourses used to promote (and resist) it, and the shape and performance of post-privatization institutions. We work with activists and practitioners engaged with remunicipalization efforts to assess and share these findings.
Neoliberal restructuring has side-lined many forms of public finance and propagated myths about the necessary role of private capital in the expansion of public services and infrastructure. We critically examine the potential for public financial institutions – including public banks, public pension funds and sovereign wealth funds – to provide equity-oriented financial services that contribute towards investments in sustainable and democratic public services.
The global anti-privatization movement has been remarkably successful at mobilizing a unified and effective opposition to privatization. Many of these organizations are now focusing on how to build equally dynamic ‘pro-public’ coalitions, where the focus is on advocating for progressive reforms to public services. Our research looks at the actors, tactics and discourses associated with these new pro-public movements.
Research on public services tends to focus on the state, but many services are in fact co-produced with non-state actors such as community groups and NGOs working on a not-for-profit basis. In some cases this co-production is done out of necessity, but in many instances collaboration is intentional and effective. We explore the limits and opportunities of co-production and the competing theoretical debates around it.
Many state-owned service providers work collaboratively with other public sector operators to collaborate on service provision, share ideas, and build capacity. The bulk of these public-public partnerships (PUPs) take place within a single service (such as water or electricity) but many are cross-sectoral. They are also increasingly international in scope. Our work examines the scale and character of PUPs and their potential for expansion.
The neoliberal era has seen a dramatic expansion of arm’s length state-owned agencies run like private businesses. But corporatization is not inherently commercial, and many corporatized entities have managed to expand progressive forms of public services while advancing accountability and transparency. We explore different corporatization models and assess their suitability for promoting equity-oriented service delivery.