February 9th, 2011
My article “Making Narrative Count: A Narratological Approach to Public Management Innovation” has now been published by the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, the top-ranked public administration journal. Here is an abstract of the article:
Though the use of narrative has become widespread through many disciplines, it has yet to establish a strong footing in public administration. The article first explains why narrative analysis has not been incorporated into mainstream public administration as the latter has become increasingly empirical, quantitative, and hypothesis-driven. It then discusses a number of previous attempts to introduce narrative into public administration.
Next, the article outlines a number of key narratological concepts that could readily be applied to the field. These include the distinction between fable, narrative, and text; narrative polyphony; and dominant and counter-fables. Demonstrating the possibilities they offer, the concepts are applied to the analysis of the 31 finalists in the 2008 and 2009 Innovations in American Government Awards to identify a dominant innovation fable incorporating incremental problem-solving and inter-organizational cooperation. This innovation fable is contrasted to those identified in previous research, such as the organization turnaround or the front-line innovation.
Because the Awards application process results in three distinct narratives – a detailed paper application, a site visit report, and an oral presentation to the selection panel – the analysis focuses on the differences among them, with the application form representing an insider’s story written by experts for an expert audience, the site visit report often incorporating a counter-narrative that points out the innovation’s unresolved conflicts or uncertainties, and the oral presentation functioning as an advocacy narrative directed at a generalist audience. This analysis is applied to one of the award winners, the US Intelligence Community Civilian Joint Duty Program.
The article concludes with suggestions for further narratological research about public management innovation, taking advantage of the new application form to the Innovation Awards which was designed to elicit more explicit narratives. More generally, it raises possibilities for public administration scholars to incorporate narratological concepts and methods into their research.
If you are interested in reading the article online, it’s doi (digital object identifier) is 10.1093/jopart/muq088. You can enter it at www.doi.org and it will take you to the article. You can also access it from JPART’s website. If you have any difficulty finding it, email me and I’ll email you the article.