Public managers for global cities | Business schools

Cities are going to be, if they are not already, the preferred unit of analysis of the economy, political science, public health, demography, international relations and infrastructures, among other areas of public activity. The global trend points to five governance theses that explain how the planet has changed since 1996. First, urbanization is an unstoppable process: 60% of the population already lives in urban centers and 25% in megacities or urban corridors that agglomerate a chain of nuclei, such as the Manchester-Milan axis, Greater Istanbul or the Pearl River Delta in China. The second governance thesis is the transformation of power and the growth of the weight of cities. They add wealth, innovation, and infrastructure to creative capitalism. The innovation economy is organized in hubsand clustersthat connect cities, economic production and financial markets rather than national territories. London is not the United Kingdom just as New York is not the United States. The third axis is economic transformation. In the public sphere, the debt and the fiscal crisis has been a constant since the 70s. Likewise, the new digital geographies have created a universe connected through bytes and devices. Digitization affects supply chains, which are supported by connected infrastructures through global trade. In the area of ​​services, the emergence of new operators has affected tourism, passenger transport, the sector retaileror leisure consumption. The fourth dimension is climate change, which changes the rules of the game. Human influence on the planet has irreversible characteristics, which affect the ecosystem. It is a huge debate that begins in the hard sciences and ends in design (Madrid Design Festival), social sciences (Arias Maldonado, 2018) or fiction (novels by JG Ballard or Cormick). Human influence on the climate alters the distribution of the population, the sources of wealth and raw materials, the management of power or urban policies (Acuto, 2016). The last element is significant. Citizens, organized around social movements, have led the debate on identities and the political agenda away from conventional institutions and structures. In the city, these demands of political geography are accommodated (Harvey, 2013). Citizen empowerment identifies three uses in public communication: mobilization, the opening of new communication spaces and the creation of alternative information sources.

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The structural transformation of the environment and the components of political reality creates a new urban agenda that requires managers, yes, but above all public managers capable of ordering and prioritizing public policies that are implemented in cities and that respond to the paradigm shift. In my opinion, the mission of public management is to design, plan, execute and evaluate the social demands for change that are on the agenda. I am not advocating a technocracy without politics or emotions, but rather the ability to professionalize public management as directive intelligence. Here I present five general challenges that will have to be faced in the next electoral cycle.

Governance. It is a complex idea, which draws on legal, political and economic science, so that it has extended its study to the internal and external organization of public institutions, as well as national and European regulation. Following Diamond and MOrlino (2004), we can indicate that governance affects procedures (informal formal norms), contents (political decisions and priorities) and results (evaluation and value for money). There is no governance without government, ethical reflection on political responsibility and accountability. Transparency, embedded in the strategy, becomes an instrument for quality management.

The state is conversations, in the manner of the Cluetrain Manifesto. In practice, the five theses on governance need a relational State (Mendoza and Vernis, 2008) that is capable of articulating a public policy that responds to social demand. There is no room for a hierarchical model – or rather just hierarchical – in an open, cooperative and participatory environment. It can be called flexibility, resilience, or the ability to accept change. Institutions have to equip themselves with management instruments for public and private collaboration, the interest of multinational companies, citizen participation, attention to groups and social minorities, as well as the permanent inclusion of new actors. Cities, whether or not they have competition, will be essential in the deployment of an effective policy against climate change, to name the most relevant in the medium term. Here the public manager will have to be able to move with ease in the face of great institutional challenges.

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The symbolic capital of the territory. You have already been to New York, London, Paris, Beijing or Rome. Because its buildings, walks or monuments occupy a good part of our cultural memory built through cinema and literature. In attracting investments and infrastructures, the management of mass tourism or the relationship with European institutions, public communication will be a source of value and innovation in management. How they see us will have a decisive influence on the income statement. Internally, in the city, we find three uses in public communication: mobilization, the opening of new communication spaces and the creation of alternative information sources. On the public manager’s agenda, reputation and influence management appear as backbones of public discourse.

Networking. Cities gain influence when they are able to align interests, find common work spaces and overcome the limitations of administrative law. Furthermore, the current challenge for neo-institutionalism consists of creating norms that allow the rules of the game to be adapted to the enormous change that occurs within the framework of digital transformation. In network, Barcelona, ​​Milan, Athens or Copenhagen may impose a technological standard on infrastructures (ownership of the license, digital development, concentration of clients and investments) more easily than in the regulatory framework of the State. We need public managers who understand networks, as a game of actors that compete and cooperate for a common good, and the technologies that facilitate them.

People. Hopefully we can understand that the public manager is a talented professional who deploys his skills in accordance with the normative and regulatory system. For this reason, we need top-level managers who can flow through the administration (city, community, Europe, AGE) and also learn from the private sector with guarantees, not with revolving doors of dubious taste. This demand will mean a change in the process of selection, attraction, training and legitimation of public managers. For me, this is the biggest challenge because people have the ability to direct, manage and lead change. I have not said that it will be easy or immediate.

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I have just published “Corporate Diplomacy: the new managerial intelligence” at UOC Editorial (2018)


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