ASPA is proud to host a robust e-learning program including three series of webinars: BookTalks, KeepingCurrent events and Students and New Professionals topics. This list is refreshed constantly as new events are added to our calendar. Please contact us if you have any questions about our upcoming discussions or would like to join us to host an event.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

February 9 | 1 p.m. EST

Why should public administrators care about Branda Nowell and Brint Milward’s recent Cambridge University book, Apples to Apples: A Taxonomy for Understanding Networks in Public Management and Policy? A taxonomy provides empirically observable and measurable characteristics to tell one class of network from another. Nowell and Milward argue that their network classes—structural-oriented, system-oriented and purpose-oriented—are taxonomic in nature; subject to empirical verification and independent of any label used to name the network. They argue that without knowing what kind of network you want to create, implement or evaluate, you are in danger of comparing apples to oranges and making the wrong assumptions about how to govern or evaluate the network. Each class of network in their typology has different assumptions for its use. For academics, Apples to Apples offers a taxonomy aimed at allowing network studies to begin to provide cumulative research findings on network governance and effectiveness. The explosion of terminology that refers to network “types” like disaster relief, health care or service implementation network adds more confusion than clarity. Without a taxonomy, network entities that are quite similar are called by different names while dissimilar entities are called by the same name.

Brint Milward, University of Arizona
Branda Nowell, North Carolina State University

Making Bureaucracy Work

February 16 | 1 p.m. EST

What makes bureaucracy work for the least advantaged? Akshay Mangla explores this question in his new book, Making Bureaucracy Work: Norms, Education and Public Service Delivery in Rural India. Countries around the world have policies for universal primary education, but implementation is highly uneven and not well understood. Conventional wisdom holds that developing countries need strong, formal, legal institutions to implement social programs, including strong Weberian bureaucracies insulated from political interference. Yet, bureaucracies in developing countries often depart widely from the Weberian ideal. More, while some perform poorly, others produce remarkable results. To explore this varied performance, Mangla analyzes the puzzling differences in education outcomes in rural India, a highly unequal setting in which existing theories expect bureaucracy to fail. Based on a multilevel comparative research design and 28 months of field research, Mangla opens up the black box of Indian bureaucracy, tracing policy implementation processes from state capitals down to local districts and village primary schools.

Making Bureaucracy Work advances a novel theoretical argument anchored on bureaucratic norms, the informal rules of the game that guide how public officials understand their duties and relate with citizens on the ground. It finds that legalistic bureaucracies generate improvements in school infrastructure and enrollments, but perform poorly on complex tasks involving coordination with societal actors. Worse, they impose administrative burdens on marginalized groups, weakening societal participation. By contrast, deliberative bureaucracies encourage flexible problem-solving by state officials. Join us as Mangla reveals the complex ways bureaucratic norms interact with socioeconomic inequalities on the ground, illuminating bureaucracy’s role in promoting inclusive development.

Akshay Mangla, Associate Professor, University of Oxford
Meghna Sabharwal, Moderator, Professor, University of Texas at Dallas