Volume 50, No. 3 | The Interaction between Citizens, Service Users and the Public Administration

Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen and Helle Ørsted Nielsen | Building a wall or a bridge: Citizens’ behavior in their encounters with the public sector

We know from implementation studies that street-level bureaucrats have a significant impact on the distribution of public goods, and that their decisions are affected by the behavior of the individual citizens with whom they interact. In this way, citizens indirectly affect the implementation of public policies. Yet, we have only limited knowledge about citizens’ behavior in these interactions. This article aims to build a systematic conceptual framework on citizen behavior in interaction with public agents. It builds on data from an e-survey that examines self-reported behavior of respondents in a set of hypothetical scenarios across three public sector fields, and uses cluster analysis to identify behavioral types. The analysis shows distinct behavior types in each sub-sector, but varying across areas. However, these types do not correlate with classic sociodemographic variables.   

Annika Agger and Birgitte Poulsen | Working in the frontline: The art of balancing between opposing demands and conflicts

According to recent studies in implementation research, the quality of the interplay between front-line staff and target groups, affects the degree to which policy is implemented. Therefore, the ability of front-line workers to balance between ensuring professional knowledge and at the same time facilitate inclusive processes is of great importance in co-production processes with citizens. Despite the growing interest in co-production and interactive processes, there are relatively few studies that focus on what happens in practice when front-line staff aims to build trust and coordinate action between conflicting interests. In this article, we investigate how front-line workers experience and handle conflicts through their work in co-production processes. Theoretically, we employ theories of street-level bureaucracy and conflict resolution. Empirically, we draw on a study of 16 front-line managers in urban renewal efforts in Malmö and Copenhagen, characterized by active involvement of citizens. 

Morten Hjortskov | Citizens’ satisfaction with public service: A question of quality and expectations?

Satisfaction surveys are increasingly used to inform citizens and decision makers about the quality of public services. This use of satisfaction surveys demands a close relationship between citizens’ satisfaction and the actual quality of the service. Research is mixed on this point, which may have large implications for the use of citizen satisfaction surveys. In this study, I investigate two aspects of the relationship between quality and satisfaction: Does an objective measure of service quality and the citizens’ expectations to the public service affect the citizens’ satisfaction levels? This question is investigated using satisfaction data from schools in the City of Aarhus from 2011 and 2013 as well as data from the national tests. The results show that both the objective measure of quality and citizens’ expectations affect satisfaction with Danish schools. 

Mette Kjærgaard Thomsen and Ulrich Thy Jensen | Service professionals’ classification of core and complementary tasks

Non-professional actors such as volunteers, service users, and citizens increasingly contribute to the production of public services. While increased involvement of such non-professionals is expected to have positive effects on the capacity of public organizations, few studies have explored professionals’ attitudes towards this trend. A central question concerns what services professionals see as core tasks that ought to be performed by professionals. We introduce a theoretical distinction between core and complimentary tasks and use a survey to investigate how health assistants employed at nursing homes classify various tasks along these two categories. Finally, we examine whether health assistants with a short and long education classify the same set of tasks differently, thereby shedding light on the importance of the degree of professionalism for the classification of concrete tasks as either core or complimentary. 

Mette Bisgaard | “It’s like an exam”: An exploratory study of target group strategies

Studies of public administration have shown that the characteristics and behaviors of citizens with whom street-level bureaucrats interact affect their decision-making. However, our knowledge about citizens’ behaviors is limited. Based on qualitative interviews, this article explores how citizens prepare strategies before interacting with public authorities. The analysis shows that citizens use four different preparatory strategies: They seek advice and guidance, they prepare content and documentation, they plan their attitude, and they prepare mentally. However, the analysis also shows that the citizens’ preparatory strategies vary in scope and content, as reflected in four client types: the fighter, the self-propelled, the advise-seeking and the immediate client.  

Marie Østergaard Møller and Kasper Emholdt | Public organizational materiality: A study of physical organization and social interaction in local health houses

This article examines how the public organizational materiality of local health houses forms the social interaction of citizens with the health house, each other and the professionals. The establishment of local health houses provides a unique opportunity to study the importance of an organization’s physical framework for the encounter between citizens and the public. The article is based on 22 citizen interviews and on-site observations of physical frameworks, organization of service and social interactions in 19 health houses. We show how the organization of receptions, the use of information objects and the interior design of health houses affect the citizens’ social interaction in the health houses and their expectations to the meeting with the public in a concrete physical context. We find that the “locally based health services” invite citizens to more or less ritualized behavior depending on the physical and organizational framework. The article is based on a database and observation data, which are relatively rare in political science and public administration studies, and contributes to revitalizing the relatively limited micro-sociological literature of the importance of physical frameworks for public organization and management. 

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