Towards an empirical research agenda for public value theory

Hartley, Jean; Alford, John; Knies, Eva and Douglas, Scott (2017). Towards an empirical research agenda for public value theory. Public Management Review, 19(5) pp. 670–685.



There is considerable scholarly writing about the theory and application of public value concepts, but this article explores why there is, by contrast, so little empirical research on public value. The article then goes on to provide a framework and a research agenda for inspiring and guiding new empirical research, based on three different conceptualizations of public value, with researchers needing to be explicit about which approach they are using in order to avoid confusion. While case studies have been used as a research method, the authors suggest a much wider array of potential research methods (depending on the research question) covering both quantitative and qualitative approaches and with a wider variety of designs, including comparative analysis. It is suggested that empirical research is undertaken with a more diverse range of stakeholders of public value, breaking out of the public manager-centric approach. This is an exciting agenda for research, though the paper warns that public value may fade from view unless empirical research is undertaken to test, challenge and extend the scholarly contributions.

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