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Highlights from the States of Disruption Conference

Nicholas Nam's picture

On June 27-28, 2018, the World Bank's "States of Disruption" Conference brought together thought leaders and practitioners across several thematic areas to explore the ideas shaping governance in the 21st century today.

In the face of fragility, conflict and violence; large migration flows; complex service delivery needs; the amplifying impact of technology; and scarce public resources, we need to better understand the ‘states of disruption’ public sector institutions are facing across the world and how they can solve some of the most complex challenges. 

We've captured some of the highlights below.


Submitted by Sylvester Odhiambo Obong'o, PhD on

Dear Nicholas,

Thank you very much for submitting these highlights- From a public sector management practitioner's point of view- a number of concepts - which have been over time been of great interest in public sector management come to fore-

1. Is this about managing change;
2. Is this about Public Sector Reforms-

I appreciate that from a governance perspective - it goes beyond the narrow traditional boundaries usually demarcated by researches in the study of public sector reforms. Instilling good governance is in essence what public service reforms should aim to achieve. And that good governance ought to be based on a sound foundation of democracy. Democracy provides the culture, values, morals, and traditions that lead to the interaction between governors and the governed to be good governance. That is to say, “good governance should not be seen as a creature suspended simply within the bureaucracy, it must be a product of interaction between bureaucrats and citizens (Anyang Nyong'o 1999”)

So in my - thinking States of Disruption could be a broader and more holistic way of - diagnosing - what I now want to call "STATE REFORMS" beyond the Public/Civil Service Reform Agenda especially with the emerging NEW PUBLIC GOVERNANCE - concepts a a response to the general blurring of boundaries between public and private sectors, requiring intervention “mechanisms which do not rest on recourse to the authority and sanctions of government”.

As an enthusiast of Public Sector Management Reforms - the emerging discussions and debate around States of Disruptions around Governance is exciting- especially with regard to developing countries- where effectiveness of public sector reforms is still not very certain.

Sylvester Odhiambo Obong'o PhD,
Head | Research and Policy Analysis
Public Service Commission,

Submitted by Ed Bourque on

This is an excellent overview of some of the major issues.

Public sector reforms- and improvements in accountability and democracy, generally- are critical to service delivery. One of my particular interests is the question of to what extent decentralization efforts truly improve service delivery governance.

The World Bank (in WDR 2004) used to promote a service delivery governance framework that tried to get at improvements in 'long route accountability'.

For example, I've seen failings in the government- citizen- service provider nexus in the water sector so often that I think that these accountability mechanisms are major driver of access. (Of course, everyone else just repeats the Malthusian scarcity discourse and associates access with broad, back-of-the-envelope IWRM level scarcity estimates...)

Back to my general point about decentralization and service delivery governance, what are some of the most recent World Bank inquiries/initiatives/reports into this?

Ed Bourque

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