This short book is co-authored by Charles Landry and Margie Caust.
It addresses a subject – namely bureaucracy and the civil servants that work in its various departments – that affects all of us, has great relevance to societal wellbeing and mental health, yet is rarely explored.
The preface begins:
“Public bureaucracies across the globe face a converging, escalating
crisis. Our societies are increasingly unequal. The population is
ageing and they have fewer resources to respond to the growing
need for care services. Demands for affordable living conditions are
increasing as public space declines. Frenzied fiance movements
are rattling domestic economies. Mass migration is engendering
fear and uncertainty. This accounts for some sudden and dangerous
responses to overcome the effects of a turbo-charged capitalism.
Add to this the rise in populism divides the world into ‘patriots’ and
‘globalists’ and is just a foretaste of what is to come. And overlaying
everything our digitizing world and its disruptive technologies is
providing both vast opportunities and threats.
There is a massive, urgent task ahead for bureaucracies to help
create a fairer more equal world buttressed by an incentives and
regulatory regime to match. They need to be smarter and cities
need to be more creative as well, yet a city cannot achieve that if
part of the system is uncreative.
There is a bigger context too, which is the demand by many to
shift from representative democracy to participative citizenship
and democracy. The rise of civic movements is a reflction of this
and they are demanding more say in how decisions are made.
All bureaucracies need to respond. Here the idea of the city as
a commons or ‘urban communing’ jointly managed is gaining
traction. It is a third way between public and private. This is
creating stresses for some public institutions whilst others delight
in it. It seeks to harness the energies of people and communities
who wish to take more control over their lives and to improve
facilities and services for all.
We are in the midst of redesigning the world and all its systems
for 21st century conditions. Its principles should be to bend the
market to bigger picture purposes. This needs a bureaucracy
that can draw on all its ethical, creative and intellectual resources
and reclaim a distinctive leadership role, but framed in a 21st
Increasingly it is accepted that complex problems or deeper
trends, areas we expect bureaucracies to lead on, will demand new
ways of thinking and problem solving and especially the ability
to partner and to connect across public, private and community
You can can download the book (as a pdf file) from here.