NPL Framework – Demonstrating Public Value

Small changes can have a dramatic effect

Demonstrating Public Value

 It is just as important to demonstrate public value as it is to both understand it and create it.  Evaluating impact is thus extremely important and this needs to take into account a public value test that demonstrates:

  • Social (public) goals (as defined) have been delivered;
  • in a way that secures trust and legitimacy across all stakeholders; and
  • where both organisational capability and capacity exists to support this.
Counting counters
It is not just about counting what can be easily counted.


It is not just about counting what can be counted (in terms of quantitative key performance indicators) but importantly about counting what counts (the wider social goals which may not be as easy to measure).  The three elements of what we describe here as a public value test illustrate the complexity of measuring what matters.  Social goals may be represented by social value, trust and legitimacy can be both social (community) and political (authorising environment) and organisational capability and capacity can be both political (resource prioritisation) and economic value (resource allocation and usages).

This shows why it is so important to consider the demonstration of public value as multi-faceted; yes, complex, but importantly, balanced.  Many attempts are made to measure social, public or civic value (as opposed to economic value), primarily through nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) but, equally, just as many, if not more, get persuaded more towards the measurement of easily gathered data.  The dangers of this were raised in the classic writing of Charles Handy in 1995 and a reminder of this is timely:

The first step is to measure whatever can be measured easily.

This is OK as far as it goes

The second step is to disregard that which can’t easily be measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value.

This is artificial and misleading

The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important.

This is blindness

The fourth step is to say that what can’t easily be measured really doesn’t exist.

This is suicide

(Handy, 1994: 219)

Influence - Dictionary entryThe Importance of Context and Influence

In the analysis of the NPL research findings insight was gained into dynamic interrelationships that occur between the internal contexts of collective leadership.  For this reason, we refer to these as ‘influencing (contextual) factors’, as opposed to the ‘givens’ of external and mediating contextual factors.

Interactions between the external (P.E.S.T.L.E), mediating (paradigms, phronesis (practical wisdom), places and principles) and influencingcontextual dimensions help in identifying appropriate values and behaviours of leaders and leadership which can then be assessed and evaluated.

We may then be in a much stronger position to measure what really matters.  It is thus about influencing change which can be achieved by intelligent leadership and persuasion skills in influencing others through evidence and negotiation.  It is important, however, to understand the difference between the ‘influencers’ and the ‘givens’; we will look at another classic work in which our idea of the dynamics of collective leadership is partly informed by the work of Stephen Covey (Covey, 1989).

Covey differentiates between proactive and reactive people.  Proactive people pay attention to WHAT they can do and influence whereas reactive people channel their energy on things that are beyond their control.  The impact differs.  Proactive people will feel more energised and motivated when they see things happening as a result of the influencing levers that they use whereas reactive people will feel a sense of victimisation and a propensity to blame others.

The same differentiation can be made between collective and individual leadership.  Proactive leaders will pay attention to contextual factors that they can influence.  These are the influencing factors described earlier and are factor that can be changed with demonstrable results.  Conversely, reactive leaders’ energy will be drawn to either the external (P.E.S.T.L.E.) or the mediating factors; often, these cannot be influenced easily and in the face of what appears to be impenetrable challenges, collective motivation will drop and victimisation will often emerge!

From the collective viewpoint, we introduce a third differentiation, which that of coactive people.  Coactive approaches were introduced by Stephen Brookes within a community-based model of policing that he introduced in the mid 1990’s.  He followed this up through his PhD review of community-based leadership defining coactivity: “This is defined as a strategy based on the police working cooperatively with other agencies to identify and address the conditions needed for improved community safety” (Brookes, 2006).  This concept applies to leadership more generally and is the space in which leaders come together to jointly tackle wicked problems (adaptive challenges).  As with crime reduction, coactive environmental approaches (often long term, multi-agency approaches) have a much greater chance of reducing negative public perception and actual occurrences than short-term reactive responses and thus lead to socially desirable outcomes that are in the public interest.  In short, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate public value.

It is therefore, about influence.  Concentrate on what can be influenced and more will happen.  The more you try, the more you will influence and, ultimately, you may be able to change those things that are of concern to you but which you seemingly cannot influence on your own.  We can draws some inspiration from over 2,000 years ago from Archimedes:

Give me a lever long enough

In physics, Archimedes is talking about the concept of leverage in which, through the proper use of tools you can do a lot more than you could through straight brute force methods.  In terms of leadership, it concerns doing this together and through an appropriate fulcrum (support point) which we suggest is through collective leadership; working together to a common aim.

How does this interaction work?

The challenge is to create space for collective leadership which comprises collaborative and adaptive work. Where do you and your networks stand?

Leaders rely on traditional reactive approaches to tacking leadership problems

Leaders generally adopt a proactive approach but only create the space for this as-and-when needed

Leaders are proactive in creating space for adaptive work in cases where adaptive challenges are present

Leaders routinely create space for adaptive  and coactive approaches in identifying adaptive challenges.

Once you have identified where you stand, then seek to increase your influence.  The second challenge is to be honest about how you can change your approach.  Where do you stand in this regard? Are you going to be … 


Leaders respond to a problem situation as it unfolds and often use tried-and-tested ways of responding to this. In simply reacting, leaders often neglect issues under their control and influence.


Circles of Concern and Proactive
Leaders take responsibility for their own actions. Leaders recognise their conditions, but behaviours are self-determined and proactive leaders subordinate personal feelings to values. Leaders take the initiative for change.


Circles of Concern - Coactive
Leaders collectively develop a strategy to work cooperatively across agencies to both identify and address the conditions that need to be improved by taking shared actions that individual agencies are unable to influence on their own.

Once you have identified where you stand in terms of how you will respond, the next stage is to consider the context within which you will be leading. We will explore this in the final section.

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