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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

Bureaucratic Reputation and Executive Governance – the Reputational Strategies of Central Government Reform Units

Public Administration
Public Policy
Kai Wegrich
Hertie School of Governance
Kai Wegrich
Hertie School of Governance

Research drawing the concept of bureaucratic reputation developed by Carpenter (2001, 2010) and Krause (Carpenter and Kraus 2012) has increasingly explored core themes of public administration research – such as principal agent relations (Carpenter and Krause 2015) and accountability dynamics (Busuioc and Lodge 2015). However, the core issues of policy making within the bureaucracy and pertinent issues of coordination across government ministries have so far not been studies through the lens of bureaucratic reputation. The paper applies the reputational perspective to central government units promoting cross-cutting reform issues – such as ‘better regulation’, ‘innovations’, or ‘behavioural insights’. The problems these units face within the context of executive politics is already relatively well understood - a small team has to interfere with the turf of a number of line ministries and try to implement cross-cutting – or generalist – concerns that are not a priority in these ministries. The paper deploys the reputation lens in order to explore how these units seek to overcome these structural disadvantages. Empirically, the paper compares the reputation strategies of better regulation and nudge units in the UK and Germany. It draws on Gilard’s (2015) work on task allocation of regulatory agencies to explore the biases inherent to each strategy, i.e. which aspect of the task is given more attention than others. While the UK cases exhibits a strong focus on the external reputation of units, the German cases display strategies of stronger inward looking strategies. Using interviews and document analysis (of annual reports, press releases and media reports) the paper seeks to explore the effects of these strategies on the capacity of these units to sustain a high reputation among a diverse audience.
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