A Public Values Mapping approach to evaluating the response to the Covid-19 pandemic

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Submission Summary
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed many weaknesses in the institutions, processes and practices that underpin governance in India. In the context of the built environment, the pandemic has elicited a lively debate regarding standards and policies to be implemented in post-Covid cities. In analysis of the policy responses to Hurricane Katrina, Edward Woodhouse (2007) , however, argues that "systemic" (p.10) flaws are overshadowed by the rush to document event-specific lessons. There is a tendency in the public discourse to focus mainly on the proximate-visible consequences of the pandemic, leading to a fixation on ‘solutions’. In an urgency to act quickly during an unfolding crisis, many established norms are sidestepped or diluted giving way to new ‘normal’. However, the process of setting such norms during crisis rarely ever focusses on implications of such norms on public values eg. transparency or accountability post crisis. Values (i.e. the core convictions held by society and its institutions) underpinning these ‘solutions’ impacting all actions are rarely discussed and remain mostly invisible particularly in times of crisis. The paper posits that understanding crisis response through a framework of ‘public values’, as outlined by Bozeman along with several collaborators through numerous publications on the theme (Bozeman, 2007; Feeney and Bozeman, 2007; Jorgensen and Bozeman, 2007), can better help us anchor our crisis response. Public values indicated social agreement on (i) rights and (ii) obligations of citizens, and on (iii) governing principles for policy-making (Bozeman 2007, p.17). Jorgensen and Bozeman (2007) have created an inventory of the many possible components of the idea of 'public values'. The inventory is organized as seven "constellations" (ibid, p.359), each of which has its own "value set" (ibid p.360). With 20 themes and 46 sub-themes, within the seven constellations considered together, the inventory sets out a comprehensive list of elements of public interest, or values that ought to accrue to the public, from the public sector (directly or indirectly). This is not, as the authors put it, "a fully populated public values universe" (ibid, p.355). Bozeman and Sarewitz (2011) have developed the method of "mapping" public values in specific sectors. This paper adapts public values mapping (PVM) as an approach to describe and assess aspects of expected normative behaviour during a crisis. We use twitter data, news articles, and public statements by concerned political figures from the first wave of the pandemic, along with recent policy documents, to evaluate instances of success and failure in delivering public values. It is expected that this analysis will lead to a set of non-partisan norms for processes and communications related to public services during times of crisis. The public value mapping exercise reveals that while some aspects of governance were able to deliver public values to the people, in many instances policy and implementation resulted in 'public value failures'. Thus a major lesson to emerge from this research, and from using the public values framework, is that under the pressures imposed by the pandemic, public agencies focused their efforts entirely on damage control, while deprioritizing other duties and obligations to citizens. Many of the points made in this paper are particularly relevant for developing countries of the global South. It is well established, however, that in developed countries too, public values were tested during the pandemic (for example unevenness in the state's ability to reach, communicate with and provide support to all sections of society in the US, UK, UAE and Singapore). Thus the findings and the methodological contribution of the research is of value to all countries ravaged by the pandemic.
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1: Inclusiveness and empowerment. Al-Majlis: planning with and for communities
Associate Professor
Indian Institute of Management Calcutta

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