PP4E5      Half Unit
Innovations in the governance of public services delivery

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Simon Bastow and Professor Gwyn Bevan


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-University of Toronto), Global MSc in Management, Global MSc in Management (CEMS MiM), Global MSc in Management (MBA Exchange), MBA Exchange, MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MSc in Management (1 Year Programme), MSc in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course examines innovations in different models of governance (defined broadly as the overarching mechanisms) that organise the delivery of public services.  We look at variations across three key governance models in particular, namely hierarchy, markets and networks in recent decades, and assess their strengths and limitations.  We look at their application in both developed and developing countries, to a wide range of core public services, including healthcare, education, criminal justice, and public utilities.

Many public services have seen a broad global shift from traditional hierarchical bureaucracies towards markets and networks.  Many countries have experienced, and will continue to experience, extensive marketisation of public services and we cover key innovations and their impacts. Markets, in particularly privatisation, create high-powered incentives to challenge inertia that can beset the public sector, however marketisation is no panacea: indeed the characteristics of some public services mean that this brings new risks and problems and governments have often struggled in recent decades with managing the consequent market failure.  We look at the use of 'quasi-markets', voucher systems, full-scale privatisations, Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), Payment by Results (PBR) and Social Impact Bonds (SIBs), and assess their impact on public services.  We also look at innovations in networked, polycentric or collaborative forms of governance, particularly the relevance of new developments, such as the 'sharing economy', the 'digital economy' and social media.

A central theme of the course is the relationship between institutions and innovative mechanisms for change.  Markets and networks offer a wide range of innovative mechanisms, but their success or failure is often determined by the institutional context in which they are implemented.  Looking across different models of governance, the course will consider issues around optimisation of design and integration of models, and the impact of institutional path dependence on success and failure.  We explore how to align new mechanisms for change with existing institutions in complementary ways.

The course draws on a range of disciplines and analytical approaches, including transaction cost economics, political science, institutional economics, and developments in behavioural economics beyond 'nudges'.  These include the economics of identity, reciprocal altruism and the power of reputational mechanisms of 'naming and shaming' and 'naming and faming'.  The lectures and seminars are organised to enable you to understand key theory/concepts through illustrative cases and discussion.  The seminars are organised around group-based presentations.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 35 hours across Lent Term. This year teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures, with seminars taking place in person where possible and where conditions allow.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the LT.

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in Lent Term - a 750-word essay plan.

Indicative reading

Students will be directed to key texts throughout the term.  Course literature draws from public policy and governance, the economics of transaction costs and behavioural economics among other disciplines.  Some indicative readings throughout the course include:

  • Hirschman, AO. (1970) Exit, voice, and loyalty: Responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states. London: Harvard University press.
  • M Barber. (2015) How to run a government so that citizens benefit and taxpayers don't go crazy, Allen Lane.
  • Le Grand, J. (2007) The Other Invisible Hand: Delivering Public Services Through Choice and Competition, Princeton University Press.
  • Williamson, OE (1975) Markets and Hierarchies, The Free Press.
  • Williamson, OE (1985) The Economic Institutions of Capitalism: Firms, Markets and Relational Contracting, New York, The Free Press.
  • North, D. (1990) Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • G A Akerlof, RE  Kranton, (2010) Identity Economics: How Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well Being. Woodstock: Princeton University Press.
  • Oliver, A (ed.) (2013) Behavioural Public Policy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Roland, G. (2013) Privatization: Successes & Failures. Columbia University Press.
  • Katz, B. & J. Bradley (2013), The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy (Brookings Institution Press).
  • Bowles, S. (2016) The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens. Yale University Press.


Essay (50%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Presentation (20%) and policy brief (30%) in the LT.


Presentations as a member of a seminar group in the weekly seminars (20%).

A policy brief about a proposed innovation in government, directed at the head of an organisation able to implement or influence government policy. (30%).

A research essay of 3,000 words critically examining governance and innovation in delivery of public services (50%).

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2020/21: 46

Average class size 2020/21: 16

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills