Development news

The trust paradox – when continued NPM leads to trust

September 10, 2021
New Public Management Photo: Unsplash / Mike Erskine

This article was first published by Organisation & Society.

“Control and management can be what builds trust.”

“With this article we wish to encourage reflection on different conditions and consequences surrounding trust based management. New Public Management (NPM) and the reforms that relate to NPM have been increasingly criticised in the past few years. In response to the criticism, the government in 2016 appointed the Trustdelegation with the mission to develop so called trust based management for the public sector. In the popular debate, trust tends to be understood as an alternative to formal governance, measurements and control. It has been assumed that a reduction of this kind of governance will improve the prospects of trust. But this is not given.”

“Formal governance, measurements and control do not always diminish trust. Our research show that it can actually be the other way around. In a study of governance and trust within development cooperation we recently discovered that formal governance with traditional NPM qualities was seen as a crucial source of trust, particularly for inter-organizational relationships at a distance. We argue for the fact that this can explain why NPM still lingers on.”

Read more about the key takeaways from the research behind this article in the full version.

This article is written by Susanna Alexius, Associate Professor at SU, and Janet Vähämäki, Team Lead & Senior Researcher at SEI.