Italian Minister Brunetta at SDA Bocconi for the Valore Pubblico event: “PA must regain a sense of pride in working for the common good”

Public administrations’ call to action – prize giving for the winning projects

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The country’s ability to recover and be resilient begins with a Public Administration that is innovative, open, efficient and effective. In a word, “that works.” This is what the project “Valore Pubblico - A Public Administration that Works” clearly expressed, starting with its title. The initiative originated from the collaboration between SDA Bocconi and GEDI Publishing Group, under the patronage of the Ministry for Public Administration, the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) and the Union of Italian Provinces (UPI). It was part of the SDABocconi4Gov - PA to build the future project, created to support the profound processes of change required by the PNRR in the public sector, and aimed to select and reward high-impact and innovative experiences implemented by public administrations.

The closing event was held on June 20 at SDA Bocconi’s Campus and was attended by the Minister for Public Administration, Renato Brunetta, La Repubblica’s editor in chief Maurizio Molinari, for GEDI Group, together with Giovanni Valotti, Professor of Economics and Management of the Public Administration and Head of the SDA4Gov project, and Marta Barbieri, Associate Professor of Practice of Public Management, for SDA Bocconi.

Bocconi University’s Dean Gianmario Verona welcomed a packed audience, and pointed out that attention to public management and its pecularities has been part of SDA Bocconi’s DNA from the start, 50 years ago. His greetings were followed by Antonella Galdi’s, ANCI Deputy Secretary General, who spoke of “overcoming the bipolar paradigm with citizens and businesses that operate on one side, and the PA that controls, on the other, in favor of the only possible model for creating public value today, a collaboration between the two,” and Piero Antonelli’s, Director General of UPI, who recalled “we cannot speak of a single public administration but of a great many administrations, with very different dynamics and needs, which call for tailor-made management systems.”

The PA that we want” was the meaningful title of Giovanni Valotti’s speech. He went over the valuable lesson that the drama of the pandemic has left us with: as well as demolishing the cliché of an inefficient PA unable to deal with emergencies, it has made us aware of the key importance of public-private collaboration, the ability to prepare for an increasingly less predictable future, and data-based decision-making processes that are more agile and adaptable to circumstances. Above all, it has helped many public employees regain job satisfaction after being belittled for too long. “PA effectiveness depends on a combination of three factors: impartiality, efficiency and speed. The time factor is also important: it is not enough to do it well, we need to do it quickly.” Valotti continued by saying: “Today, the PA has three great opportunities: great human capital, the financial resources of the NRRP, and digital technology; three factors that risk not being fully leveraged without good management.” And, with reference to the Valore Pubblico initiative, he concluded: “At a time in history when the public sector has great responsibility for the revitalization of the country, this vitality and the ability of administrations to achieve restore some confidence in the changes that are possible and desirable.”

Communication, i.e. the ability to represent itself to citizens, plays a strategic role in the PA’s transformation processas well. La Repubblica’s Maurizio Molinari addressed this topic. He answered the question: “How is it that creativity, which is acknowledged as a national characteristic, clashes with a widespread idea that the PA is incapable of innovation?” by saying: “In Italy, creativity and the ability to innovate have always been considered individual traits; we need to make them become a collective asset. When people say: ‘It’s never been done like this’, it is the right time to try it.” This is a process of change by trial and error, which implies greater flexibility in decision-making and, above all, accountability for the outcome, two aspects that can radically change the public’s perception of the PA.

Having the Minister for Public Administration Renato Brunetta in the room made the importance of the event clear. His presence was anything but formal, since he joined in the discussion on the many issues touching the PA universe, and recalled that the days when the treatment for public inefficiency was identified with the private sector are long gone: “Public goods have a fundamental characteristic: their use cannot be excluded based on price, which means that they cannot be regulated by the market. However, this does not mean that ‘private-like’ criteria cannot be adopted in the management of public affairs. The transformation of the Public Administration (or rather of public administrations),” the minister pointed out, underlying the many differences in the public sector, “develops through some key steps. These are acknowledgment of merit (with financial and career incentives), traceability of public processes (citizens must know where their files stand as when they buy a product from e-companies), digitization that is accessible to everybody (for example, by creating physical hubs where the elderly or other categories that suffer from the digital divide can go and receive ‘digital assistance’) and flexible organization (remote working has brought benefits but cannot be a generalized solution; presence in person is often necessary, even to employees themselves).” He concluded with a direct appeal to the audience: “We need to recover the greatest of values for us public employees: being proud of working for others and for the common good.”

The final part of the event was presented by Marta Barbieri, who awarded best practices for the Public Administration in the selected projects. The call to action, Barbieri said, had been a great success: over 130 entities and public enterprises had participated (the vast majority being local authorities) with as many as 179 projects, divided into ten thematic areas: Sustainability, Simplification, Labor, Innovation and Creativity, Digitization, Digital Innovation, Diversity, New Fragilities, Culture and Tourism, and Sports. The selection followed three evaluation criteria: the degree of innovation compared to practices already in use, the measurable and significant results obtained, together with replicability and scalability in other contexts.

During the closing event prizes were awarded to 35 projects, while 38 were singled out for a special mention. It is a long and varied list that ranges across the board, from digital innovation to support for self-entrepreneurship, from education for sustainability to prevention of workplace accidents, and much more. A list that is likely to grow in the future editions of the project.

You can download the “PUBLIC VALUE - Public Administration that Works” project report at the following link:
Download report


SDA Bocconi School of Management

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