Public administration is a fancy term for many types of administrative and management activities in the government and non-profit sectors. These provide services and benefits directly or indirectly to the American public. Even as government agencies and non-profits struggle with budget problems, they must still deliver their services to the public. Like private-sector organizations, they face ongoing concerns related to attracting and maintaining their workforce and managing their operations effectively.
One of the first things an organization has to consider when it serves the public is whether its own workforce reflects the diversity of the population it serves. Even if its workforce is very diverse, it may have difficulty managing the challenges of diversity in terms of individuals and groups conflicting in the organization. Public administrators grapple with internal diversity issues and social equity in service delivery. They must strive to deliver services in equitable ways, giving the most assistance to people who need it while avoiding practices that favor one group over another.
Related to social equity is the idea that public administrators have the obligation to protect minorities from abuse by others. This has to do with recognizing when people with substantial means, perhaps through wealth and/or education, get public agencies to make decisions that benefit only the few, often at the expense of many others. Administrators can look at these attempts to manipulate government and advocate for minority groups by discussing the issues with agency leaders.
Culturally Appropriate Services
In the day-to-day operations of public services, public administrators must ensure that services delivered are culturally appropriate to program participants. The increase in immigration in the U.S. in recent years has challenged American public agencies to change their service delivery models, such as offering communication with line personnel in English and Spanish. Administrators must train employees in cultural competency so that they can interact directly with people of different races, religions, national origins, languages and so on. This requires respect for diversity and addressing discrimination against minority clients.
One way to get more diversity in government and to promote social equity in decision-making concerns citizen involvement. Public administrators bring complex issues to the attention of the public. They use public meetings to create discussions. They can even delegate research and policy recommendations to a local body that is close to the issue, and then meet to make a decision based upon the recommendations of that body. Citizen involvement helps ensure that public managers do their best to make decisions in the best interest of their constituents.
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