Achieving public value in human services: Moving beyond the public sector

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Third Sector Review


Australia and New Zealand Third Sector Research


School of Education




Gilchrist, D., & Jefferson, S. (2023). Achieving public value in human services: Moving beyond the public sector. Third Sector Review, 29(1), 39-48.


In his pivotal 1995 work "Creating Public Value", Professor Mark Moore posited that public sector managers have an obligation to the community to create public value outcomes from their work. Moore acknowledged that the conceptualisation of this idea is relatively straightforward but that acting on it becomes far more complex due to challenges of assessing what the public values, how we measure public value outcomes and as a result of the impact of political and democratic actions and corruption. However, the idea of public value has resonated with many scholars and practitioners in the intervening decades and so we explore subsequent revisions of public value theory, which encompass a more aspirational perspective. This article provides an overview of the definition of public value as originally developed by Moore. It then examines what public value is and how it may be applied in a wider public policy setting. In particular, we are concerned with advances in public value scholarship to help understand how public value can be achieved in the context of the delivery of human services (for our purposes, those non-primary health services such as disability support, aged care services and supports and family violence services) - a public policy area now almost entirely reliant on not-for-profit organisations. That is, there is an important dichotomy in that achieving public value in human service delivery in the context of public policy is a public sector/government responsibility, but the delivery of services is often undertaken outside of the public sector. This article evaluates the extent to which public value is considered in the development of public policy, how the discourse is shaped and what advantages, disadvantages, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities there might be inherent in pursuing public value in a broader context, acknowledging that the public sector cannot achieve public value in isolation in many policy areas.

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