Rising to Ostrom’s challenge: an invitation to walk on the bright side of public governance and public service

Scott Douglas, Thomas Schillemans, Paul ‘t Hart, Chris Ansell, Lotte Bøgh Andersen, Matthew Flinders, Brian Head, Donald Moynihan, Tina Nabatchi, Janine O’Flynn, B. Guy Peters, Jos Raadschelders, Alessandro Sancino, Eva Sørensen, Jacob Torfing

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/Debate/Erratumpeer-review

34 Scopus citations


In this programmatic essay, we argue that public governance scholarship would benefit from developing a self-conscious and cohesive strand of “positive” scholarship, akin to social science subfields like positive psychology, positive organizational studies, and positive evaluation. We call for a program of research devoted to uncovering the factors and mechanisms that enable high performing public policies and public service delivery mechanisms; procedurally and distributively fair processes of tackling societal conflicts; and robust and resilient ways of coping with threats and risks. The core question driving positive public administration scholarship should be: Why is it that particular public policies, programs, organizations, networks, or partnerships manage do much better than others to produce widely valued societal outcomes, and how might knowledge of this be used to advance institutional learning from positives?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-451
Number of pages11
JournalPolicy Design and Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Public governance
  • effectiveness
  • high performance
  • policy success
  • positive scholarship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations


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