Don???t Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public???s Confidence in Schools, Business, Government, and More
So many institutions—from Congress and Wall Street to public schools and HMOs—have lost the nation’s confidence: “Citizens don’t consider many institutions…to be either responsive or effective,” write the authors of this Public Agenda/Kettering Foundation report. This, despite much effort on the part of organizational leaders to provide transparent data to the public. Why? According to the report, it’s because the public and those leaders don’t agree on the fundamental nature of “accountability.” While elites tend to see accountability as transparently holding organizations to objective, quantifiable standards, the public views it, more opaquely, as a moral issue. Pervasive irresponsibility causes a lack of accountability, regardless of measurable results. This disconnect, the report argues, cripples policy. To remedy it, leaders need to listen to and empathize with the public’s concerns, rather than unilaterally choose technical solutions, the authors argue. To buttress this point, the report authors draw from examples in education, housing, and health care. (On the education front, they showcase school closures as a prime time for enhanced communication.) Still, though they tout communication’s virtues, the authors remind that it is not the same as consensus: Leaders must hear all opinions. But the ultimate decision-making power must rest in their hands. The public is accountable for remembering that.
Jean Johnson, Jonathan Rochkind, and Samantha DuPont, Don’t Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public’s Confidence in Schools, Business, Government, and More. (New York, NY: Public Agenda; Dayton, OH: Kettering Foundation, October 2011).
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