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Statements of Excellence in Public Administration

Sample Personal Statement for the Master's Degree in Public Administration, Ethiopian Applicant

Born in the USA to parents from Ethiopia, we moved back to our country when I was only 6 months old, and I grew up in Addis Ababa until I finished high school there. Thus, despite being a citizen of the USA, Ethiopia will always be my home, because it is where my heart is, and where I want to make my foremost contribution to my people, Ethiopia, Africa, and the Developing World in particular. To learn how to do so in my chosen area, Public Administration, there is no program in the world better qualified to prepare me for the challenges that I hope to face at XXXX. Both XXXX and London are the optimal arenas where I hope to learn everything that I can about Public Administration, especially with respect to Africa. My central academic focus is primarily in the area of public policy and the emergence of new institutions, especially social enterprises; and I believe that promoting a spirit of social entrepreneurship is one of the most promising sources of hope for the economic development of Africa.

I travelled a lot with my father as a child since he was a commercial airlines pilot. After high school in Ethiopia, I spent 4 years as an undergraduate student at American University in Washington DC. I also completed a summer study abroad program in the UK at the London School of Economics, completing one course in the area of International Business. After finishing college, I began working for the Washington DC Mayor's Office where I have served in a variety of roles for the past 5 years. Now that I have critically important real-world experience, I believe that I have the maturity and drive to excel as a graduate student and I hope very much to return to the LSE, where I experienced the most rapid human growth and learning experience of my life. XXXX is my first choice for graduate school because of its sheer quality and worldwide leadership status in the academic world.

My intense passion for social innovation was first sparked while attending a social impact conference focusing on the link between business innovation and social transformation. Working in the public sector with an academic background in business, I was fascinated to hear from a group of highly experienced leaders, thinkers, and practitioners, discussing how smart innovative organizations can grow financially and still make a most positive social impact. I knew then and there that this was my calling and that I wanted to be a leader in this field. I see no greater way to prepare myself to return to Ethiopia and make my major social contribution in the area of social innovation, for the development of Ethiopia in particular and Africa more generally speaking. The Master of Public Administration Program at XXXX with a focus on Social Impact will help me to gain the necessary critical skills and tools that I need to assume leadership positions in the promotion of socially focused enterprises.

Earning my Master’s Degree in Public Administration at XXXX will enable me to eventually assume leadership roles with organizations that have the greatest social impact and largely determine the social and economic fate of Africa, such as the UN, World Bank, IMF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, etc. I hope to work with international organizations such as these to tackle social issues and challenges in the most effective and sustainable ways possible, serving to enhance the development of the private as well as public sectors. My long-term goal is to leverage all my knowledge, experience and resources towards the creation of my own social impact organization dedicated towards the promotion of interdisciplinary, innovative, and socially responsible projects in developing countries. I keenly look forward to a long lifetime of contribution to social innovation: strategic philanthropy, investment in social enterprises, and building coalitions for social impact.

My accomplishments and privilege include serving as a Student Research Analyst for nearly 4 months for the American Bar Association in 2013. I co-authored a 120-page research project analyzing barriers to civil society and government accountability in Africa focusing most specifically on the impact of counterterrorism efforts in Kenya. I provided advice on sensitive trials and pro-bono cases and gained practical experience related to public administration issues in Africa. I have also given a great deal of time to a number of humanitarian causes with a focus on Africa, especially my native Ethiopia.

I feel strongly that my education so far has me well prepared for a professional lifetime of cutting-edge service on the front lines of social issues in developing countries, especially Africa. During my junior year in college, when I studied at the LSE for the summer, my world lit up like never before, intellectually: learning how international business can grow in socially responsible and sustainable ways that are also in the interests of social justice and human rights. I especially look forward to continuing my critical exploration of the impact of Chinese foreign direct investments in African countries.

My central academic interests include the integration of private and public capital, fusing philanthropic support with the public sector, especially with respect to health and human services. Having an inquisitive mind and a knack for analytical research, I relish assessing the viability of public-private partnership arrangements and I am fascinated by innovative ideas, approaches, and novel innovative strategies in public administration.

My current role as Deputy Director of the Office of Budget and Finance for the Washington DC Office of the Mayor has given me the opportunity to learn from many creative leaders that strive to identify resources and put them together in innovative ways. I found that having the ability to lead the implementation of innovative solutions is especially important in situations where stakeholders are resistant to change or have doubts about the feasibility of a proposed solution to a problem. I seek to cultivate this ability because I also see it as particularly useful in an environment where many government agencies would prefer following tried-and-true methods for success rather than seeking new opportunities for improved efficiency and effectiveness. I hope to influence the creation of new and more streamlined, efficient, and transparent forms of government in Africa, based on the interdisciplinary accomplishments related to Social Entrepreneurship.

I thank you for considering my application for the Master of Public Administration program at XXXX.

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The New Public Management

The term new public management encompasses a wide range of techniques and perspectives. They are intended to overcome the inefficiencies inherent in the traditional model of public administration discussed above.

Robert Behn defines the New Public Management as: “. . . the entire collection of tactics and strategies that seek to enhance the performance of the public sector. . .”

The starting point is that the traditional bureaucratic structures that ushered in the industrialized economies of the 20th century may have been appropriate for that era, but they have reached a point of increasingly diminishing returns.

The large size and rigid structures of the traditional system are too cumbersome for this new era of instant communication, as well as an economy in which economic value is based on information and its manipulation, not industrial production.

Production is still important, of course, but it is increasingly based on information systems, so controlling behavior of workers from the top does not allow those closest to service delivery to react quickly enough.

Therefore, the new public management favors decentralized administration, delegation of discretion, contracting for goods and services, and the use of the market mechanisms of competition and customer service to boost performance: it aims to achieve accountability through the measurement of outcomes rather than accounting for inputs.

Performance measures will take the place of tight control from the top through rules and regulations; granting more discretion to managers to manage is necessary: if they are to be held accountable for their performance, they must have the flexibility to use their own judgment.

In the US, the NPM was embodied in the Clinton Administration’s National

Performance Review (NPR). The proponents of the NPR contended that the prevailing paradigm of government organization in the U.S. was established during the progressive era at the turn of the century and was a reaction to the negative effects of the spoils system (with its accompanying lack of competence and susceptibility to governmental corruption).

The progressive paradigm of government organization, they argued at the time, was designed during the industrial revolution. It was modeled on large scale bureaucracy with hierarchical control from the top to ensure responsiveness to law and adherence to policy, they argued

But they state that with the coming of the information revolution in the late twentieth century, the usefulness of the bureaucratic paradigm had been superseded by the need for more flexible organizations that operate in this profoundly changing environment of global competition.

The governmental reforms of the progressive era had been developed and elaborated so much that the rules and procedures that originally facilitated management had problems with innovation. The admitted original benefits of large scale organization prevalent throughout the federal government were diminishing. The originally useful reforms had been counterproductive for some time by that point.

To Guy Peters, the new public management includes a range of reforms that have been tried over the past two decades by governments seeking to improve the efficiency within their institutions and sectors.

The approaches of the NPM include more participation, flexibility, and deregulation internally, as well as the use of market mechanisms externally.

Perhaps the most dominant theme of the new techniques is the attempt to use market mechanisms to improve performance within the public sector—which includes privatization, where functions formerly performed by government are given over to the private sector or business organizations.

In the celebrated case of New Zealand, the government privatized state enterprises in the telephone service, oil production, insurance, post office, and air transport sectors.

In economies where the governmental sector is smaller and most sectors of the economy are already in private hands—such as with the United States—privatization has taken the form of the private sector delivering goods and services that are paid for by the government: “contracting out.”

It is argued that businesses act more efficiently than governments because of different incentives and greater flexibility, so contracting saves taxpayer money.

Donald Kettl summarizes the goal of the new public management approach as aiming to “Remedy a pathology of traditional bureaucracy that is hierarchically structured and authority driven,” and “root out authority-driven hierarchical systems.” Kettl summarizes the six “core characteristics” of the new public management approach as: productivity, service orientation, marketization, decentralization, a policy orientation, and accountability for results.

Thompson and Thompson observe that the new public management approach is: “borrowed primarily from the literature of business administration, calls for more managerial freedom to use resources, a focus on results rather than inputs, and greater reliance on the private sector for service delivery.”

Interesting? We think so. What’s your view? Are you hoping to study public administration? If so, please let us know how we can help you with your personal statement or other documents through our services.

Great Accomplishments in Public Administration

Classical Public Administration

The traditional model of public administration rests in important ways on the articulation by Max Weber of the nature of bureaucracy: Weber emphasized control from top to bottom in the form of monocratic hierarchy, that is, a system of control in which policy is set at the top and carried out through a series of offices, with each manager and worker reporting to one superior and held to account by that person.

The bureaucratic system is based on a set of rules and regulations flowing from public law. The system of control is rational and legal. Max Weber described the role of the civil servant and the importance of hierarchical control in a bureaucratic system:

“To take a stand, to be passionate . . . is the politician’s element . . . indeed, exactly the opposite, principle of responsible from that of the civil servant. The honor of the civil servant is vested in his ability to execute conscientiously the order of the superior authorities. . . .Without this moral discipline and self-denial, in the highest sense, the whole apparatus would fall to pieces.”

While the system that Weber observed in Germany developed over several centuries, there was a parallel development of bureaucracy in other countries during the industrial revolution. This model of bureaucracy played a key role in the development of large scale enterprises, private or public, throughout the entire world, particularly the developed world.

In the US Woodrow Wilson contributed to the traditional model by arguing for the separation of administration from political policy making.

According to Wilson, citing as authority “eminent German writers”: “. . . administration lies outside the proper sphere of politics. Administrative questions are not political questions. Although politics sets the tasks for administration, it should not be suffered to manipulate its offices.”

Wilson was one of the main proponents of the politics-administration dichotomy, which has been much reviled by later public administration scholars. But it has often been misunderstood.

Those who dismiss the concept as obsolete take it as an empirical assertion about how administration works in practice: they observe that in fact, many high-level civil servants have an important impact on policy, and therefore dismiss the dichotomy.

The real importance of the politics-administration dichotomy, however, has to do with its normative implications: that is, the principle implied by the dichotomy is that elected officials and their direct appointees have the legal right to make policy decisions for the polity, and it is the duty of career civil servants to carry out those policies in good faith (it is therefore the moral obligation of the dichotomy that is important, not its empirical content).

Frederick Taylor made a contribution to the classical model with his time and motion studies and careful analysis of the role of both managers and workers.

His techniques and managerial practices were adopted widely in the United States and throughout the world in the early 1900s.

Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911, was translated into German, and “Taylorism” was popular among German engineers before and after World War I.

Taylor’s principles of management emphasized tight control of work processes and careful planning by managers, and although his management techniques have been used at times to control workers to the point of domination, his original ideas did not necessarily imply the exploitation of workers.


Sample 1st Paragraph for the MPA, African-American

Born in Stockton California to a mother from Guyana and a father from Nigeria, I am African-American in the fullest sense of the term, and this is important to my professional as well as personal identity. In fact, my name is Ebony, a name that was given to me by my parents as a celebration of being black, being African. Still 21 years old, I look forward to contributing to the celebration of diversity as a graduate student in your MPA Program at XXXX University, as an African American woman dedicated to the goal of becoming an accomplished public administrator and serving as a role model to other African-American girls and women for generations to come.

Degree sought, field, or place of origin!

The traditional model of public administration spread throughout the industrialized world. It ushered in the relative success of modern industrialized economies.

Guy Peters summaries the principles of the traditional model in the following list of its major characteristics: a) an apolitical civil service; b) hierarchy and rules; c) permanence and stability; d) an institutional civil service; e) internal regulation; and f) equality (internally and externally to the organization).

Since this traditional model was so successful in aiding the development of modern economies and Weber argued that it was the most efficient mode of organization possible, how could recent critics see it as old, outmoded, and inefficient, you might ask?

The answer is one of context and scale: in his historical context, Weber was comparing bureaucratic organization to charismatic and traditional modes of organization. However, bureaucracy is capable of more efficient organization than these other historical modes of domination. The broader point is one of scale and time. If one wants to coordinate the actions of hundreds or thousands of people in any sophisticated endeavor (such as those that governments undertake), there are few realistic alternatives to bureaucratic organization, if any.

Alternatively, if one wants a large scale enterprise to exist over a long time frame, from years to decades, one must organize it bureaucratically.

This does not mean that all elements of every large scale organization must adhere to each of Weber’s ideal type criteria. It simply means the general outlines must be there: hierarchy, continuity, files, etc.

When contemporary organizations are criticized for being inefficient, the implied comparison is with other contemporary organizations that sometimes work marginally better (not with those that use a completely different means of organization).

In contemporary times, the most obvious alternative to bureaucracies is a market system—but in market systems, large scale enterprises must be largely bureaucratic in order to exist over time (e.g. Fortune 500 companies in the United States).

Similarly, the exhortations to devolve or decentralize within government does not mean abandoning bureaucracy as a form of organization altogether: it merely means shifting some functions from a large, centralized bureaucracy to smaller or geographically separated bureaucracies.

As Klaus Konig points out, some aspects of the NPM are not incompatible with traditional public administration. And yet, a distinction must be made as regards this renewal movement between those of its components that are compatible with the bureaucratic administration, even where it has a classical continental European character and those components that extend beyond the modernist, detail differentiations of state and administration.

The idea of de-central responsibility for resources, for instance, is perfectly familiar to an organizational scenery featuring federalism, local self-government, departmental responsibility, formal organizations under private law, shifts of functions to external bodies, etc..

Therefore, the point of departure for the “new public management” prescriptions is not non-industrialized economies or non-developed countries. The NPM, rather, wants to improve fully-developed governments at the margins.

As we have learned from Russia after the fall of Communism, market capitalism in the absence of a strong system of business law, enforcement of contracts, and a regulatory structure can easily lead to lawlessness and the private use of force to enforce contracts (or break them).

According to World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, developing economies need: very good governance with a system of laws, a justice system that enforces the laws (e.g. a contract system and bankruptcy laws), a financial system with accountable financial institutions, and a just social system. Without these prerequisites, economic development is impossible. Also, these prerequisites depend on a traditional form of public administration (which is not to say that NPM ideas are never relevant to developing countries). One of the main concerns associated with the traditional model was the accountability of the implementers of public policy to the governing constitutional rulers: if a system of government has not yet achieved the threshold of accountability, the implementation of NPM techniques is risky and may be counterproductive.