The Capacity Challenge: Governing in an Era of Rapid Science, Technological, and Economic Change
How can public organizations keep pace with technological change in order to effectively carry out their missions?
Research Question: How should we measure the technical capacity in public organizations and how should we evaluate promising approaches to track the dynamics of capacity across government bodies and over time?
Research Task: Following a thorough literature review of the concept of “capacity” and qualitative study of capacity challenges in federal organizations, develop approaches to measuring the dynamics of governmental technical capacity.
Background: The pace of science and technological change over recent decades has been unprecedented, creating pressures in public organizations to develop expertise to meet the cutting edge of technological innovation. At the same time, public organizations face uncertainty in budgets and in the aims of their stakeholders. Organization theorists studying the private sector have addressed the organizational imperative created by rapid technological change through the literature on “absorptive capacity,” which, although not applied to public organizations, could be adapted to elucidate ways public organizations might meet the challenges they currently face.
Task Overview: Conduct a comparative analysis of four cases to explore likely variation arising from distinct statutory arrangements and stakeholder environments (Department of Transportation, Food and Drug Administration). Assess quantitative indicators (e.g., fiscal data, employee data, employee surveys, etc.) that might capture changes in public organization capacity across settings and over time, as well as shed light on the empirical drivers of capacity.
Co-Investigators: Ann Keller (PI), Brian Scholl, Margaret Taylor, and Ken Taymor
Funding Information: NSF Grant # 1735661