Understanding public and private value: the case of carbon reduction projects in Edinburgh
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date02/12/2022
Arguably, the research of public value and private value constitutes an essential foundation for both the academic study and practical reform of public management in recent decades. Yet, paradoxically, both concepts are characterised by extremely vague definitions. Also, the relationship between public value and private value objectives, especially their potential intertension in a given setting, has drawn remarkably little attention. This thesis aims at addressing these two critical research gaps. The empirical research for this thesis is undertaken within a special and previously ignored context, city-scale carbon reduction projects. These projects target mitigating climate change, a major threat to the future generation, and require the efforts made by agencies and individuals presently. In this regard, carbon reduction projects typically involve the potential creation of public value in the future, but often through the reduction of private value at present. Therefore, they serve as the appropriate cases to investigate diversified value objectives and complex value balance. In particular, the author asked the three following research questions: How are carbon reduction projects conducted at the city-scale? What are the meanings of public and private value in city-scale carbon reduction projects? And how do public and private value interact in city-scale carbon reduction projects? Guided by qualitative case study methodology, this thesis encompasses four embedded case studies in Edinburgh (Scotland). The research findings are drawn from 18-month fieldwork, which assembled an extensive database incorporating interviews with policymakers, public managers, and respondents from a wide range of social or private organisations, together with participative observations and textual/video documents. This thesis has generated an extensive array of research findings. It firstly develops two novel conceptual frameworks, respectively, for the notions of public and private value. On this basis, it secondly explicates two underlying dimensions of public-private value conflicts, including the value failure/destruction dimension and the value convergence/divergence dimension, which thereby classifies value conflicts into four specific categories. Prior to these two primary findings, this thesis also develops a process model, delineating the deployment of city-scale carbon reduction projects as a cyclical succession of three-stage inter-organisational couplings. These findings are expected to make significant theoretical contributions by: clarifying the conceptual ambiguity in public/private value study, synthesising the currently separated research of public and private value, and explaining different mechanisms and reasons of value destruction. On the practical level, this thesis also provides a series of implications for practitioners. In particular, the author highlights that future-oriented public projects normally involve a multi-layered set of public and private value propositions, in both the short- and long-term. Public managers and policymakers thereby need to proactively identify these propositions, explore the links among them, and be prepared for value conflicts that can happen frequently.