increasing in size and influence, due to the expanding availability of information once guarded by public officials and the increasing capacity to analyze data independently with the use of inexpensive computers. National and international news media are increasingly responsive to them as they become more skillful at working with the media to pursue their causes.
No human society so interconnected has previously existed; there are no precedents for public administrators to follow. The critical policy problems confronting communities, regions, states, and nations -- for example, jobs, environmental quality, and public health -- have become so globally interdependent that public adminstrators need a broadened perspective, a worldview with widened concepts of governance.
Global interdependence creates a new class of problems. The types of issues facing governments today are global in the scope of their cause and nearly boundaryless in the reach of their effects. Pollution, for example, has no boundaries; wastes and toxic substances can be easily carried far beyond their original sources and across boundaries by air and water currents. Most critical policy problems facing public administrators, particularly those involving economic growth and quality of life, cannot be contained geographically within a particular jurisdiction.
Historical distinctions between what is "global" and what is "local" have blurred, with a considerable number on international issues now crossing national, state, and local government boundaries. The crystallization of global interconnections requires public administrators to look outward more and inward less. Actions taken in one part of the state, region, or globe have consequences for other geographical areas. This requires the capability to assess potential ripple effects from global events and to react quickly and flexibly in light of that analysis. Global interdependence also requires not only foresight but also responsibility. Public administrators now have the responsibility to assess the probability (not necessarily the certainty) of policy choices causing difficulties or damage to other jurisdictions in the "intersocietal web."
In the past, information on impacts may have been inadequate; and complete understanding of the causes and effects of public problems in the interconnected context is limited. Nevertheless, advances in computer technology and mathematical modeling can now provide reliable forecasts on alternative scenarios and interventions, greatly expanding the ability of public administrators to ask "what if" questions, and then to develop effective responses.
The global interdependency demands heightened understanding of cultures, markets, and languages of other countries. Public adminstrators must learn for example, how to discuss exports, deal with foreign officials, and develop understanding of capital markets. Cross-national comparisons are increasingly used to evaluate the success of public programs. The United States compares itself to Western European countries in such diverse issue areas as teenage pregnancy, unemployment rates, airborne particulate matter, and literacy rates. The state of Oregon has a policy goal and specific benchmark indicators, for example, to have the best-educated and -trained workforce in the world by the year 2010. Understanding why another country is more effective in reaching certain policy outcomes requires considerable understanding of the country's unique culture, economy, and governance structure.
Not only is a broadened international perspective required, but also increased skills in international communications and foreign languages enable public adminstrators; to observe, think, and act in an interdependent world. In general, we must learn as much from other cultures as they do from us.
Global interdependencies, by their very nature, require multilateral cooperation and collaborative initiatives across traditional boundaries and jurisdictions. Partnerships, alliances, and various forms of interorganizational strategies are fundamental. Bargaining and negotiation based on common values or common goals can fashion cooperative agreements. With increasing interdependence, however, comes increased potential for conflict and confrontation. Incentives for cooperation and effective conflict management strategies need to be designed that nurture shared stakes in solving particular global issues. Public administrators must also gain the personal skills to further stimulate, nurture, and maintain adequate levels of cooperation beyond one's institutional boundaries.
JEFFREY S. LUKE
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Luke, J. S., 1991. "Managing Interconnectedness: The Challenge of Shared Power". In John Bryson and Robert Einsweiler, eds., Shared Power, Lanham, MD: University Press of America.