On a regular basis polling shows the American public has very little trust/faith in the ability of government. G. Edward DeSeve has a great post on Governing.com expressing his thoughts on six factors that are important for the public to regain trust in government. Excerpts from his post are below:

Honesty: Ethical behavior is often taken for granted until there is a breach. Promoting honesty must go beyond mere ethics training. It has to be built into a culture that won’t tolerate even small lies or a little bit of cheating. Schools of public policy and management should make the study of what constitutes ethical behavior mandatory.

Efficiency: This is making sure that government delivers “value for money.” Producing high-quality public goods and services should be done as inexpensively as possible. All the techniques of private industry should be utilized, and measurement of efficiency should be rigorous and comparative.

Transparency: If you are trying to gain people’s trust, they have to be able to see what is going on for themselves. Perception is often reality, so showing the public what is really happening can inspire more-positive perception. New developments in technology—including geospatial mapping and rapid feedback communications—enable government to operate both efficiently and transparently at the same time.

Accountability: This is simply telling people what you are going to do and then giving them an accounting of how you did. Performance management should stretch from “the shop floor to the top floor” and should allow managers at every level to demonstrate how well they are doing their jobs. Pride in doing a good job and performance management should go hand in hand.

Good policy choices: These start with good policy-development processes that translate public needs and conditions in the external environment into a coherent set of actionable strategies. Reasonable people will differ on what constitutes good policy, but the electorate knows it when they see it. Again, bringing transparency to policy development and even including the public in developing policies will lead to greater trust.

Positive outcomes: Implementation of policy choices honestly, efficiently, transparently and accountably should produce positive outcomes. If it doesn’t, managers should rapidly evaluate why the expected outcomes weren’t achieved and take corrective action. Program evaluation has fallen out of favor, perhaps because it was seen as something done tomanagers, not by them. As with creating an accountability framework, evaluation of outcomes should be in the hands of managers themselves, aided by technical experts if needed.

What do you think about these six ways to build public trust in government? What items would you add or delete to this list?

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